Big data and the role of smart cities present both an opportunity and a threat, according to a new report from the RICS.
The report, titled Big data, smart cities, intelligent buildings – surveying in a digital world examines the significant of big data and other tech on the surveying industry.
Understanding big data
The report details how big data can be understood using the following terminology:
Complexity | Big data is undeniably complex, from the underlying technology right through to the analytical models that must be deployed
High volume | Data is measured in terabytes, petabytes or even exabytes of information
High velocity | Velocity refers to speed of creation but it can also refer to speed of analysis needed. Many forms of big data are generated constantly
High variety | Big data is drawn from a number of different data sources, including structured and unstructured data, often at the same time
There may be more data than ever before (and then some) but, as the RICS report highlights, data on its own is useless. Human input for process definition, management and interpretation remains essential.
While new job opportunities are created, the world of big data and other proptech advances also mean certain roles are at risk. Real estate brokers, surveying and mapping technicians and operators of construction equipment are predicted to be the most likely to lose their jobs to automation, while landscape architects, civil engineers and hydrologists are the least likely.
The desire for transparency in governance has led to calls for open data that is freely available to everyone for the public good.
One of the narratives of those promoting big data is the promise of shared and publicly available data, but the latest incarnation of BIM software, known as Open BIM, offers no proposal to open the data for public or even industry-wide access. However, the RICS report argues there is no obvious reason why private data of this kind should be put into the public domain.
There is also a sizeable amount of other private data used by chartered surveyors and other property professionals in modern building management systems, such as one using sensors. RICS argue publishing every detail of the design and management of a building, including the building services, is disadvantageous and could increase the risk of crime.
The report highlights how big data has practical applications for both new buildings and refurbishments.
Changes in the intelligent buildings sector have been occurring faster than many of the traditional real estate support structures of consultants and contractors can keep up with. But if properly addressed, the growing generation of smart buildings can provide better decision-making, higher asset utilisation, and reduced capital and operational cost structure.
RICS highlights that it is vital surveyors understand intelligent building technology, as it is their role to provide informed advice to commissioners, occupiers, investors and lenders.
The RICS report argues smart cities should not be seen as a threat to those working in the industry: after all, cities are built by people for people, and big data can be used to glean greater knowledge of how cities function for their residents.
They are also major construction projects extending over a long period of time and they are still very much tied into their regional occupational and investment markets. It is the expertise of property professionals that is required to satisfying these markets. RICS believes the role of the surveyor in these new environments is to understand each city’s uniqueness and its market implications.