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Vincent Lottefier, strategic advisor to IWG and president of Co-Working Future, explores how tech is increasingly at the heart of the flexible workspace sector
The real estate market is getting a digital makeover. It’s already making waves, and we’re starting to see the names of innovative new “proptech” leaders plastered on “TO LET” signs outside homes.
In recent years, the rise of proptech – or real estate technology – is shaking things up. Globally, there are now more than 6,000 proptech businesses and, last year, more than $US4.6 billion of investment was ploughed into their growth. And for IWG, it’s really exciting, as we’re seeing this new industry impacting the flexible workspace realm.
We’re in the thick of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – an era of automation and digital processes, powered by blockchain, artificial intelligence and augmented reality. So it makes sense that the way we lease, rent, buy and occupy property follows suit.
Antony Slumbers, a leading development and technology strategist in real estate recently wrote: “Beyond our existing real estate skills, we need to layer on top ‘modern’ hardware, high speed connectivity and cloud computing. All of this as a platform for designing the data science and analytics the best real estate operators will apply to the real-time data points emanating from the Internet of Things networks. Into the mix will also be woven generative design, building information modelling (BIM), digital twins, drones, 3D printing, virtual and/or augmented reality [and] machine learning.”
As customers have embraced digital in most areas of their life, industries need to keep up with this, and find new ways to serve them. And the real estate industry is ready and waiting. In the UK alone, online retail brokers have already captured 5% of the property market, according to Alex Gosling, CEO of online estate agent House Simple.
According to British estate agent Savills, the US prop tech market has had the most funding in the past decade, gaining 57% of total global investment. Spanish proptech companies have had the second largest amount (12.4%), while UK-based startups rank third (10.8%). Proptech unicorns (businesses worth more than US$1 billion) include New York-based Compass, Chicago’s SMS Assist and San Francisco’s Opendoor.
Proptech innovators simplify the property market for landlords and consumers alike. They challenge the status quo in real estate, and sometimes they disrupt it completely. They streamline age-old processes of renting or purchasing real estate, managing and maintaining buildings, cutting out middle-parties where it makes sense to, and connect the dots between tenants or and their perfect property – be it a home or a co-working space.
Some proptech companies home in on a specific area of the real estate realm – like property management and repairs (like SMS Assist), building algorithms for buying, renting or selling (such as Open Door), or creating a real estate portal (Home Link). Others take a more holistic approach and re-think traditional real estate models from the ground up (enter Purple Bricks).
For the flexible workspace sector, proptech innovation brings huge potential and helps providers create more value for tenants. Augmented reality and virtual reality tours of work space, chatbots giving 24/7 tenant support, biometric security tech – these are some of the ways proptech could enhance co-working infrastructure.
IWG has already entered the proptech realm with its IWG Broker app. Available on iOS and Android, the app makes it easier than ever for agents and brokers to submit, track and manage referrals across all of IWG’s brands: Regus, Spaces, No18, HQ and Signature by Regus. At the swipe of a smartphone, representatives can connect clients with inspiring workspaces across the network, track their referrals and commission payments from their mobiles.
Why is proptech having such a moment in the sun? There’s the maturing millennial market. Au fait with technology, millennials use smartphones to find everything from a parking space to a romantic partner. As they enter a stage in their life where they seek new property – either to live in, or for setting up their own business – millennials are more comfortable trying out new tech products that fit more seamlessly into their lives.
Proptech is also thriving in highly populated areas. As people prepare to up sticks and relocate from rural areas to big cities – particularly in Asia – online real estate agents allow them to find a new home or place to work without having to start the search on the ground. Proptech is also being created to help plan and build new infrastructure for growing populations in metropolises.
There are conferences and trade fairs dedicated to proptech, such as BWT Asia (Build World Technology) the leading global conference of its kind. The 2019 edition took place in Singapore in April, and featured a Proptech Innovation Contest, – where six finalist proptech companies pitched their ideas live – as well as keynote speakers from all kinds of real estate, construction and tech backgrounds. It’s a hotbed of ideas, where technology and real estate collide to create impactful new products and services. There’s also MIPIM PropTech Europe, taking place in Paris in July, where thought leaders in real estate will come together to share ideas and the track trends shaping this dynamic sector.
IWG sees the huge opportunities that proptech is already bringing to the commercial real estate sector. We’re excited to explore the possibilities it brings for flexible working, and how it will help us innovate our products and services in ways we could only have dreamed of in the past.
IWG is the world’s largest provider of modern, flexible workspace to some of the most successful, entrepreneurs, individuals and multi-million-dollar corporations today. Visit the Regus website to discover more.