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Events Jun 19, 2018

A Changing Tide at Realcomm 2018: CRE Embraces Technology

For many of us at LEVERTON, it wasn’t our first visit to Realcomm. Yet, this year, we witnessed something new: landlords and property owners are now truly interested in not only learning about new technology, but also in trying new approaches to their work through piloting emerging technologies.

The endgame? More automation, greater speed and efficiency, and ensuring data accuracy in order to make better decisions  — fast.

From Mobility to Deep Learning in CRE

In commemoration of the conference’s anniversary, Jim Young, founder of Realcomm, opened the conference, named “The Age of Acceleration: Navigating Gloval CRE Techonology and Innovation,” in a memorable way. Young took everyone with him on a walk down CRE Tech’s memory lane. He paid homage to mobility being the “something new” way back when Realcomm first started in 1998 by lugging one of the world’s first tablets onto the stage. This stark throwback pleasantly surprised audiences, as the conference has drastically evolved.

Robots first hit the stage of Realcomm in 2014 and AI/deep learning soon followed in 2016. His main point – and one we wholeheartedly believe in – is that due to the rapid pace of change in our industry, sharing and collaborating is now more critical than ever before. In the words of Young, “This is a journey you don’t want to go on alone.”

“Technology”:  From Buzzword to Business Foundation

Bob Sulentic, CEO of CBRE, spoke next in the opening session on how his company, a global real estate powerhouse, has pivoted to pay more attention to a growing investment in technology in recent years. The two biggest changes CBRE have made are investing in digital leadership and embedding technology into its business instead of utilizing it as a side as an add-on. Each part of the company has technology roadmaps, which are reviewed quarterly, and Sulentic has stated that they are committed to making sure that the technology they adopt is impacting their customers in a positive way.

To this end, CBRE track the usage and impact of the 35+ tools they have in use today. Some of CBRE’s most innovative implementations have been 3D space planning, location analytics, building management, and an energy management platform. Sulentic went on to explain that this commitment to “going digital” has resulted in a fundamental change in  the profile of the company and the type of talent they attract and hire. CBRE’s fervent embrace of technology runs deep.

Sulentic then added that he sees the most technological change in the near future for CBRE in two major areas:

  • Complex transactions: the input they rely on from professionals will always be useful, but AI will help to more effectively deliver it
  • Space use: occupants demonstrate a growing desire for flexible space and co working; the industry is still maturing in this area

Sulentic ended his talk with the notion that technology and innovation are no longer buzzwords. Instead, they are now foundational to how we do business.

AI & Blockchain – Keeping it Real

The panel sessions on blockchain and AI at Realcomm were well attended, with many asking questions beyond “what is it” and more about “how do we implement” – an encouraging sign that many have moved beyond simple curiosity to eager readiness in adopting new ways of doing things.

A few takeaways on blockchain from Alexandria Levin Kramer, who heads up the Blockchain Technology and Digital Currency practice group at CKR Law:

  • Blockchain allows for a few end goals which have been missing historically from the real estate industry: transparency, liquidity, and efficiency.
  • The technology allows for a fractional interest in an entity – a blockchain token can represent a deed, an asset, or a debt.
  • In terms of defining what a utility token really is, the state rules. In Europe, the European Union has created official uniform laws.

Blockchain panel moderator Kevin Shtofman, Technology Strategy Lead, Real Estate of Deloitte, stated that Deloitte currently has 15-20 pilots using blockchain, with one use case focused on shortening a typical transaction from 300 days to only 60. The AI panel, moderated by Stuart Appley, Managing Director, Global Workplace Solutions of CBRE, offered up clear stats on the transition of AI technology from an interest topic to an effective work tool in use at many organizations.

Citing recent research from Narrative Science and National Business Research Institute (NBRI), Appley provided the following insights:

  • 81% of businesses said they have implemented some form of AI in 2017, up from 38% in 2016
  • 71% said they have an ‘innovation strategy’ in place to push AI and other projects
  • 59% of businesses said they had an innovation budget, with 62% saying their budgets have increased from the year before.

Alina Lloyd, VP of Real Estate Strategy at Quadreal Property, a Toronto-based company with $24 billion in assets under management, discussed putting AI to work with operations and property managers to create an operations-oriented, AI app across businesses in order to deliver more impressive completion rates and greatly reduce the number of review calls. Lloyd identified a key learning in unlocking the effectiveness of AI: the teams that will ultimately use an AI solution should be involved in the planning and design of the AI pilot itself.

This allows all teams involved to have a deeper understanding of the technology and to take more ownership of the solution, which, according to Lloyd, has helped her team become good storytellers. When good results came about for one team, that team would tell the story to others, shedding light on the power of implementing AI solutions.

Olga Koroleva, founder and CEO of Capital Brain, then reviewed several use cases for AI in her firm, including the ability to easily make prospect lists from disparate data, allowing for identification of what the next hot real estate property will be, along with other market trends.

The panel then ended with a Q&A. A prominent concern raised in the Q&A session was that most people think they do not have good enough data to get started on implementing AI. The panel insisted that while the data quality should be good, it does not have to be perfect in order to get started. Another tip presented by the panel was to build in a solid feedback loop into project workflows when undergoing an AI implementation. Lastly, the panel advised those experimenting with AI or any new technology to adjust their thinking about failure. The panel pointed out that sometimes, it takes 30 tries to get it right, and it is best to think of a failure as just another data point. Keep iterating.

Here At LEVERTON, we are ready to help landlords, property owners, and service providers get started with successfully using AI to extract and structure lease data, leading to better insights and smarter decisions.

You can contact us anytime for a free demo by clicking the link here.

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