SAN FRANCISCO–Cutting through the confusion of new real estate management technology that’s springing up like weeds is the essential mission of James Scott, the recently hired Innovator-in-Residence for IREM (Institute of Real Estate Management). Scott, who is also lead researcher at the MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab, will bring the same message to the IREM Global Summit when it convenes here at the end of September.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace,” he says, “and I see my job as helping real estate managers and building owners navigate through the countless new technologies and products that are now available.” He understands that, for many organizations, especially those with established management practices that have worked for so long, new tools and methodologies can be at best confusing, and at worst intimidating. “So, why take on board a disrupting technology, especially when many providers are start up companies who may not be here in the future? I hope to bring some clarity to that question and provide real insights to IREM members about new tools and products for their specific businesses.”
Routine is nice, and no one really likes change, he says. One of the biggest hurdles, not just for property managers but for all other commercial real estate disciplines, is “the integration of multiple systems.” Scott cites a soon-to-be released IREM survey where over 50% of members outline that the integration of multiple systems has been one of their major hurdles in implementing technology solutions at their company. And for that reason, Scott suggests conversations with all stakeholders involved in the processes under transition—from leadership to management, from landlords to tenants–everyone touched by the chain of operations – would be of benefit to all. “Wouldn’t it be great to have all stakeholders come together and discuss their pain points and inefficiencies to determine the solution that works for everyone?”
Of all the up-and-coming technologies out there, the one he says will be the most impactful is digital twin, a concept that, while new to the market, had early concepts developed by NASA for the Apollo space mission. When Apollo 13 was in trouble and had to abort a lunar landing, NASA used pairing technology, the precursor to digital twin technology, to help NASA engineers get the craft, and astronauts, safely home.
In its real estate iteration, “It’s essentially a digital replica or model of a building,” he explains, “The technology behind it allows for greater data analysis and system monitoring to help managers understand what’s really taking place in a building at a specific moment of time, which, more importantly, will allow them to project potential problems and opportunities.”
To illustrate exactly how quickly digital twin technology is taking off, he references the Gartner Hype Cycle, a yearly tally of the new technologies across industries that pack the potential to be game-changers. “It can typically take a new concept 10 years before an established company makes headway on the ground,” he says. Digital twin has cut that expectation by a third, with a handful of companies already displaying their virtual wares at this year’s REALCOMM event in Nashville, TN.
So what is Scott’s hope for attendees at the upcoming summit, and what does he hope the major takeaways will be?
“I would love for the audience to see that automation and this new wave of technology is really starting to make an impact in real estate, that these technologies are no longer just about potential and start-up companies,” he says. “There are real efficiencies to be created by products that can provide far greater insight and understanding than ever before within an actual asset. I’d love the audience to see that automation and technology are not things to be feared, but embraced and taken on board to maximize efficiencies and, ultimately, create value.”