Go to any tech-related or industry-wide event today, and you will undoubtedly see there is no shortage of conference paraphernalia flaunting the words “digital disruption” or “disruptive technology”.
This is not exactly surprising given how rapid advances in technology in the last five years have changed economies and markets globally, even to the extent of reinventing the way business is being done across industries.
It’s been said that the level of technology advancement organizations face today is akin to that of the industrial revolution of the early 1900s—all-pervasive and rapidly integrating their way into our daily lives. And no industry, including sectors once thought to be impervious to change, is immune to the phenomenon.
But digital disruption isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If embraced and invested in wisely, it can, in fact, be a catalyst to transform operating businesses and advancing productivity in Southeast Asia—including real estate.
Here are the top disruptive technologies that can enhance the way businesses innovate in the property market:
Virtual and Augmented Reality
There are plenty of factors that go into a successful housing project — among them environmental sustainability, social inclusivity, and economic viability — and most of the time these tend to conflict with one another as a developer or property buyer would often scrimp on one to meet the other. As such, there tends to be a gap between an ideal house project and the actual end outcome, and a lot of it has to do with analyzing and validating design-related data.
It is in this area that such technology as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will play a key role. In a nutshell, AR overlays digital information and experiences on the physical world, while VR creates a new interactive digital environment. Currently big in the gaming scene, AR and VR technology can enable the testing and evaluation of different project designs in a more cost-effective and accurate manner. This will not only help architects and designers plan a project more effectively, taking to account a property’s complexity, but also boost developers’ confidence about which projects to progress with.
VR also has the potential to revolutionize property investment from the buyer’s/investor’s perspective. With a VR headset, people can walk around a house, check out how it looks and feels from wherever they may be, and decide then and there to buy it without an actual physical viewing. Same can be said for buying furniture, with companies like IKEA introducing VR apps that let their customers see how various furniture will look in their living room.
The Internet of Things
All these advancements in big data and sensor technology will eventually lead to a world that is smarter and where both people and objects connect and communicate with the other—such is premise behind the Internet of Things (IoT).
With sensors increasingly being installed inside and outside of buildings to gather massive amounts of data on such things as lighting, temperature or the presence of people, property developers now have the ability to map the physical world into a digital model. Thus enabling them to optimize how a building and its infrastructure is designed, occupied, and operated.
Some examples? Think sensors embedded into a building’s infrastructure allowing for a more proactive approach to repair and maintenance; or instead of people manually turning on and adjusting heating and lighting controls, devices are able to do it for them once they detect the presence or absence of occupants in the room—these are just some of the initial applications of IoT in property. While much of it is currently confined in property management (where the impact is already large), more possibilities will open up as more and more devices become connected and communicate with each other.
There are now artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning solutions that can interact with their users, learn their behavior, understand their needs, and even make decisions on their behalf. Some of these digital personalities people are already quite familiar with—Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana.
There are also technology companies now coming up with robo-advisors in everything from the financial and investment space, a wide range of chat bots, virtual agents, robotic process automation, and other digital assistants—all of which offer personalized, high-quality experiences that help increase customer loyalty and reduce attrition. With less manpower needed to keep customers engaged, property developers are also able to reduce costs, improve productivity, and increase efficiencies in other parts of their businesses’ operations.
Arguably last year’s buzziest technology, blockchain has dominated the conversation across the tech landscape, mostly in relation to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. But beyond financial technology, there are actually wide-ranging use cases/applications for blockchain—the digital ledger technology that powers bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
By virtue of blockchain’s ability to share databases and processes, this opens up promising opportunities to make such real estate data as property deeds and title records—most of which remain stored offline and at the local level—more centralized and accessible. Taking all these data online will eventually make it easier and more efficient to transfer and track property titles.
There is also the fact that blockchain is an immutable digital ledger—it is almost impossible to hack—and this adds a layer of security to property transactions. Both buyer and seller have their own unique digital identity, and whether they are in the same place or not, property transactions are facilitated by a centralized body that records and verifies the transaction took place. Best part? It cuts out the need for a middlemen, which reduces the risk of fraud and theft.
With all these features, the blockchain presents a more secure, efficient and transparent process for buying and selling property.