Communicationstechnology isn't what it used to be. That's a good thing,commercial real estate professionals generally agree. Simpletelephone service--manually operated as recently as four decadesago--has morphed to comprehensive information and communicationstechnologies or ICTs.
ICT is a generic term embracing consumer electronics, computing(hardware, software and services) and telecommunications, and spansboth the processing of information and the electronic transfer oftext, pictures, video and voice.
Industry experts say ICT has a significant impact on commercialreal estate, especially office space, through the characteristic ofconnectivity. It affects space needs, design and construction,productivity, location and even the organizational design andculture.
"ICT is clearly important in transforming real estate," reports TimDixon, a professor of real estate and director of the Oxford Institute forSustainable Development at Brookes University in Oxford,England.
ICT "can affect real estate and the services that are provided forowners and occupiers. The physical nature of buildings means theycan also act as conduits or objects within which the transformingpower of ICT is offered by landlords for tenants or 'customers.'Increasingly therefore buildings are referred to as 'intelligent','smart' 'or 'wired'," he explains.
According to Dixon's research, ICT adds value to buildings. "Ownersand investors were asked about requests from their tenants forfacilities: Broadband, ADSL, Internet access, VOIP, ISDN, e-mailservices, and wireless connections. Around half of owner/investorshad seen requests for each of these features, with no one featuretaking any precedence," he notes.
A study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economysuggests ICTs have contributed to the economy-wide reduction of USenergy intensity and the stabilization of overall levels of energyconsumption. The research, Information and CommunicationTechnologies: The Power of Productivity, was released earlier thisyear.
It notes huge cost cuts and new ICT innovations have workedtogether to drive the expansion and diffusion of new informationand communications technologies without increasing overall energyconsumption in the US economy. The study highlights the growingrole of ICT applications in enabling new high-tech products andservices, as well as creating new investment and ways ofdelivering energy services.
The assessment shows that for every extra kilowatt-hour ofelectricity demanded by ICT, the US economy increased its overallenergy savings by a factor of about 10. "Data for the past 37 yearsindicate the pace of energy efficiency gains has increasedsignificantly since 1996, which was a watershed year in expandingICT in Internet-based and other electronic applications," the studynotes. "While US energy intensity declined 1.8% per year between1970 and 1995, it declined at a more rapid rate of 2.4% between1996 and 2006 as a result of the expansion and diffusion of ICTinnovations as well as other ICT-related changes in theeconomy."
Property owners are no longer asking whether they should provideICTs, but how. And increasingly, they're embracing turnkey orhosted solutions.
Hosted Solutions are packaged and ready-to-go services forbusinesses that want next-generation applications at minimal riskand cost. Rather than invest in ever changing technologies, theycontract with third-party providers to host and manage thesolutions, reducing new capital investments.
Frank M. Grillo, executive vice president of marketing atAtlanta-based Cypress Communications, a provider of managedcommunication solutions for mid-sized businesses, says technologyownership has become less important. "Hosted technology, modular ITservices, virtualization and other technologies will make IT assetmanagement a choice, not an obligation. Just as Software as aService (SaaS) changed people's perspective on software ownership,communications as a service (CaaS) is emerging as the innovativecommunications trend.
"CaaS allows enterprises to reallocate dedicated IT resources andapply them where they will create the most business growth andvalue. Companies will increasingly rely on hosted technologies,like CaaS, so that they can focus on what they do, and not just onhow they do it," he says.
The CaaS solution can provide users with options including bundledVoIP service, complete with local and long-distance voice services,voicemail, VoIP technology infrastructure, advanced PBXfunctionality and other features, including desktop video, chat,file sharing, Web conferencing and other collaboration tools.

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