2018 is going to be another year where the lines between commercial real estate and the technology industry get blurrier. Here are the technologies that we're tracking and that we see changing how you occupy, lease, use, manage and interact with commercial real estate.
Although the concept of virtual reality has been around for decades, the technology has advanced to a point where it can enter the mainstream business world. VR is impacting office design and business travel as some companies choose to use virtual meeting scenarios that actually work. The process of marketing spaces for lease and purchase is being streamlined by advanced VR tools that let prospective tenants or purchasers experience spaces in various configurations in a virtual walk through. While augmented reality is still finding its way in the business world, it has the potential to revolutionize building management and maintenance by enabling techs to see the status of systems as they walk through buildings.
A couple of years ago, drones were the hot new technology. In 2018, they are now a requirement. Like offering pictures of properties in marketing, a drone video is something that tenants and purchasers can demand to help them gain a quick overview of properties. Like with AR, managers will continue finding new ways to use drones to help them inspect and manage commercial real estate buildings.
2017 saw significant advances in the robustness of the technology underlying the Internet of Things. This sets 2018 up to be a year where more commercial real estate owners and users integrate the IoT into their management systems. As the IoT becomes more prevalent, it should bring increased building efficiency, better maintenance and improved tenant experiences.
The power of the IoT comes not from the sensors, but from the ability to collect and analyze the data that they generate. While Big Data mining and analysis tools have been around for a while, they will gain further use along with IoT adoption in 2018.
2018's biggest technology innovation in the IoT space, though, is likely to be the application of artificial intelligence technology like IBM's Jeopardy-winning Watson system. Blending AI with the IoT and Big Data repositories allows commercial real estate users not just to know what is going on, but to be told what to do about it. This higher level of automation could be 2018's killer app. As another example of how these technologies work together, the IoT can show a compressor's energy usage. Big Data can pinpoint that the energy usage is higher than usual and that this trend usually correlates with a failing unit. AI can automatically dispatch a technician and have the right parts for a repair ordered and on site before he or she gets there.
Underlying all of the buzzwords and hype around blockchain is a relatively simple concept. A blockchain is a secure digital record of transactions and it is already being tested as a replacement for real estate title systems.
2018 could be the year that it goes from being a technology to be tested to an actual new way for commercial real estate to be owned and transferred.