Dan Hughes
Dan Hughes set up RED Foundation to help the industry address the challenges of the data era

Facing the challenges of data together

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Dan Hughes

We are faced with new technological developments and stories about the benefits or the risks that it brings on a daily basis. At the heart of these is data. Almost everything collects it; from our cars to our mobile phones and stories in the media are often based around how this data goes on to be used.

For many years, the technology, energy and pharmaceutical sectors have worked hard to get the best from their use of data, and to avoid the perils of it, and now it is the turn of real estate to take data seriously.

However, there are two key differences between real estate and other more ‘data mature’ sectors. Firstly, real estate is relatively late to the party. The reasons for this are complex, but it does present an advantage in that if we are sensible, we are able to learn from the mistakes and lessons learned in other sectors.

Secondly, however you choose to measure the real estate sector, it is huge, but it is also incredibly fragmented. It is composed of lots and lots of relatively small businesses. Even the very largest companies in real estate are small when compared to the giants from other industries.

So, real estate needs to start addressing data and see what it can learn from other sectors. But where should we start? There are numerous high-profile bodies that represent different job roles or stages of the building lifecycle. However, data, and the way it flows across the traditional silos means that there is not a single representative body that can cover all perspectives. To use an analogy, imagine a long corridor of meeting rooms with a group of people in each one trying to tackle a specific jigsaw puzzle. They don’t have all the pieces and are not aware that in the meeting room next door, people are working on the very same puzzle.

This is where the Real Estate Data (RED) Foundation comes in. It has been created to join the dots and amplify the activity that is already happening. We want to create one large meeting room that is open to all to share what they are doing around data and identify where working with others may be beneficial. We will also be looking to push sector wide topics up the agenda and, if appropriate carry out small pieces of collaborative work to benefit the sector and the wider public.

There are three benefits from the real estate sector working together around data and supporting the RED Foundation:

  1. Trust

There have been some high-profile cases of mistrust of companies or governments over their use of data. This is at a time when the real estate sector is focusing on how it appears to the wider world and how it attracts talent. It must, above all else be trusted.

In our attempt to get to grips with data and collect as much as we can, we focus on what we can technologically and legally collect, but often not on what we should collect and how we tell people about it.

The RED Foundation has created some ‘Data Ethics Principles’ that we are asking companies to sign up to work towards. They don’t solve the problems that we face, but they will be a first important step to guide the whole sector in the right direction.

  1. Effectiveness

Data will be at the heart of how effective we are as a sector, for example, how well we design and manage buildings to suit customers’ needs. Offices, for example, must increasingly support well-being and productivity and we can only measure and improve these designs through the use of data. The impact that buildings have on the environment is equally critical and something that will only really be tackled with the effective use of data as part of the solution.

  1. Efficiency

A leading investor recently claimed that 30% of all their staffs’ time was spent copying and pasting data. I told another investor about this and they suggested that they thought it would be much worse in their organisation.

In the past, data processes have been based on small amounts of data. As the volume of data grows exponentially, we will drown in the volume that is available and our inability to extract value from it unless we find new ways to deal with it.

The solution to this will vary within each organisation, but there are some sector level themes that need to be addressed, such as the availability and use of data standards.

The future of real estate and companies will be data driven. How we act now will determine whether we thrive or wither in this data driven world. The RED Foundation has been set up to allow us to face this together and thrive.

 

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