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How Digital Transformation is Shaping Small Commercial Real Estate Companies and PropTech Startups

Small and medium companies are the backbone for a thriving economy and their importance cannot be overstated. Firms with 1 to 499 employees account for approximately 47.5% of the private sector workforce and are vital for the fabric of the local community. However, despite the sector to which they belong too, they have been hugely impacted by the pandemic.

One such industry is commercial real estate. Small real estate dealers, property owners which were hugely dependent on customer property visits, and one-on-one connections to close deals had to suddenly transform their business model and offerings. While this could mean instant investment and change in year-long traditional working models, on the flip side, it has brought about rapid digital transformation, which was not possible otherwise, and driven the rise of PropTech — or property technology.

Various technologies such as virtual reality for site visits, robotics for cleaning services, digitization and automation of processes through artificial intelligence-based software’s are now shaping the PropTech sector and will continue to do so in the long-run

Online listing of properties

Companies which were following a traditional brick and mortar model to complete sale of properties have shifted their offerings to the digital world. This is one of the biggest and most common digital disruption which has been widely adopted by property leasing and selling business owners. Residential and commercial real estate properties are shown on websites using photos and videos. The services are further refined with filters such as location, price range, and transit-oriented development happening around.

3D scanning and virtual reality for real-time space visualization

As social distancing has now become the norm to reduce physical transmission, PropTech companies are increasingly shifting to 3D scanning of the house and surrounding location to ensure that personal touch. For making the huge investment decision, customers prefer to investigate the location first hand before finalizing the same. Therefore, virtual reality is being leveraged to offer a life-like visualization of the property. Additionally, the CRE firms can make custom changes to the surroundings based on the customer preferences.

Automation robotic processes

With COVID, safety and sanitization has been the key factor to curb the spread of virus in the surrounding area. However, manual cleaning and sanitization might leave room for negligence. In commercial spaces that offer leased spaces to several tenants, sanitization becomes increasingly important. This is where the automatic robotic process is gaining traction. One such example is in China, where robots are being used to clean to surroundings of the building. Company called Gaussian, which is a startup, has already rolled out cleaning robots and has recently received funding to expand operations

IOT applications and biometrics

For remote monitoring of buildings and properties (under-construction), firms take advantage of IOT applications such as sensors (water, utility and environment). Further, reliance on biometrics which uses facial and voice recognition technology are being leveraged at entry systems to reduce human touch. Data collected from both sensors and biometrics send data stored on cloud remotely to property owners at their monitoring dashboards. This is proved to be effective as it reduces maintenance costs and raises timely alarms in case of an unprecedented situation such as fire.

Software and platforms for digitization of processes

The need to reduce the level of on-site staff has shifted focus to the introduction of software and platforms that can aid in automation of routine tasks. To reduce human intervention and remote working, software for occupancy management of the building, software for accounting management, platform for monitoring of services through IOT sensors and platforms for provision of online unwriting services, closing of deals and naming rights are shaping the sector. Most of this software is now being supported through cloud services thereby reducing the risk of losing key data.

Digital twin and modular construction

Construction of buildings has also been impacted significantly due to a pandemic which a majority of projects currently on halt. To overcome this issue, replicas of the buildings are being created using digital twin technology to fastrack design phase and get approvals. The design so approved using digital twin is then being developed using prefabricated construction methods also called modular construction. This means that actual construction of segments is being taken off-site with involvement of less labor. These segments are then fitted on the actual sites to reduce human intervention. The technology and construction innovation together have offered benefits to CRE construction firms by helping them maintain construction momentum

Going ahead

For small companies that are highly dependent on traditional business models, digital transformation will continue to be the game changer. While these high-end innovations might prove to be expensive as it involves huge investments, adequate funding can be sourced through financial technology companies that offer loans at lower rates. Further, with increasing focus on PropTech, several startups are offering new innovations which will marginalize demand and cost, driving higher adoption.

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