Intel
Intel's IoT enabled building in Bangalore, India is one example of the growing automation industry

Automation takes hold

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Harry Proudley

Automation is a behind-the-scenes operator in property, often overshadowed by more glamorous technology. However, it is essential in modernising the industry. Here are a few places it’s already being used…

Building Internet of Things

The Internet of Thing’s specific rapport with real estate dubbed the ‘Building Internet of Things’ (BIoT), has seen advancements in a new strain of smart buildings with the ability to better meet the needs of property owners, managers, and occupiers.

Intel is a key player in the development and adoption of IoT technologies and has itself developed smart buildings that showcase the benefits of automation through BIoT.

In 2016, Intel finished a 630,000 sq ft office building in Bangalore, India, that is comprehensively IoT enabled. Srinivas Khandavilli, IoT Program Director at Intel comments that “building owners need to move away from closed and proprietary Building Management Systems and towards open systems in order to reap the benefits of the latest technologies.” Such “open systems” include interconnected sensors and modules that generate data automatically, which is then used to engender actionable insights for Intel’s relevant facilities team.

Construction Disruption

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In a sense, building construction is a form of manufacturing. However, when it comes to the adoption of new technologies, specifically automation, the sector lags woefully behind. Speaking to pbctoday.co.uk, Bryden Wood’s Jaimie Johnston suggests that “just as the iPhone disrupted mobile communications and created the ‘app economy’, Netflix changed TV and IKEA furniture, our industry will be disrupted by automation.”

This disruption will come in the form of modern manufacturing processes and mechanisms, designed to drastically reduce waste, and boost productivity.

These include; platform construction, where generic designs for door frames and other standard size elements are mass-produced;  digitally-enabled workflows that provide a backdrop to the whole process of construction, analysing data and connecting workers; and automated assembly where smaller components of buildings are assembled off-site. Such implementations will help streamline construction for maximum efficiency.

Demand for Data

Zillow Homepage

There are a plethora of proptech startups promising to redefine the processes of buying and selling when it comes to real estate, and they rely on massive data banks to fuel the software that automates them. Companies like Zillow and Rentlogic use automation software to analyse a vast amount of public and user-submitted data and generate useful outputs to inform consumers.

Rentlogic provides a grading system for over 1.1 million multi-family buildings across New York, granting tenants greater bargaining power with landlords. Zillow generates ‘Zestimates’ for around 110 million US homes. Updated three times a week, the statistic is accurate to within 10%.

The automation of these processes gives consumers greater control, while also improving the quality of service at the landlord’s end, and avoiding disputes further down the line.

Robotic Realtors

Screenshot 2017 12 6 A New Way To Rent With AI Robots YouTube

While automation will be integral to the property industry’s enhancement, it is hindered by fears of job losses. In some cases, the replacement of humans with robotic counterparts is a very real possibility.

The chief inventor at the Real Estate Advertising Group (REA), Nigel Dalton, believes that real estate robots could replace agents as early as 2020, although he suggests they will only replace “average” agents, as many possess skills that a robot could not suitably replicate.

As with the introduction of virtual reality in real estate showings, automation will see customers been taken to houses via a self-drive Tesla, and then being given a tour of the property by a dedicated robot, according to Dalton.

Tasks such as data collection and processing are ripe for automation, due to their predictability, however, rather than taking jobs, this will allow individuals in the sector to better focus their more human attributes. Already we are seeing a significant presence of automation in the real estate sector, with virtual assistants and chat-bots forming close relationships with both clients and agents.

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