What is proptech?

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Emma Gordon

“Proptech has been building such mass and momentum that it will change the world.”

That’s according to Andrew Baum, visiting professor of management practice at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, in a widely-shared report published last year.

And so it seems: from exploring places yet to be built, to 3D printing a skyscraper within five years, property technology — proptech — continues its onslaught on the established real estate industry.

But what is it?

In its basic form, it’s technology that impacts the built environment around us: transforming the way we design, build, manage, buy, sell and rent commercial and residential property.

Why is it important?

While much technology is still emerging — and its true impact therefore unclear — the potential seems huge.

Suggested benefits include lower costs; better design, engineering and construction performance; fewer mistakes and improved safety; better co-ordination, security and end-user experience; as well as more informed decision-making.

What type of things does it cover?

It’s a massive area, and we can only scratch the surface in this short guide (please check out the others in the series), but it includes —

  • The use of drones to, for example, carry out surveys on construction sites
  • Blockchain’s potential to allow the quick and easy transfer of money and assets — speeding up the signing of contracts, credit and reference checks as well as payments
  • Virtual reality as a tool not just for property viewings, but also so that architects can create designs in a virtual world and see a finished building before construction even begins; what’s more, investors can explore a property this way before spending a penny
  • Tapping into the potential of big data, including using purpose-built search engines so commercial agents easily know when others in the same market have a property or requirement that meets their needs
  • Construction site supervisors using real time data through mobile applications to stay abreast of jobs, follow projects in real time and identify milestones or hazards along the way
  • Using smart devices and sensors to decrease bills and energy waste. For example, design and consulting firm Arup in its “Reimagining property in a digital world” report says a major UK developer has seen a 33% reduction in its carbon footprint since 2013 by tracking and acting on energy use data gleaned from 500 metering and sub-metering points

One thing’s for sure — proptech’s momentum shows no sign of flagging: in fact, real estate accelerator, Metaprop NYC’s Q4 2017 report says that the space is increasingly crowded with startups, with 86% of respondents expecting the space to become more competitive this year compared to last.

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