The inaugural MIPIM Proptech Europe Conference was held in Paris from June 20-21, where the world’s leading proptech innovators gathered to share their insights.
Proptech is a term that hopefully is becoming more and more familiar to Chartered Surveyors
and the wider industry. This topic is likely to become increasingly popular as demand intensifies for technology to be used as a tool and business solution in addressing inefficiencies and product improvements.
At the inaugural MIPIM PropTech Europe conference in Paris, attendees clearly believed that proptech has transformative potential. The 1,500 attendees from 47 countries came from varying backgrounds and different levels of understanding of what proptech actually means for them. The speakers demonstrated how technology continues to be highly disruptive and a challenge for us all to get to grips with.
Who is best placed to realise the potential of proptech? This is a highly relevant question, as the conference itself was largely split into property and construction professionals, along with innovators and entrepreneurs who see the industry as an untapped cash cow. This is how Dan Hughes, former RICS Director for PropTech, describes the challenge: “The property market often comes down to local knowledge and so whilst many companies are international and work in multiple countries, much of the activity still happens on a very local basis. Technology is different. One simple solution can be scaled globally very easily and quickly. This means that there is a much bigger focus on solving market problems rather than local issues”.
Tanguy Quero, EMEA Digital Director for JLL, made it clear that you can’t just outsource this problem, and even if you partner with a company, you will need to understand how it will work for your business.
The answer according to Pieter Roozenboom of CBRE is: “Tech startups seem like they will provide revolutionary change, but when you drill down to practicalities, property firms and professionals are still better positioned to adopt and adapt to technology”.
In this context, how can you as a professional implement proptech solutions that complement and enhance your organisation’s work?
Built environment innovation
But is it worth your time to consider innovation in the built environment? Compared to other industries, the built environment is perceived as being slow to progress. Norman Meyer of Drees & Sommer SE put it this way: “The German term for real estate is immobielien, which takes its root from the word immobile – kind of summing up the industry and how things move”.
But sometimes the industry is just waiting for something to change. Apartment builders during the Roman Empire could have built to a height of 10 stories, but had to use stairs because elevators at the time risked falling when the hoisting cables lifting them broke, resulting in heights being limited to four storeys. It was not until Elisha Otis invented the safety locking mechanism in 1853, which prevented elevators falling after hoisting cable failure, that greater building heights could be achieved. New materials, such as graphene, might be the catalyst to a wave of change today said Roma Agrawal, structural engineer of the Shard in London.
Data dangers and the GDPR revolution
Cybercriminals are stealing data and ethical hacker Jamie Woodruff said: “Data is far more valuable than currency. These guys will steal data and sell it back to its owners”.
Woodruff then proceeded to ‘live hack’ a nuclear power plant and obtain hordes of personal data. However, most interesting was the technique he uses when hired to test a company’s data security. He targets staff who refer to their company as “them” instead of “we”. Staff that feel a part of the company are more diligent with security and harder to hack. With cybercrime rising, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is placing more responsibility on companies. Rand Hindi, CEO of Snips, said that rather than focusing on protecting the data you collect, you might be better filtering the data before you collect it. He argued that companies like Facebook and Google are designed to hoover up all our personal data and then decide what to do with it. He argued that the GDPR and subsequent consumer behaviour changes will test these companies’ ability to revise their core business approach. His message to those just entering this space is to only collect what data you need.
Brave new workplace ecosystem
Property and facilities management is at the forefront of the challenge of data privacy and data empowerment. In a session on building management efficiency, Matthias Sicard of Disruptive Technologies highlighted the benefit to facility managers of tracking movement in buildings to understand movement, temperature, and how the building is used. He said this allows his company to save 20-40% on its energy bills. This gain is built on the back of residents’ data being collected.
Conclusion – adding value
“The more you automate things, the more you need humans to make sense of it,” said Delphine Grison of CBRE France. Kati Barklund from Microsoft’s Modern Workplace team says they are creating greater value for clients by focusing on people-centric rather than facility- centric solutions: “The data is useless without understanding the people and their needs”. New expectations from clients will be tempered with a need to build trust. Stefan Heitmann spoke of his company, Price Hubble’s, journey in this regard, as it has integrated data to inform client decision making. Its approach uses big data to amass large volumes of multidimensional data, which includes non- property data, delivery order, demographic changes, etc. The company then applies machine learning methods to create a deep understanding about locations and neighbourhoods in which built assets are located. Based on these findings, it is able to give clients more resilient long-term valuations, as the data it started with is the baseline for future prices, not vice versa.
Recommended further reading:
PropertyWeek.com has a great summary on the conference.
Director of Strategy, Policy and Corporate Affairs, SCSI