This morning, whilst listening to Radio 4, I heard: "There has been an awful lot of politics lately".
This single sentence neatly sums up the last few months and, quite frankly, following the recent string of local elections, mayoral elections, and national elections; I could do with a break.
Luckily, this morning, I stumbled across an article summarising a recent research report from Oxford University analysing the potential impact of PropTech (or Property Technology for those of us who dislike contractions) on the wider real estate sector.
The report "PropTech 3:0: the future of real estate" was written by Professor Andy Baum and published last month. You can access the report in full using the link at the bottom of this post.
Baum analyses the future and impact of technology across a wide range of fields, from property focussed financial applications, to the 'sharing economy', information services and beyond.
The key conclusions which caught my attention, however, related to information services and smart buildings.
In his 'final thoughts' Baum concludes that:
"PropTech businesses will survive if they solve problems without duplication."
Smart buildings and more effective information services are a real opportunity area for these types of solutions - a fact which is already being picked up in the market. In March of this year, McCarthy and Stone published their report on "Neighbourhoods of the Future" which looked at the possible opportunities opened up by embedded or 'in-property' technologies for the retirement living sector.
Only a few weeks ago, the Conservative Manifesto promised to create a new 'digital land agency' which will become "the largest repository of open land data in the world. This new body will set the standards to digitise the planning process and help create the most comprehensive digital map of Britain to date".
Setting aside the inevitable data protection issues for a moment, digital mapping and improved access to land ownership records should help iron out some of the snags that can easily crop up when planning a development (such as finding out fairly late in the day that your site boundary isn't where you thought it was). It should also help speed up the registration of land in the UK, which is still not universal.
We are already starting to see smart materials make their way into modern buildings, such as glass which turns opaque when you run a current through it (although persuading planning officers to sign off on novel materials can, on occasion, be slightly tricky) and this trend is likely to continue.
For anyone else who needs a break from politics for a while, or is just interested in where PropTech may be headed, the report is well worth a read. That said, and by way of an early warning, the report Is over 90 pages long. For those looking for the 'executive summary' the BisNow article, quoted below, summarises the main findings far more succinctly.
2. The need for more investment in smart real estate Smart real estate, smart cities and smart buildings describe technology-based platforms that facilitate the operation of real estate assets. And the strategy is underrepresented in the PropTech universe, Baum argued. “It should be recognised that the smart building sector is the least challenged PropTech segment — the demand is clear, the market huge, the technology increasingly available, and vested interests aligned,” he said. This is a natural growth area for PropTech, with the construction technology sector also playing a vital role, and requires much more focus by real estate professionals, he said.