Proptech is changing the shape of the commercial and private real estate markets, and is likely to continue disrupting the way things are done for generations. By mixing real estate with technology to optimise industries, create new ones, and generate efficiencies or capabilities that improve revenue generation, something as fundamental as the concept of parking has been turned on its head.
With the current evolution of proptech, it is critical to understand the key industry trends for 2023, while realising that the very nature of technology means that things may evolve faster than expected or change tack completely – all in search of providing a compelling business case and improving property management.
The whole point of innovation is to make life better. Consider the invention of the wheel, or the combine harvester, or the aeroplane, or – in our case – incorporating number plate recognition into parking management, so that it can talk to a software platform and automatically raise booms for cars as they enter parkades based on recognising the licence number from an app input. Technology makes life and business easier, better and more efficient.
Let us cast our eyes well into the future. A recent breakthrough by scientists in the USA has sparked hopes of a critical breakthrough in clean energy. The scientists were able to produce energy from nuclear fusion, which is different from the nuclear fission currently found in nuclear power stations.
The long-term picture this promises to paint is one where clean, nuclear fusion provides near limitless power – a commodity in great demand and one becoming increasingly difficult to secure in South Africa. Just imagine a future where developments, housing estates, commercial properties, all run off sufficient, reliable and clean power.
Bringing the lens a little closer to where we are today, we are likely to see the following trends continue to drive proptech: cloud computing, big data and AI, automation, IoT, virtual and augmented reality, and increasingly more elaborate property management platforms.
Just like every other aspect of work and home life, digitisation implies cloud computing. Besides redundancy and accessibility – as long as there is connectivity – it enables scale at a level previously impossible. An application in the cloud can manage large disparate inputs from anywhere in the world, in almost real-time. From private and commercial estate agents to managing agents, and a host of intermediary service providers, expect to keep seeing a massive uptake and move to cloud.
In the greater scheme of things, the concept of big data is still new. Whereas a few years ago opinion and trend pieces spoke about the potential of big data, today, as hardware and software evolve, proof of concepts can be found everywhere.
Perhaps one of the most exciting things big data enables is predictive analytics. Property owners can analyse utility usage and predict, to the hour and the day, the next time there will be spikes. Similarly, they can analyse foot or vehicle traffic based on historical and real-time data and predict spikes and troughs in order to manage capacity accurately and efficiently, saving time and money, but also improving user and customer experience. On the other hand, reporting has catapulted into the future, which provides immense value to business leaders and shareholders.
This can be flipped on its head. Today, institutional and retail investors have access to tools that enable them to analyse sectors, industries and regions within minutes, giving them more insights than ever before. Property investors no longer need to rely on the word of a property agent; they can see the data for themselves.
As machine learning and AI – dependent on big data – evolve, we will continue seeing innovations in the use of virtual assistants, facial and voice sentiment analysis and more. Think about it, if AI can compose original music on command or draw pictures of anything you can imagine, the use of assistants in commercial and property management applications is almost endless.
This is the name of the game in proptech and will be deployed across more areas. From estate agents, to brokers, to property owners, to property managers and others, the menial time-consuming tasks that used to take up inordinate amounts of time in the past will continue to be automated. Communication, marketing, e-contracts, even closing deals and more, will continue to be automated as the machines take on more of the everyday tasks so that human capital can be deployed to spend valuable time and creativity on building compelling business differentiators.
Previously (and still in most parkades today), a driver would show up at a parkade, press a button and receive a little white ticket. This driver would then drive around a parkade looking for an open bay. Some parkades have made use of little red and green light indicators for whether the parking is open or taken. The person would park their car and go do their business.
When it came time to leave, the person would find a machine and insert the card. If it did not work, or there was a problem of some kind, they would need to press a button and wait to speak to an operator to get the problem resolved. Then they would pay, either by cash or by card, and have a window period to walk to their car and make their way to the parkade exit. They would insert the card into a machine at the exit, and the boom would raise allowing them to drive off. In other parkades, a person sat at the exit, took payment, and raised the boom.
Parket has changed this process. The car drives up, cameras recognise the number plate and the boom opens. The driver knows there is open parking because the app works in real-time. They park, complete their business and leave, the boom opening as they exit, while their card is charged for the time used. Not only does this vastly improve customer experience, but also it allows property owners to generate income on open parking spaces while drastically reducing the time and resource management required to run a parkade effectively.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a hot topic for a long time. At its most simple explanation: imagine little sensors on almost everything that provide real-time data to either monitor, predict, react or manage the physical environment. A property owner is alerted before a crisis occurs, such as when the machines running the booms need servicing, or when pressure in the plumbing has increased to dangerous levels. Resources to manage assets can be deployed when any alerts from real-time readings exceed predetermined thresholds. Parkades could integrate into smart buildings and smart cities. This future is far closer than many think.
Virtual and augmented reality
The pandemic no doubt accelerated the use of VR and technology has disrupted the property sector. 3D renderings and virtual reality tours have taken marketing and interactive meetings to an entirely new level. Proptech will no doubt continue to innovate in this field, but it is in another world altogether where this will be most important. Real estate agents, property managers, service providers and even customers will make use of VR to buy virtual property, manage virtual property and interact with virtual property in the metaverse.
As is obvious, the only limit in any discussion about trends for the next year, or longer-term future, is the imagination of the entrepreneur and the problem they wish to solve. However, innovation is only successful if it solves a problem. Remember, technology exists to make life better. This has been the mantra at Parket and it is the reason we have been able to disrupt and reimagine the parking market in South Africa, for both property owners or property managers, and customers – because whether it is the cloud, automation or video recognition, technology is used to solve a problem.
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