NEW YORK CITY-Five weeks after superstorm Sandy, nearly 18% of Downtown office space has yet to reopen, according to Jones Lang LaSalle. In view of the storm’s multi-billion-dollar trail of damage, Datawatch Systems CEO William F. Peel III sees an increase in interest among building owners and managers to equip their properties with high-tech systems that can better protect both assets and tenants, GlobeSt.com has exclusively learned.

“Hurricane Sandy turned out to be a wake-up call for real estate owners and property managers, many of whom now realize that dramatic and potentially devastating weather patterns could well occur more frequently and therefore must be addressed in a serious way,” Peel says.

Based in Bethesda, MD, Datawatch lately has refined its Remote Concierge Services system, which remotely monitors natural disasters, and has reportedly installed the system in hundreds of office buildings, both large and small, in Manhattan and elsewhere. Among its components is HurricaneWatch, an emergency call service that allows facility managers and owners to update a single database with facility status updates during severe weather events.

“There is a definite surge in customer demand for remote monitoring, both because it’s a safer security method and it’s significantly less expensive than having hired guards on site,” Peel says.  “Being able to remotely lock and unlock building doors, process visitors into a property during lock-down conditions and/or monitor flood conditions through our mechanical supervisory alarms, is a tremendous 21st century advantage. We don’t see the demand abating, especially as the global climate continues to be perilously unpredictable.”

In view of that unpredictability, and the raised consciousness about the city’s vulnerability to extreme weather events, the Bloomberg administration recently launched a pilot program that also leverages technological advances. Known as City 24/7 and conducted in partnership with Cisco Systems and LG Electronics as well as the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, the network uses 32-inch interactive touch screens to provide both critical information and neighborhood news. It also feeds content to mobile and web platforms.

The pilot program is being launched with 10 installations at existing pay phone booths in and around Union Square. The goal is to expand to about 250 installations throughout the five boroughs over the next several months.