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Technological issues are at the forefront of many major industries, and commercial real estate is no different. But how does it measure up to others, and what are the challenges commercial real estate faces in this arena? Rick Peltz, chief information officer of Marcus & Millchap has his finger on the pulse of these issues. He recently spoke with GlobeSt.com about the special technology needs of brokers and other industry specialists and how they’re navigating the world of Facebook and iPhones.

GlobeSt.com: What are the tech needs unique to the industry?

Peltz: The first thing that comes to my mind is simplicity. I’ve worked 12 years with Marcus & Millichap, and commercial real estate brokers and investment specialists like solutions that deliver information to their fingertips effectively and efficiently. They want seamless applications.. Our brokers are commissioned, so they are out there making relationships and deals. They’re not first in line on any time of a training session. So we have to take that into consideration when we deliver solutions. They have to be intuitive, simple, effective and efficient.

GlobeSt.com: What kind of technologies do brokers specifically need?

Peltz: Satellite, GPS and the ability to overlay that information into statistical analysis. All of the information we provide is important for them, but they are victims of information overload. The ability for us to give them analytic information that’s concise and to their market demographic and their clients’ needs as easy as possible is paramount. If you can build that under a secured, collaborative environment, where a broker can share this information with whom they select, that is an environment that is extremely rich to them. It allows them to have a palate of information and share it appropriately.

GlobeSt.com: Would you consider offering clients any technology solutions?

Peltz: Absolutely. Research services and statistical analysis based on past history sales. We released an application a little over a year ago called Market Stats that takes many of our data points based on sales and external data elements and comes up with projections and trades, like market share and cap rate trends, and they will in turn share this information with clients. As another example, we offer clients ongoing automated matching of their buying requirements to inventory.

GlobeSt.com: Are there any new advances out there that you’re especially excited about?

Peltz: Google is making new advances. For instance, there’s a new product called Google Wave, a social media, and that is a real time online collaborative environment that allows you to share information securely or unsecurely with other people, it’s almost like a Web 3.0 coming.

On the backside, the big buzzword out there right now is “cloud computing.” It allows you to build applications that leverage this information, accessible through clouds that would allow agents simply to have access to a lot of information that previously would not be available.

One of the biggest technologies I get questioned about the most are probably PDA’s. Windows Mobile 6.5 is coming out, iPhone just released 3.1, Blackberries are constantly coming out with new upgrades. They’re making these PDA’s extremely rich in media and are putting out applications almost by the minute.

GlobeSt.com: Is there an iPhone application that’s particularly good for brokers?

Peltz: We have our internal listing service released on the iPhone, so our brokers have access to that inventory. We also have access to our intranet, which allows them to search for any document that they might need to be secure. Externally, there’s not a lot in commercial real estate, but there’s a ton of social networking, like Facebook and Twitter that can help brokers keep in touch with each other. I could also see brokers using YouTube to demonstrate their property or give a tour of it.

GlobeSt.com: Is the industry utilizing social networking as much as it should?

Peltz: The average user on Facebook is in their early 40s right now, which seems a little bit north of where our average broker’s age is. Brokers are starting to see the value of social networking, but the trouble with social networking is that it can expose you to things outside your professional environment. That, to me, is the biggest fear of a broker. Some of your services, like LinkedIn, are extremely restrictive about what you can enter, so you’re protected a lot better. Facebook has a huge volume of users, and the ability to post more than business information is, in my opinion, is almost a disservice to the agent because it can provide almost too much information. They’re ready for it, but I’m not sure if that social-networking forum is there for them yet. As far as skill set, I think they’re there.

GlobeSt.com: How tech-savvy is the industry? Is it behind others?

Peltz: As an industry, we are behind the curve. With the economy right now, with the amount of money being invested in technology, it’s only a necessity if you upgrade. The lack of standardization in the industry has probably hurt as far as building applications to bring information and disseminate it better. And our sales force, not unlike most commercial brokers, are interested in quality of information and product. We are transitioning into a paperless model and it is slow due to the nature of the real estate business itself.

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