I recently attended the annual Realcomm/IBcon conference in Silicon Valley. For those not familiar with Realcomm, it has been and continues to be one of the best commercial real estate technology conferences in the country. The conference is held annually and showcases the most current technologies, trends and thought-leaders in our industry. This year was no disappointment.
Here are a few of my observations and takeaways from the conference:
- Robotics and drones are definitely making their way into CRE operations, especially on the property management side. This runs the gamut from automated lease abstracting to sensors monitoring every room to robots making property management house-calls. Not to mention driverless cars essentially antiquating dedicated parking garages.
- Cybersecurity is on everyone’s mind and after sitting through a morning session on the risks, rightfully so! The damage one infected email can do to an organization is sobering, especially as it relates to commercial properties. As buildings are becoming increasingly automated, the risk for essential functional operations shut-down and tenant privacy breaches are very real. I was happy to hear the point reinforced that too many IT departments spend the majority of their time trying prevent security breaches than how to rapidly mitigate them once they occur.
- It appears tech companies are more actively seeking symbiotic partnerships to expand their functional reach as opposed to building in-house. There were a lot of partnering discussions going on.
- Venture capital valuations are peaking for CRE tech startups and there is a remarkable resurgence of investment firms looking for profitable CRE tech companies.
- IWMS (integrated workplace management system) continues to be the direction the industry is going, which is a great thing. The primary issue to overcome is designing IWMS platforms that can integrate the near limitless point solutions (applications dedicated to one or few primary areas, i.e. lease administration, work order management or energy management) in a way that enables true control and intelligent analysis of big data.
- The weather in San Jose is friggin awesome!
One other thing, our CRE industry is adapting, adopting and embracing technology at a very rapid pace relative to the past. Whereas it used to take years to convince real estate decision makers and organizations to try new tools, now the innovation is coming so fast it can be overwhelming even to the most seasoned IT professional. Very soon nearly every aspect of commercial properties will be connected, monitored, managed and analyzed via sensors, robotics, drones and software.
I have been an evangelist for utilizing technology in commercial real estate for nearly 20 years, but occasionally even I stop and wonder if the innovation is driving the need and demand rather than necessity being the parent of the innovation. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement these new technologies bring and I make a living developing these very tools. As an insider, my only advice is get involved, get informed and adopt at your own pace.
The best way to keep up and stay informed is to attend conferences like Realcomm. The educational sessions and networking are worth the price of admission.