Last month I visited the Hannover Industry Fair. Maybe not the first place one would expect a Product Manager in real estate and facility management software to go, but I really believe in cross-border thinking in our industry. By the way; if you really want to challenge your Fitbit step tracker, one day of wandering around this enormous exhibition complex would be the answer.
During the day I got the chance to experience working on a maintenance job for an aeroplane engine, supported by augmented reality. I used voice control to display the specific section of a manual and the maintenance history of the engine was projected onto my glasses. I saw artificial intelligence (AI) predicting the next disruption in real-time, based on a continuous flow of data and choreographed dancing welding robots. We are facing amazing information technology applications, that are currently shaping the Industry 4.0 - the name given to the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies.
Technology will revolutionise real estate management
For the past two decades IT technology in real estate, combined with human intelligence, has been supporting at the tactical level with a focus on standardising processes. Software solutions are programmed to plan maintenance, prepare invoices, manage space, and support with accounting. However, these revolutions in technology will also transform real estate management. Building equipment like HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) will become self-managing agents, not only reporting issues but predicting issues, planning repairs and fixing themselves when possible. AI-based inspection tools will not only use intelligence to identify the need for maintenance but also plan this alongside other sources of intelligence. For these processes on the tactical level, multiple types of AI will replace or provide far-reaching support for human intelligence.
A flexible shell of workspace
That being said, I believe that the most thought-provoking changes to technology in real estate management are not those on an operational and tactical level in maintenance and administration. The true transformation will be in the way we use, plan and share real estate. New AI is going to make it possible to predict the need for workspace in more detail and fulfill that need based on multiple availability scenarios. This will support the core business better than ever and it will give new meaning to the role of corporate real estate. Just as AI is able to predict the weather for the next 14 days in a fairly accurate way and adjust website advertisements accordingly, real estate AI will be able to predict short term and long term workspace needs based on multiple parameters and data sources and propose scenarios based on multiple sources of intelligence. New platform technology will make it possible to share real estate, by taking a flexible shell and allocating the workspace to different departments or even organisations. This arrangement can be continuously adjusted as needs change.
In ancient times, an investment in real estate was an investment in land and construction. In the past century, there was an increased focus on fittings and equipment. Today, a significant part of the investment is in IT within buildings. Just as technology is currently shaping Industry 4.0, it will also reshape real estate into, let’s say, Real Estate 4.0; buildings with a focus on technology that enable organisations to use, plan and share workspace in ways we can barely imagine today!
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