2020 THE YEAR OF TECHNOLOGY
THE YEAR 2020 WILL MOST CERTAINLY BE REMEMBERED AS THE YEAR OF CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC. BUT, IT WILL ALSO BE REMINISCED AS THE YEAR TECHNOLOGY TOOK CENTER STAGE FOR THE REAL ESTATE
Text: Dolly Singh
The unprecedented pandemic situation has put almost all the industries at back foot and the real estate industry is no different. In response, technology has become a catalyst for change across sectors of businesses and industries including real estate. The property market has seen a slew of new real estate tools, apps & devices catering to varied functions from project design and construction to sales & marketing and property management. The Internet of Things (IoT) devices are not only transforming the real estate landscape, homeowners too are using smart automation for touch less operations keeping in mind the hygiene factor and physical distancing.
According to CBRE, digitization is taking precedence across the sector, and more than 90 percent of the occupiers and developers are aiming to bring a technological shift in their business operations within the next five years.
Swapna More, Co-Founder- Kagaay & State Chairperson, Maharashtra of Confederation of Indian Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (CIMSME) said that as real estate was one of the majorly impacted sector, it made the real estate players realise that the usual way of running the business will no longer suffice.” “Adopting technology is the only way forward, especially to come out of the rut. The pandemic situation has transformed our way of living overnight. And it may become a norm going forward. For many generations, real estate leaders were content with the old way of running business. Many were not particularly comfortable adopting technology and maybe they were right in their own way since the old method was sufficient enough .But now, to combat such unusual times, adopting technology is the only solution.”
“Post Covid-19 ‘new normal’ requires real estate industry to proactively adopt a unified and centralized smart building management solutions. Employees may not be able to come back to the same layouts as before, especially in offices that have a shared workspace or requires people to work in close proximity. In such instances, digital tools can empower building management teams, by giving them means to monitor and enforce social distancing in real-time,” stated Ganesh L Khanolkar, Director Operations, Netix Controls India, provider of energy management, big data analytics, cloud computing, asset management solutions.
Vijay Gupta, Founder & CEO, SoftTech Engineers Limited that offers software products for Architecture Engineering-Construction (AEC) segment agreed. “Undoubtedly, things have changed for the real estate sector in this whole pandemic period. Most importantly, there has been a change in the mindset. Traditionally, the real estate industry is known for its heavy reliance on manpower and manual processes. However, this adjustment received a major setback during this pandemic period, and the real estate developers did start to look out for useful technology adoption for their business.
Be it construction ERP software or online building plan checking system, we are going to see an increased level adoption amongst real estate developers, builders and other concerned authorities. Also, the government initiatives like ‘Digital India’, and ‘Smart Cities Mission’ have become quite pivotal in this period. Moving ahead, the adoption of online software and systems for the digital management of construction projects will become imperative for the real estate developers. The concepts like building information modeling (BIM) to virtualize the construction project through Digital Twin and monitoring through Virtual and Augmented reality (AR/ VR) technologies without physically visiting the site will become a boon to address the industry challenges brought by COVID-19. I believe the industry has started learning and adopting this for the survival and growth of the business.”
“Due to the technological advancements and better availability of the smart products in the market, the adoption of smart home technology has increased and so has the incorporation of the new age technology in smart products,” said Niyati Chander, Cofounder and COO SmartDEN, the smart home automation provider. IoT generates huge amount of data. When we talk about “IoT products and smart homes, Machine Learning is a process that will help in innovating a lot of applications and features over and above the existing technologies,’ he added.
Digitisation has resulted in a more coherent relationship between developers and occupiers; the former are fine-tuning their strategies to be in line with occupier’s expectations on technology and infrastructure. Cost efficiency has remained a major aspect in improving processes and business efficiency.
BREAKING EFFICIENCY BARRIERS
The pandemic has made even the most technically challenged of us tech savvy, one way or the other. In the real estate ecosystem, it has spurred technological solutions both for the industry players and the consumers alike. A wide range of technological solutions have enabled companies to enhance resilience and ensure business continuity.
Ganesh L Khanolkar shared, “COVID has taught everyone a new way of life and has made working remotely a 100% viable option. With social distancing playing an important role, we see that IoT based remote support, remote analytics and remote troubleshooting is possible. Emerging constraints and challenges in office layouts as the new normal post-Covid places fresh demands on office layout and design to enable social distancing and greater hygiene, and thereby boost employee confidence. Similarly, monitoring and improving air quality is now another core areas of focus. Instead of manually measuring air quality and changing air filters throughout the building, FM teams can now rely on smart building management technology to facilitate remote automation and realtime, data-driven, targeted maintenance, resulting in a safe indoor air quality. For this purpose, a vendor neutral iIBMS automation solutions provider with a strong focus on sustainable smart buildings, smart cities and energy efficiency is essential.”
Vijay Gupta, added, “Things are moving extremely fast for all of us and we cannot afford to lose this time anymore. We all are living in the era of data where every piece of business information holds significant value to the business. The data mining and big data analytics are gaining momentum to arrive at critical business decisions. Irrespective of business size, cloud-based ERP enables significant benefits. Apart from being cost-effective, it also reduces the need for an in-house IT system.
If we look at the past six months, real estate developers have got the major hit in the areas like unstable workforce, broken supply chain and the negative cash flow. Hence, moving ahead the priority should be to incorporate technology solution to mitigate possible and future risks. The focus should be on reducing manual site visits by using technology for remote supervision, digital procurement management, online project management, scheduling, inventory management, accounting, and most importantly, the sales part through digital processes. If we look at all the functional areas in a real estate organization, there is one common factor that connects them and that is, digital data processing of the project. It would be very unfair if we decline the tremendous scope for technology adoption in the construction industry. Although the transition is unlikely to be that smooth; however, this is the opportune time to go for it.”
Swapna More was of the view that India as a nation is becoming more and more tech savvy day by day. “The rise of online portals in India is a proof of that. Even to buy any kind of properties, many people are using the internet. With the rise in property listing and real estate websites, it has become easier for buyers and in turn for sellers as well. The likes of using of 3D technology for video tours of properties has enhanced the efficiency of delivering services specially in such times where there are so many restrictions in terms of social contacts. With the virus still not in control and therefore the Government being unable to release the restrictions on outward movements, adoption of such technologies on a large scale is how realty firms can work efficiently.”
DIGITIZED PROCESSES FOR DATA-DRIVEN DECISIONS
Virtual reality platforms: Visualising a built-out space without an on-site visit can be challenging–even when plans and renderings are available. The range of 3D interactive tools with virtual reality (VR) technology, users can conduct virtual tours of potential sites to visualize how they might look in the real world. Images can be captured and accessed remotely and across a range of devices.
Cloud-based solutions: The COVID-19 outbreak has prompted employees to work from home to limit social contact. Going forward, this will spur companies to be more willing to adopt flexible working policies. Cloud technology will play a key role in supporting remote working by connecting users with their enterprise databases and other online resources. With demand projected to grow significantly in the coming years, enterprises are enhancing their cloud capacity to ensure business sustainability, which will also require an emphasis on security.
Remote communication: With many employees working from home or other remote locations, companies have deployed a range of technologies to facilitate communication, perform their day-to-day duties and attend virtual meetings. Project management apps that enable remote collaboration between teams and allow remote access to documents and folders have seen rapid take-up. In addition, client relationship management, sales management software and human resources management platforms have started seeing traction.
TECHNOLOGY’S REAL ESTATE IMPLICATIONS
The landscape of how real estate sector works has undergone a lot of changes. Prop tech companies have shown the way on how the industry should move forward with their adoption of various technologies to function as well as deliver.
Digital Engineering – Prop tech companies in India are increasingly using advanced technologies to create drawings, simulations and 3D models. This has enabled the companies to deliver savings and efficiencies throughout the project life cycle. It also enables them to focus on important issues and reduces the risk of rework.
Artificially Intelligent (AI) enabled products: Technologies like BIM, VR/AR and ML have started showing their usefulness in the real estate sector and will continue to grow in near future as well. Now, things have become smoother and faster for the architects and building professionals with the help of technology driven by Artificial Intelligence. Now, with this functionality, architects and building professionals can create accurate, ready to pre-check, pre-formatted building plan drawings in a familiar CAD environment. Identify and visualize the errors or non-conformities in the drawings & highlight them in different colours and make multiple revisions in drawings on-the-go to arrive at optimum design of the building plan. Dramatically increase the probability of getting it ‘Right The First Time’.
CRM Systems – CRM systems have made it easier to manage every aspect of the business. From getting leads to streamline workflow, CRM systems has revolutionised the way realtors conduct the business. Gamification: A gamified sales platform connects people and properties It is the process of using gaming techniques to motivate consistent participation and long term engagement. Gamification method is widely used in marketing to engage with customers.
Adoption Of Smart Phones And Hand Held Devices – India is one largest consumer of smart phones. It has penetrated even in the rural areas. With internet data very cheaply available, usage of smart phones has increased by manifolds. Capturing this market is very essential for real estate industry. The use of 3D technology for virtual tour of the properties is being adopted by many companies.
Smart Wi-Fi Products: Looking into the growth of smart homes, the world market leaders of smart products have started to manufacture products which don’t need hub and are easy to install and control. There has been incorporation of Wi-Fi technology in the smart products which has made it easier for any homeowner to install the easily and use them efficiently. With Wi-Fi technology, devices are now capable to communicate directly to the apps without the help of the hub.
Wi-Fi Mesh Technology: Along with the Wi-Fi enabled smart products, manufacturers has also taken into consideration the requirements of Wi-Fi mesh technology which can connect multiple IoT products without any glitches.
Indoor Air Quality Sensors: WHO, ISHRAE, ASHRAE and REHVA have emphasized the importance of good respiratory hygiene in HVAC. A range of smart sensors can measure and monitor PM2.5, VOC, IAQ, CO2, RH & Temperature. By integrating data from existing systems like occupancy sensor, access control data, CCTV data and Temperature Sensors from BMS, one can use IoT Platforms to Create a Heat Map of the facility which would give a bird’s eye view to facility managers on the most used and densely populated spaces in the office building.
Automation Tools – With the ‘new normal’ being re defined in so many ways, the implementation of automation tools is the need of the hour. Automation security tools like visitor management and biometric scanning or using QR codes for entry and exit are some of the tools that are being widely implemented. Even automated sensor based elevators are being used extensively to have a touch less experience.
Social Distancing Operating Model: By integrating the video analytics data from CCTV systems one can ensure that people are wearing basic personal protective equipment (PPE), maintaining a distance of 2 meters and we can also check if the people are queuing properly or crowding in areas. Similarly, elevators is a space where one cannot easily practice social distancing. By clubbing technology with a SOP, organization can create a sustainable solution in an elevator. For e.g. the CCTV people count feature enables the elevator tp not permit more than the specified no. of people to ride in an elevator. Technologies such as these are all set to change operating models in the future.
Businesses will not go back to the way we knew before the pandemic, but will reinvent themselves to be more resilient, adapting their operational models to the ‘new normal.’ JLL
Meeting room management solution: As meeting rooms will become hotspots where social distancing will be difficult to practice, the meeting room management solution will bring the discipline in common area usage. Integrated with access control and building management systems, we can also ensure that the number of people permitted in the meeting room is within the prescribed numbers of social distancing. By integrating a “maximum number of people per zone” coupled with anti-pass back feature of access control systems, it is now very easy for you to identify the number of people on the floor, zone, or area. Using this logic, one can dynamically prohibit any further access to the area unless others exit. By integrating this data with BMS we can also ensure energy optimisation. This may work well for organizations who have dedicated areas for dedicated people or dedicated teams.
Voice Assistant Technology: With the introduction of voice assistants and control systems, a homeowner can easily control his home remotely. Smart Homes have become even more easy to use with Voice assistants being able to understand the contextual speaking of a user that brings in a huge advancement in speech technology.
Collaboration Tools: The use of collaboration tools such as Teams, Skype for Business, WebEx and Zoom has increased exponentially during lockdown. Microsoft says meetings on its Teams service recently hit a new daily record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes in one day, up 200% from 900 million in mid-March.
The mass adoption of remote working technology through the pandemic phase will likely increase the pace of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including even more emphasis on robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and unmanned vehicles.
CATALYST FOR CHANGE
The global pandemic has indeed sped up the pace of technological change in the real estate sector. Web and mobile applications have never been more important. More digitally advanced realty firms are adopting a multi-cloud approach, consisting of on-premise, private cloud and public cloud. As machine learning and chatbots evolve, AI is driving improved efficiency and experience— especially when it comes to customer support.
The COVID-19 situation has increased focus on the installation of collaborative technology and PropTech for business and FM operations. With the new lessons learnt, the main challenge to overcome will be the investment in appropriate technology, network connectivity, security and staff training to ensure employees can remain productive and companies keep their bottom lines profitable.
But it’s naive to think that real estate is standing still. The pressure to increase resource and cost efficiency is more palpable than ever. Given the size and scope of India’s demand for real estate, there are enormous growth opportunities for technology companies as is evident by the waves Of VC funding fuelling the rise of real estate tech. In the next five years, the face of real estate will be transformed by technology.