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News & opinion

25 APR 2018

Data is a crystal ball reflecting trends and offering solutions

By 2050, over 70% of the world’s population will live in cities – indicating a sharp urban migration (today’s urban population is at 50%). Already, the world’s biggest cities are dealing with the side effects of this shift from the rural to urban.

Affordability issues, stressed infrastructure, overburdened roads and transit are some of the symptoms cities are struggling to address. We look to technology for solutions but they may not offer the solutions we expect. The RICS summit in Miami offered glimpses into what solutions technology can offer the cities of the future.

PropTech is a buzzword for those working in the built environment – and for good reason. The term encompasses any new technology that offers solutions for our industries. Construction companies can monitor their worksites and share insights with multiple partners. Property managers can monitor the performance of their buildings from a centralized location. Those in real estate can use big data to better understand market shifts. 

Smart buildings

Building the partnership between data and the property manager can do more than build urban communities in suburbia. Tripty Arya is the CEO of Travtus, a digital property management tool that automates repairs and maintenance. She used to be an architect and real estate developer before stepping away to start a tech company targeted at solving a need. "The future is in fact data-driven. Everyone is grappling with what that concept means. Today’s cusp is the intersection between innovators and operators and we’re starting to see innovation in the form of partnerships. It’s the culture of partnerships that’s the next trend."

Arya paints a picture of a city that shares resources between buildings through technology – predicting required maintenance and sharing a superintendent. Partnerships between buildings, stakeholders and tech companies provide a transparency that will make our built environment run more smoothly and reduce costs. This can increase affordability.

Partnerships between buildings, stakeholders and tech companies provide a transparency that will make our built environment run more smoothly and reduce costs.

Smart communities

One of the speakers at the Miami summit was Francesca Loftus, co-founder of hOM, a PropTech company that promises to get to know the residents in a condo or apartment to better serve their needs. Data analysis means property managers know whether to schedule stroller walking clubs or wine-tastings. Perhaps they should update the gym or replace it with an indoor playground – informed decision-making is in the data. The company promises to use their independently curated data to build community engagement. 

Loftus explained that the independently curated data her company owns provides deeper insights than the data a property manager or landlord can achieve on their own to ensure the facilities match the needs of residents. Residents are more likely to be truthful in surveys given to a third-party and the data collected through fob keys tell an accurate story about how residents are using the facilities. 

Smart projects

PropTech panels in Houston and San Francisco both included solutions for the construction job site and the panel in Miami was no different. Ardalan Khosrowpour spoke of his company OnSiteIQ, which promises to improve the safety of workers through notifications of safety risks and violations through regular inspections enabled by technology. George Franco is the CEO of Triva – he uses sensors to gather data for artificial intelligence (AI) to improve productivity on the job site. The data collected is constantly being communicated back to the employees – showing workers the bigger picture.

"One of the things we noticed were the bottlenecks on the job sites. Vertical transportation was a huge problem. We did a study: for every worker, it took them 18 minutes to go up to the job site. We reduced it to three minutes," said Khosrowpour.

No matter what it is used for, there are solutions to be found in data. Site managers can more closely monitor the job site to ensure workers are following safety protocols and predict issues before they slow down the project. AI can detect maintenance issues before they halt a project or inconvenience tenants. Arya likened data to a crystal ball.

“If we look at climate change, the more data we capture, the more we know it’s important to capture,” she said. “It’s all about planning for the future. You can’t plan for the future unless you understand the present.”

For the moment, PropTech is providing advantages to companies that are forward-thinking enough to adapt but to build the cities of the future, local governments will have to harness data to inform infrastructure projects for smart cities. Join us as we continue to work toward that goal. Our next stop is in New York on May 14.