Embracing the Tech Effect

I love technology. I live in Cumbria, work (primarily) north of Birmingham, spend a lot of time visiting clients’ properties, in meetings and still have to be available for my clients and my team – 24/7.

It’s therefore easy to see why technology and I are happy bedfellows. I get excited by news bulletins about:

  • Smart cities
  • Pedestrians converting footsteps (kinetic energy) into power for interactive billboards
  • Traffic-generated kinetic energy powering street signs featuring real time data about congested/gridlocked city streets, ahead of the drivers who created the energy in the first place
  • Driverless cars – well the attraction is obvious. Cars in the ‘hands’ of unemotional drivers, not prone to road rage, or delusions that their Fiat 500 is a F1 racing machine, or likely to fall asleep at the wheel, is infinitely attractive.

As a surveyor I often think about how technology is shaping what we do, when we do it and how we do it. Consider:

  • BIM (Building Information Modelling) is now de rigueur for many in our sector
  • Drones are already used quite extensively for site selection, marketing purposes and inspecting buildings
  • Smart buildings, a physical manifestation of IoT (Internet of Things) - where lighting, security, heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems are all ‘self-managed’.
    • Even the impact buildings have on power grids, the environment, etc - total building performance - is facilitated by technology.

Evangelists claim that smart buildings can improve the occupier experience, enhance the operator experience and increase the value of the asset - in terms of higher rents and property value – by improving a building’s green and operational credentials. I recently discovered that according to McKinsey, the value created by smart buildings will be between $70bn-$150bn by 2025. Breathtaking.

Adoption of emerging technologies can be found in every corner of our sector. Virtual reality for example is already being used by high end residential agents to market their properties to potential purchasers.

Blockchain technology might be hovering in the wings in the UK, however places such as Dubai, NY and even the Ukraine – where, last year, the world’s first property was sold using a blockchain – appear to be at least a lap ahead of us.

Technologies which have yet to make a profound impact on our sector include:

  • Big Data: sophisticated loyalty cards already number crunch vast volumes of customer data not only for customer insight purposes, but also to stimulate sales. Think of how sophisticated our marketing campaigns could be when we start integrating, analysing and planning campaigns based on quantifiable client insights, gained from integrated data analysis of web traffic, client profiles, CRM, social and other channels
  • Augmented reality: using 3-D iconography, agents’ property marketing will take virtual reality into a mind-bending new realm
  • AI (Artificial Intelligence): some professional services firms already deploy AI to undertake time consuming work, which does not require senior partners’ involvement - such as dealing with repetitive transactions, interpreting commercial loan agreements, case law research, etc.

Our sector will adopt AI and enjoy its benefits (faster, more accurate outputs, ‘training’ only needs to be delivered once, etc), but we will face some of the drawbacks which progress like this brings – e.g. a once proven ‘training ground’ for junior lawyers, surveyors etc will be lost. Where will they learn the skills required of experienced consultants who know, understand and have an insight drawn from engine room training – and therefore can spot inherent errors, miscalculations and/or judgements based on false assumptions.

Rearrange the letters and we have IA, or Intelligence Augmented systems. Defined as people and ‘bots’ working together, IA ‘eliminates dull and mundane tasks’ and generates surprising benefits beyond efficiency, productivity and financial gains. Augmented organisations apparently also deliver a better employee experience because of their greater focus on continuous learning and professional development. I guess our future is all about skilling in a very different market.

Technology will not replace us, but it will change the nature of what we do, probably make the work experience more rewarding, improve our profitability and the quality/accuracy of our work.

I believe that the evolution of our sector will create new skills, as well as attract new talent with different skills sets.

That is what is so exciting about the future of our sector in a data rich age.


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