Welcome to Five for Wednesday, our weekly round-up of tech-focused news.
- Dallas adds itself to the list of cities making autonomous vehicles available between city landmarks. Dallas is an incredibly car-dependent city, and the start-up bringing AVs in is hoping to alleviate congestion by offering self-driving shuttles during peak driving times between popular destinations.
- Waymo, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is launching a self-driving competitor to Uber and Lyft. The project is a highly-guarded secret, and is thought to be sending it first fleet of cars into the Phoenix metro area in early December. We’ll be keeping an eye out on this!
- Last month, I told you about Sidewalk Labs’ (another Alphabet company) pilot program in Toronto to rethink the smart city. The ambitious undertaking has recently come under fire from multiple groups, citing surveillance and data privacy concerns. I think the idea of the public civic trust of data sounds great on the outside, but would be interested in the details of that trust, and it looks like others are wanting information as well.
- Speaking of surveillance, the “smart neighborhood” is a trend we identified to watch for 2019, and we’re starting to see the pushback when neighbors start using their doorbells to set up a passive (but very digitally present) “neighborhood watch.” The “sharing video with your neighbors” trend started with footage of cute animals in yards going viral, but now has grown to include entirely crime-focused footage sharing apps. Again, the key here is about balancing the surveillance aspect between “too intrusive” and “helpful for the community,” and the balance of those two purposes is not as cut and dry as we’d hope.
- Having houseguests for the holidays? Build them an Alexa skill to let them know how to use the finicky universal remote, where to find spare towels, or what creaky step to skip on the staircase.
And this week’s bonus, spend some time with the Emoji Builder online app that I can’t stop using – making Emoji more nuanced means I can fully express myself with icons such as “smiling angry surprised face with hand covering mouth.”
This week on the CRT Labs blog, Jacob Knabb from NAR’s Commercial division writes about some much-needed advancements in commercial real estate technology.
Four industry leaders met recently in Chicago to discuss the state of commercial real estate technology, exploring what disruption might mean for the future of commercial real estate.
Emily Line, Vice President of Commercial Services, Realtors Property Resource® (RPR), Constance Freedman, Founder and Managing Partner, Moderne Ventures and the Moderne Accelerator, and Karin Kraai, Senior Managing Director, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, joined moderator Ginger Downs, Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Association of REALTORS®, for an informative discussion of commercial real estate technology to a packed room of Chicago-area real estate practitioners.
(L-R) Kraai, Line, & Freedman. (photo by Jacob S. Knabb)
Ready or Not Here Comes Commercial Real Estate Technology
The first major takeaway is complexity inhibits technology adoption, as does fear of change.
Line pointed to a 2016 Forbes survey, which found only 11% of respondents consider themselves on the leading edge of technology. Yet the same executives also believe that technology is “revolutionizing the industry.” A similar survey by KPMG revealed that over 94 percent of commercial real estate executives identified complexity as their greatest challenge, Line noted, with 84% identifying ‘information management’ as one key solution. “Despite the fact that 84% recognize the solution, 89% are still not willing to step out of what’s comfortable,” Line said.
It is impossible to ignore the fact that new technology companies are entering the industry at a rapid pace, creating cost-efficient products designed to simply workflow. Most of these companies offer supportive data in a more digestible fashion. One great way for REALTORS® to establish yourself in the tech sector is to sign up to test new products “At Moderne, most of the companies we fund asked to create pilot programs where users can try a new company’s product for free in exchange for user feedback,” said Freedman. “Get involved and you may build a real relationship with a company.”
Commercial Real Estate Technology Isn’t Exactly Disruptive
The second key takeaway is that commercial real estate hasn’t had a true disruption yet. “We’ve had embellishers and enhancers [in commercial real estate technology] but not a disruptor,” said Kraai. Commercial real estate still hinges on human expertise at its core and as a result “brokers don’t want to be disrupted,” Kraai argued. Freedman agreed, noting the importance of human relationships. “Deals can take five or more years to complete [and] clients want an advisor or a consultant,” Freedman argued.
“Disruption is separate from the individual,” echoed Downs. “And the products need to make the broker more efficient.”
Technologies created for other markets will penetrate commercial real estate, enhancing how the industry functions. There movement towards smart buildings in smart cities is undeniably changing the way brokers and investors think about properties. “Buildings are becoming greener and offer far more smart tech options for tenants,” said Kraai. “Here in Chicago’s riverfront we are seeing a definite desire on the part of tenants and firms to have a smaller footprint.”
Intentionally Cultivating a Growing Workforce
The final takeaway is three-fold: Diversity creates better companies, the key to building diversity is through mentorship, and this matters to the incoming millennial workforce. Line argued the “Work, Live, Play” movement is unavoidable.
“Shifting lifestyle preferences are prompting major changes in the real estate landscape, forcing developers, investors, and REALTORS® to dive deeper into research and think about the full picture for a community,” Line referenced a study commissioned by NAR and conducted by Swanepoel T3 Group called the Commercial Real Estate ALERT. According to the report, Millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2030. “One of the most pressing challenges for commercial real estate is to plan for where this important segment of society will live, work, and play,” Line reasoned.
This incoming workforce brings a different set of expectations about diversity. Freedman noted a particular lack of diversity when it comes to the investor space. “The managing partners in firms across equity is roughly 7%,” she said. “In real estate, it’s closer to 3%.” Freedman bemoaned the fact that hardly any women have their own fund despite the fact that almost all want to.”
That said, Downs noted a marked shift in company culture to attract younger employees and improve the happiness of current ones. “Millennials will soon be the largest demographic in the work force, so it’s important to consider what they are looking for in a work place and find spaces to make those dreams a reality,” said Downs. “Because so many of us live tech-heavy, fast-paced lives, we need our work places to be innovative and efficient.” The entire panel strongly believed that practitioners should commit to the old-school method of mentorship to support millennials, particularly women and minorities, entering the commercial real estate and technology space. A diversified industry creates much stronger returns. As Kraai succinctly put it: “All of the Top-20 Tech firms have women in at least 20% of their key positions. It makes better thinking and increases profitability.”
Jacob S. Knabb is Commercial Communications & Member Services Associate for the National Association of REALTORS®. He works frequently with CRT Labs, keeping us informed of the latest and greatest in commercial real estate technology trends.
Last week, we worked with Tech in Motion Chicago to put on a meetup to discuss smart city/IoT in Chicago. Brenna Berman, CIO of the city of Chicago, was our keynote speaker, and we had panelists from all over the city talk about how IoT will shape the future of the city of Chicago – and cities all over the world. Our Office Hours this week discussed the meetup. You can also view the entire talk below. As always, join us on our Facebook every Friday at 3PM Eastern to watch our Office Hours live!
Facebook Live Office Hours: Smart City/IoT Meetup from CRTLabs on Vimeo.
Smart City/IoT Chicago Meetup from CRTLabs on Vimeo.