Writing | Business | Property | Social Change

#Proptech Tuesday, 30-05-17

~ Originally published on www.prop-tech.ie, May 30th, 2017

Proptech News

The last few weeks have been busy on the proptech front with conferences, expos and summits in London and Dublin.  Also, low-cost hotdesking space for proptech start-ups launched on Dawson Street (Dublin 2) and the summer proptech pre-accelerator opened for applications.

We were delighted to host UK-based Kazendi as they showcased Microsoft HoloLens technology and gave a mixed-reality demo for a selection of entrepreneurs and investors.  It’s great to actually experience the technologies so that further potential uses across the planning, construction and property industries can be explored.

I was invited to co-host a couple of talks at Propteq Europe in London earlier this month, together with funders and proptech accelerator programme directors from across Europe, and some key insights/trends emerged.  For example, investors spoke about the (misplaced?) hubris of founders, the worrying lack of technical expertise among co-founders and the subsequent problem with early-funded companies spending invested monies on operations and technical hires rather than the all-crucial innovation. I would be interested to get a bit of feedback from the proptech community in Ireland and from current investors to hear their experiences. Email: news@proptech.ie

What does this mean for the industry?

Compared to 2013/2014, when proptech was seen as a  new sector within the planning, construction and property industries, there is now a broader understanding that proptech start-ups and businesses are in fact property businesses with digital at their core.

I’ve read many complicated and sometimes convoluted definitions but at its simplest, proptech is merely the coming together of technology and property. I personally don’t believe it is just a case of using technology to solve problems in the property and construction industries. This is indeed one aspect of it but It does not do justice to the radical, potentially revolutionary and almost-certainly disruptive innovation that is reimagining how we live.

Confusion arises due to the fact that so-called proptech innovations have wider potential uses, outside of the planning, construction or property industries.  And the inverse is also true, many of the technologies being adopted and even hailed as proptech were actually created for or evolved from other completely unrelated industries, for example, location mapping.

Housing, workspaces, communities… the term ‘property’ has a wide scope. The human element cannot be ignored, but it can be digitised. As consumers, we want this, we just need proptech innovators to show us what it can be.

I think it’s fair to say that traditional property businesses seem to accept the importance of the proptech movement, even if they don’t fully understand why.

As with any change, recognising the need for change is a crucial first step and the truth is, many traditional agents just don’t see the need for change.  They see disruption as a threat, and if they do recognise that an opportunity exists, they believe that it exists for ‘others’ – although they probably couldn’t tell you who those others are.

There are particular technologies, like AI or AR/VR/MR, that contribute to more all-encompassing, umbrella-type technologies like smart cities. The interconnectedness of all these technologies is best described as IoT, or the internet of things (worst-named of all the stages of evolution).

Start-ups might well be the drivers but they alone cannot reach their destination, assuming their collective destination is industry impact, market penetration and commercial success; they need traditional industry players for contextual data and access to testing environments.

It’s worth noting that existing technologies are already influencing and impacting the property market.  For example, MyHome.ie and similar property portals get 70% of their traffic via Google -70%! That means Google might technically be classed as the original monster proptech organisation.

Irish developers, construction companies, estate agencies, managing agents, planners and other industry professionals are invited to make themselves and their businesses available to innovators, who need industry mentoring and access to on-the-ground knowledge. Contact news@proptech.ie to discuss further.

I will leave you with a quote from Jane Ruffino, writing in The Sunday Business Post about the recently-released Britain’s Royal Society report about machine learning:

90% of the world’s data has been created in the past five years, what we choose to collect, store, and act on is accelerating at a previously unthinkable pace… In the future, the data we’ve fed machines will tell the story of who we are, based on what the data collectors decide is important, and it will shape our social and physical landscapes.

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