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UAE real estate shouldn't get into proptech as an after-thought

Tech adoption in real estate services is no longer a luxury, but rather an expectation from all stakeholders. People want convenience, functionality and added value in all aspects of life - and our sector is no different.

Despite this expectation, the adoption has been relatively slow, primarily due to the expenses involved, the lifecycle of any technology, and the challenges of integrating the new with legacy systems. The first use of 'property technology', or proptech, was probably when spreadsheets were rolled out to store property-related data.

While spreadsheets are still in use, proptech has evolved, its scope has expanded exponentially, and is being utilised throughout every stage of a property's lifecycle. Slow movers are losing out by not looking at the bigger picture – yes, there are costs involved, the technology will not live forever, and it will take time to bring new technology online. However, there are also endless rewards when we realise the enabling power of technology.

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At the pre-build itself

Pre-development, Building Information Modelling (BIM) for example allows architects, engineers, construction, and facilities management professionals to plan effectively, design, create and manage buildings and infrastructure. When used during design and construction, BIM can reduce costs, create efficiencies, increase productivity, and enhance build sustainability and quality. Construction technology (or contech!), like 3D printing and modular construction, can also limit on-site disruption and pollution.

Once operational, cloud-based Building Management Systems (BMS) are used to control and monitor the build and can lower operating costs by reducing energy consumption, improve health and productivity, assist with real-time surveillance, and enable faster emergency response, to name a few.

The use of automated technology for lighting and heating, water conservation and electricity optimization techniques, installation of energy-efficient LED lights, employing weather-based irrigation systems, and use of treated sewage effluent for irrigation purposes are more innovative techniques that will result in less resource consumption, greater energy conservation and a greener footprint.

Tuned to the young

More cost-friendly smart technologies such as smart thermostats, smart lighting, wi-fi-connected electrical outlets and smart door locks  are allowing owners to market their assets to a younger, more tech-savvy generation, without significant investment.

Digital and mobile platforms are also being used to buy, sell, rent and even manage properties. Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and 3D architectural renderings are being used to enhance virtual property viewing and tech enhanced asset and portfolio management is increasing.

In 2020, proptech demonstrated how it can help real estate services companies and individuals to deal with the repercussions of a pandemic. It helped communities stay connected and engaged using digital platforms; it helped people manage their assets remotely; and it helped businesses reduce operating costs and create efficiencies. The different uses and their associated benefits can go on, with the deployment of Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain are transforming every aspect of the real-estate sector.

Best equipped

Those that had proptech embedded into their pre-pandemic operations, or already were on a path of digital transformation, had an advantage, as they were able to adapt swiftly and accelerate innovation. Those that had no proptech infrastructure are still playing catch up and having to bear significant capital expenditure in a short time span.

Today, all players are keen to integrate technology into every aspect of business to cater to their clients, attract new customers and to stay at the top of the game. With a younger generation of buyers and renters always on the lookout for more convenient and sustainable solutions, proptech advances will continue and are here to stay.

The real estate industry can utilize technology to enhance customer service, improve operations, create efficiencies, and reduce costs, become more sustainable and elevate the experience for investors, owners, and tenants. Companies can also use technology to differentiate their offerings, remain competitive and add value.

In simple terms – proptech is good for business, when chosen wisely. The earlier you start, the better...