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Over the past decade, technology has dramatically changed the way businesses conduct day-to-day operations. For the first few years following its inception, the Internet was utilized mostly for communication between individuals. Now, due to superior connectivity speed or bandwidth, businesses execute numerous complex applications through this medium.

Now that the speed barrier has been overcome, the many commercial real estate systems that were once isolated to a single user’s computer can now be accessed via the Internet and web browser. Everything from executive, sales and back-office functions to engineering tasks are now more accessible. This ease-of-access has significantly benefited the industry and substantially cut down on time wasted completing tasks and remedying problems.

The more notable functions that have been streamlined into online applications are property management, including security; real estate sales; marketing; and various engineering tasks. By using centralized Internet-based applications and databases, property managers can now access information on an entire portfolio of properties, from one web site and from any browser, anywhere in the world.

Security offers a challenge to every property manager. Keeping information and properties secure, yet accessible, can be a daunting task, especially when individuals are spread over several locations. When considering upgrades to current security systems, property managers must be familiar with and consider the most up-to-date technologies. Digital security systems are quickly becoming the norm.

Most properties currently utilize video cameras at their building entrances along with some sort of electronic key or card access for the building’s tenants that controls which parts of the property they may access. Where surveillance recording must be stored for a period-of-time, an upgrade to digital video may be in order. Digital video storage allows you to store large amounts of data in a much smaller space.

Upgrading your entire security-camera system will also allow more flexibility in where and when you can monitor your buildings. For example, if a security issue arises at one of your buildings while you’re off-site, you can log onto a personalized website for quick access to the building’s cameras. It’s now possible to change views and switch between cameras; all from one remote location.

With increasing security threats to office buildings today, biometric authentication for building access is becoming an increasingly necessary security step. Storage of the biometric information for each tenant is fairly simple; it’s just a matter of scanning the fingerprints and recording the areas of the building to which each person should have access. To further ensure the safety of tenants, the American National Standards Institute and the BioAPI Consortium have set a standard for using biometrics in many different situations.

The commercial real estate sales function has been streamlined through technology and online applications developed specifically for this field. Agents across the globe now have easy access to online listings via the Internet and large databases. They can now communicate via e-mail and even use collaboration services to share contracts and information.

Engineering tasks have also been simplified. Engineers no longer need to be on site to check and monitor systems. Now, many HVAC, security and emergency-alert systems are tied into one another through technology, allowing for 24/7 monitoring. Many systems automatically notify the engineer via e-mail, pager or even cell phone if something goes wrong.

“State of the art” is a moving target when it comes to technology. When planning for the future, professionals must take into account that some technology initiatives will never meet their initial expectations. By selecting technologies based on open standards and common infrastructures, industry professionals can remain positioned to take advantage of whatever is over the horizon.

John P. Kelly is chairman and Chief Elected Officer of the Building Owners and Managers Association International, Washington, DC. Kelly is executive vice president of Ryan Cos. US, Inc., based in Minneapolis.

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