For the many people working in or engaging with the UK property sector, they will have noticed that things are rapidly changing. No stone is being left unturned in terms of technological innovation; from the way we all buy and sell property to the way our homes and workplaces are designed and built.
According to Jamie Johnson, CEO of FJP Investment, “PropTech” is becoming common terminology that refers to the technology and digital innovations specifically being innovated for the property sector. The principal impetus for this innovation is with tech start-ups and SMEs, companies that are full of energy, youth, and vitality and are adapting existing technologies to fit the various areas of the property sector, from brand new developments to construction.
Huge digital technological trends, like the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), along with robotics and other innovative hardware, are transforming the sector. In aggregate, these technological innovations are part of what the World Economic Forum and others are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
According to Property’s recent 2020 PropTech survey, PropTech has become even more sought after by various professionals working in the property sector since the pandemic hit early in 2020, forcing many businesses to adapt and increase their online presence. 49% of those that responded to the survey said they have already developed a digital roadmap to move their business into the burgeoning new technology era.
We are only at the start of the PropTech revolution, and the full impact of change and innovation has yet to hit it. This is exciting because not only is it opening tremendous opportunities for all those involved in property, which is pretty much everyone when you count buyers, sellers, and renters, but it is also helping the sector to do their bit to tackle humanity’s bigger problems like climate change, non-renewable natural resource scarcity, and ecological overshoot.
Indeed, the property sector accounts for a significant contribution to CO2 emissions—whether heating our buildings or the cement used in construction—and waste filling up landfill sites, something new technologies are helping to mitigate in significant ways.
Those working in the property sector will be aware of the traditional slow and cumbersome ways of doing things, which is why so many are embracing the changes as fast as possible. Many industry practises are inefficient, time-consuming, and a headache to manage.
A good example is the process of buying and renting property, which typically involves seemingly endless phone calls and emails with the tense hope of arranging a viewing, which can be cancelled at any time.
Digital platforms, however, are changing all this! Indeed, the survey mentioned above showed that nearly half of respondents said that greater online presence and technologies like digital-first have made an immense difference and improvement to the property sector in the past several years.
Online listings of properties and marketplaces can compile large numbers of properties and use filters to help match the right properties to what the clients are looking for. Indeed, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are significantly improving how buyers and sellers conduct their searches and shortlists, even to the degree that recommendations will be made based on personality traits and projected future needs.
Online platforms are springing up everywhere that allow buyers and sellers to seamlessly search for and manage their properties and tenancies.
Whether allowing for greater flexibility and communication between buyers and sellers or providing apps for students that can connect them to student accommodation landlords and find the right apartment to live in and manage their rent, online presence in the property sector has been immensely beneficial and is only set to increase moving forward.
Building management systems
Smart sensers are making an entry into the property sector, in both residential and commercial properties, in a major way, particularly when it comes to building facilities management (FM). The technologies don’t have to be radical; even simple ones can make a big difference.
Since building management involves important but mundane and repetitive tasks that are necessary for the health and safety of the building and its occupants, there is a lot of scope for these tasks to be done better by utilising technology.
Examples of how this can be achieved include placing tiny sensors on bins, which then alert us when they need emptying. They can also make sure that the right rubbish is being put into the right bins, such as recycling material.
Augmented and virtual reality.
These technologies are very exciting and are making a big splash in the property sector. Especially since the pandemic hit and caused many disruptions, virtual tours of properties have skyrocketed. We have seen many more estate agents and property investment companies improving their clients’ experiences by providing augmented realty and virtual reality capabilities.
Property buyers can now shortlist their choices by taking a virtual tour of many properties and getting a good feel for what they are looking at, including how much space they provide and if they will suit their individual and family needs.
And for property investors, it is now possible to take a realistic and detailed view of off-plan investment opportunities by using augmented reality to digitally present the property before it has even been built. This is particularly useful for investors living far away from the property, like overseas investors.