The late-2016 PropTech Summit was first of its kind to be hosted by the Estates Gazette magazine, bringing together a broad range of sector representatives to explore how innovation has a pivotal role in shaping the property industry´s future. Summarised below are some of the salient points covered during two interrelated panel discussions followed by a brief outline of some of the platforms and software to watch out for during the course of 2017 and beyond.
Real time data, algorithmic reasoning, predictive evaluation, machine learning, sophisticated financial modelling, data-driven design / decision making, drone surveying, virtual / augmented reality, geo-locational mapping… the list of tools looking to be taken more seriously by developers, investors and other stakeholders continues to amass. Yet comments that “the industry is old fashioned and inefficient” and of the need to cut through “the rhetoric of property being a dinosaur” supported a consensus amongst the “tech star” panel* that many businesses remain underserved. As build to let, shared working and other service-led development models come to the fore, it was argued that embracing innovation and recruiting the very best talent within the tech space will be essential. So why has take-up been so slow?
The “property players” panel** pointed out that the industry has long attempted to streamline workflows but, under previous waves of technology, has got its fingers burnt. Justifiable concerns include difficulties in “cutting through the noise” (lack of clarity), high start-up failure rates and the obsolescence factor.
Significant sums of capex can be deployed using gut feelings, limited datasets and minimal evidence of tangible benefits. The adoption curve is therefore not growing exponentially which is already resulting in a certain degree of fatigue and questions as to whether real pain points of the industry are being addressed. “Drinking from a firehose” were the words used by Juliette Morgan of Cushman & Wakefield to describe how “indigestion” becomes a natural by-product of a changing market. An interesting point was also raised by Jacob Loftus of General Projects that smart buildings and the internet of things phenomena are actually intruding on people´s private space. Care therefore needs to be taken to ensure the relationship between technology and property does not get too far ahead of itself.
Ultimately, the obvious but understated goal within these ongoing conversations is to achieve a genuine ROI. As acknowledged by William Newton during the first panel, success will be measured by PropTech´s ability to empathise with the industry: “the onus is to show we are bringing something valuable to enable adoption”. For effective partnerships to be formed, the PropTech sector must constantly evolve and adapt to the cyclical and inherently risky nature of the property world. Both panels also raised the importance of deeper conversations and collaborative R&D between the industry and tech companies, lessening the “echo chamber” effect.
* Panel 1 – “The Tech Stars”: Savannah de Savary, Founder and CEO of IndustryHub; Chlump Chatkupt, PlaceMake.io Founder; Jon Taylor, Head of Technology at The Collective; William Newton, EMEA Director at WiredScore; Ross Bailey CEO at Appear Here and James Morris-Manuel, EMEA Sales Director at Matterport
** Panel 2 – “The Property Players”: David Rosen, Senior Partner at Pilcher Hershman; Juliette Morgan, International Partner, Global Tech Lead – London, Cushman & Wakefield; Ben Dimson, Head of Retail Business Development at British Land; Adrian Leavey, Partner at Trowers & Hamlin and Jacob Loftus, CEO at General Projects
PropTech Watch List 2017
Placemake.io – expected to be fully launched in 2017, this platform applies AI and machine learning to make development / investment decisions more intelligently by means of an interactive mapping system. Users will be able to access a wide range data sets ranging from market values to healthcare facilities and social media check-ins.
Land Insight – removes some of the cumbersome processes of land and development site finding. Users can directly access current / previous planning application, assess boundaries, download Land Registry Title Registers (subscription packages include minimum commercial / corporate ownership searches), save ownership details, see prices paid, monitor up-and-coming schemes amongst other tools.
Realyse – formerly known as “Insight Residential” (see an interview with CEO and Founder Gavriel Merkado here), the portal brings together a wide range of collated datasets under the aim of identifying trends, interesting yield / capital growth opportunities to facilitate better investment decisions;
VuCity – an interactive real time 3D digital model of London aimed at developers, local authorities, planners, architects, surveyors and transport engineers to build plans and accurately visualise new development schemes and infrastructure. Using past and forecasted urban mapping and environmental data, users can access key information such as rights to light, sunlight paths, viewing corridors, visibility splays, accessibility and live transport data. The parent company – Wagstaffs – also offer services in pre-planning, consultation, pitch / tender design, marketing (interactive residential sales tools), animation, real time tours and VR / AR.
IndustryHub – an online platform and professional community that connects property developers with a global network of consultants, investors and joint venture partners.
Urban Intelligence – a company developing specialist technological solutions to help speed up the UK planning system. The first product is a comprehensive database and search engine of UK planning policy.
Propensity to Cycle Tool – developed by Cambridge University under a vision of alleviating congestion, and emulating cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen, the platform proposes to assist transport planners and policy makers to prioritise investments and interventions that promote cycling.
The Collective – as buy to let becomes more amenity and customer service focused, particularly in city centres, it will be interesting what lessons can be learnt as this development company for the “millennial generation” grows.