The Internet of Things
The IOT is, in essence, a series of smart devices that talk to one another and feed back into a wider data loop that allow the overseer to take an overview of co-joined performance. In theory, IOT tech should be perfect for the workplace as it allows CRE teams to have smart insights into a series of interlinked workplace data sets.
Over the past five years, key IOT devices such as sensors have dramatically fallen in price, while advances in IOT integration software have presented new opportunities to connect existing devices across real estate portfolios.
In the mid-term, advanced IOT platforms can connect sensors, access control systems, CCTV cameras, lifts, and even coffee machines to analyse how occupants use buildings in real-time. Instead of depending on unreliable headcount projections and retrospective spend patterns, CRE teams can now shape their workplace, real estate, and capital project work streams with greater precision and confidence using an IOT-led approach.
Longer-term, there is technology on the horizon that can actually analyse individual and team behaviour. Researchers at MIT have developed hardware that reads body language for one or more individuals and is able to determine whether or not the working culture is a positive one. While this might sound intrusive, anonymised readings of team behaviours in a controlled environment can let CRE teams see how their workplace projects impact the people using them, accelerating the trial-and-error approach of curated workplace design.
What is next?
The nascent PropTech scene is growing fast but investment in such technology is very small (0.007% of total CRE market) compared to other sectors such as FinTech (0.4%) or MedTech (0.8%). It is a little harsh to generalise, but adoption of technology within CRE is still very much at the “theory” stage rather than being actionable and deliverable. Inevitably, this will have to accelerate to enable CRE teams to better exploit opportunities currently hidden from them, but this will require the introduction of new skills to the sector around programming and data-analysis.
To put themselves in an optimal position, CRE teams must invest in IOT hardware and integration platforms to truly understand day-to-day activity across their portfolios, ensure that they are equipped with AI and machine learning enabled platforms to process the data, and invest in recruitment outside of conventional real estate hiring pools to make sense of the data and provide leadership with consistent, actionable insights.