Adam Malik, head of UK business development at tenant engagement platform Equiem, reports from EXPO Real, the annual international property fair that sees more than 40,000 professionals from around the world descend on Munich.
From conversations within the industry, we’d heard that EXPO Real had been a little guilty of under-representing proptech in years gone by. Not so this year.
Partnering with the likes of the Real Estate Innovation Network, around 50 technology panels and presentations were hosted over the 3 days, whilst a quarter of one of the conference halls, branded as ‘tech alley’, was dedicated to proptech representation and showcased 65 start-ups.
Despite this variety, 2 themes seemed to dominate the last few days in particular: digital strategy, and proptech standardisation.
From construction companies to investors to asset managers, firms were keen to emphasise their commitment to developing digital strategies for buildings. Choosing to bypass technology solutions that improve a building and its functionality and likeability for those within, is simply not a viable option. Like it or not, digital needs to form part of any asset management plans.
Emphasising this point, 1 panellist went so far as to say that in 10 years’ time we will look back in embarrassment that we even used the words ‘digital strategy’. His argument was that far from being a tick box bolt-on, digital should be so integrated within plans for a building that it simply falls into ‘strategy’.
Whether or not we’ll reach that stage, it’s clear that companies are placing a far greater focus on researching, selecting and implementing technology solutions for buildings. Whereas companies with ‘digital strategies’ stood out as leaders in the field 5 years ago, it’s those that don’t implement digital that stand out (for all the wrong reasons) now.
With WiredScore, the company behind connectivity benchmark, Wired Certification, launching in Birmingham last week, there were repeated calls at EXPO Real for the industry to at least consider implementing a similar digital benchmark for buildings too.
How the industry would go about establishing such a measure and what it would look like were points of some debate, but the majority of those representing proptech this week were in agreement that some standardisation is needed.
For our own part, we agree. As an industry, we measure the sustainability of buildings and their impact on the world around them. It therefore seems odd not to measure the impact of the tech within those same buildings on the actual people that work in them. How those buildings interact with and improve the lives of users, or at an asset management level how data is collected and shared on those using the building, as two examples, are important things to measure – both to drive improvement and promote accountability.
As proptech firms, if we believe that we truly provide quality solutions for the built environment, then we should absolutely be prepared to be measured and assessed against industry benchmarks, and to be proud to meet (and even exceed) these standards.
Real estate conferences always provide a unique opportunity to gauge where the industry is at and EXPO Real has been no different. From a proptech standpoint it’s been an encouraging few days. There seems a greater desire to embrace, measure and celebrate technology within the industry, and there’s palpable excitement for where the sector is heading. Sustained dialogue and cooperation is needed to keep the momentum going, but EXPO Real 2018 has certainly played its part and we’ll be looking forward to the 2019 edition.