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When the commercial real estate industry looks at the impact technology is expected to have on the sector, it tends to the focus on the big picture such as autonomous vehicles, blockchain or drones. These technologies do indeed have the potential to remake CRE and bear close watching. But their widespread adoption is years off. Leaving aside a few pilot projects here and there, CRE companies are more inclined to take a wait-and-see attitude than make tangible moves.

What Is Robotic Process Automation?

One technology that tends to be overlooked–and that is already having an impact on office jobs–is robotic process automation. RPA is an automation technology used for repetitive tasks such as maintaining or updating records or web-page scraping — in other words, tasks that companies pay humans to preform. The mantra among RPA vendors and even analysts that cover the space is that it is a technology that is best suited to complement a worker–make his or her job easier to perform–not replace the worker.

The Potential To Eliminate Jobs

Still, various stats point to the job-killing potential RPA has in the office. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that 14% of jobs in member countries are 20 years away from automation. In the United States that is an estimated 13 million jobs, according to Cushman & Wakefield, which cited the number in a recent report on technology and CRE.

Forrester Research predicts that by 2021, RPA will be doing the equivalent work of nearly 4.3 million humans worldwide.

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Erika Morphy

Erika Morphy has been writing about commercial real estate at GlobeSt.com for more than ten years, covering the capital markets, the Mid-Atlantic region and national topics. She's a nerd so favorite examples of the former include accounting standards, Basel III and what Congress is brewing.

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