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NEW YORK—Real estate companies are embracing technology across arange of areas. But these efforts are mainly in the customer-facingarena, such as providing better services to multifamily or officetenants.

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But, save for the occasional exception, few companies are able to usetech to make investment decisions for various reasons, such as lackof experience and in some cases a lack of relevant technology.

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One investor, though, has figured out a way to use establishedtech to provide insight into their purchasing decisions. That isClarion Partners. Its managing director and head of acquisitions,Brian Watkins, recently spoke at a Transwestern Capital Market Symposium forinstitutional investors and described what the firm is doing.

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For the past year to 18 months, he says, the company has beenworking with a third party provider to apply cell phone data toretail investing, taking advantage of geofencing—namely, to maparound the end of a center or a store and understand whatcustomers' patterns are, where they're living and where their cellphone ultimately sleeps at night. It can even glean data to helpthe company understand travel patterns and where people are moving,he says.

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Using this data, "we can understand where the residents aremoving from or what activity of a certain retail center hasincreased over the past three years," he says.

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"We're finding that relative to our underwriting that is areally valuable tool that we are putting increased reliance on aswe gain familiarity with it."

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