In 2021, the PropTech trends we envisage taking the commercial real estate world by storm are powered by artificial intelligence and big data, and led by safety, security and sustainability.
Looking back, our 2020 PropTech trends predictions insight could never have anticipated the year we saw, with a global pandemic dominating headlines and our lives. The commercial real estate landscape had a rollercoaster twelve months of office closures, lockdowns and reopenings. Society did its best to keep up with the changes necessitated by the global response to COVID-19.
Progress was not halted in its tracks, however. Perhaps even fuelled by the challenge of the Coronavirus crisis, PropTech key players have raced on at pace, competing to adapt and provide solutions for the needs of a post-pandemic world.
Find out more about how to secure the return to the office post-COVID-19:
For this reason, many of our predictions for what’s next for PropTech in 2021 are shaped by the post-COVID climate. We look at the technological features and services on the horizon, designed to improve user experience and boost productivity, make meeting sustainability targets a tangible reality, create a safer way to work and more.
1. Data for Space management and optimisation
In the year that witnessed office workers relegated to makeshift kitchen table-workspaces, tuning into endless virtual conference calls and downing countless cups of tea, remote working has become a reality. But what happens when society reopens, and occupiers begin to return to the workplace?
Organisations will need to provide connected, intelligent and flexible environments that can adapt to safely monitor occupancy. Smart buildings enabled with digital twin technology will offer real time data for space management and optimisation.
With facilities like meeting room booking systems and desk management, there’s an effective solution to social distancing in the workplace. The digital twin works by sensing and processing building occupancy data, providing real time availability information and visualisation of desks and meeting rooms.
You’ll be able to finely tune your facility management, using a flexible booking system that lets you decide which spaces can be accessed and the number of people that can enter them. This keeps staff and occupiers safe with appropriate head counts per current social distancing guidelines in each room. It’s also a great way to manage occupancy in what will likely be a more flexible, hybrid approach to the balance of office and home working post-pandemic.
2. Indoor air quality & healthy buildings
The air we breathe will also be placed under closer scrutiny in the post-COVID world, so we predict a greater emphasis on indoor air quality in 2021.
The REVHA – Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations made several recommendations in March 2020 to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, including increasing the ventilation of spaces, and switching to using outdoor air whilst closing the building recirculation dampers.
Proactive property managers can maintain high standards of indoor air quality by leveraging the full control of a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) integrated with the Building Management System (BMS). With a smart building platform, all the building systems are brought together to provide 360° control.
Data is collated from the HVAC system and cloud-connected smart IAQ (indoor air quality) sensors so that facility managers can monitor levels of airborne particulate concentration in the workplace, and control the ventilation, temperature and humidity in the building. All this provides for a more healthy, safe airspace in the workplace.
3. Electric Vehicles and charge points infrastructure enhancement
It’s not just indoor air quality that will be a priority in the coming year, but also the reduction of CO2 emissions. Given that, with current consumption, fossil oil is set to exhaust by 2052 (with gas and carbon closely following), the need to switch to more sustainable energy sources is intensifying.
With the United Nations calling for net zero emissions by 2050, and the UK government ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030, the electric vehicle (EV) market is fast expanding.
Therefore, we expect to see greater demand for electric vehicle infrastructure, as organisations endeavour to reduce their carbon footprint, creating a more sustainable workplace that mirrors the values of its employees.
Electric vehicle charging points allow you to charge your car at work after your commute, whilst the Smart Spaces platform integrates with the charge point system to supply a host of features that streamline the process. Property managers can monitor the energy use and tariffs applied to users at each station, whilst occupiers can schedule and pay for their charging through the workplace-dedicated app. There’s no risk of squatting either, as users will be notified when charging is complete.
4. Cybersecurity and Master Systems Integrators
As the world of real estate becomes more technologically advanced, it is important to ensure it remains robust against ransomware and other risks. Data breaches can cause significant financial losses and damage the reputation of victim businesses. Cybersecurity is thus key to the successful future of PropTech.
IoT-connected sensors and devices are vulnerable to cyber-attacks, but technology like blockchain fully automates data storage, removing the risk of human error that remains the leading cause of data breaches.
Real estate companies should also look at bolstering their approach to cybersecurity threats in advance, with measures in place like risk assessments, architecture reviews, penetration tests, and an incident response and crisis management plan.
By appointing a Master Systems Integrator for the smart automation of a building, you can ensure a seamless integration of smart building technology, with enhanced cybersecurity measures to prevent legacy OT building control systems, IoT and cloud-based networks from being exposed.
5. Smart Green buildings: the road to workplace sustainability and net zero carbon emissions
In order to meet the 2050 net zero carbon deadline, many businesses will be gearing up their ESG activities in 2021. We’ve all walked past large commercial buildings after hours and seen them lit up like Christmas trees despite being vacant, but this image will be a thing of the past with smart ‘green’ building technology.
Energy efficiency plays a vital part in the journey to net zero carbon emissions, and Smart Spaces helps occupiers to achieve this standard. Smart sensors installed in the electrical components of the building feed data to a central, intelligent ecosystem, accessed via one dedicated app. From here, energy usage can be monitored and savings can be made.
This level of control enabled by the smart platform extends from access and lighting to climate control too. For instance, rather than running an AHU (air handling unit) at 100% round the clock to follow the current COVID-19 guidance, the platform enables decisions about the optimised rate to replace air and can turn down the AHU in response to this, making savings of both energy and cost.
Again, the power of the digital twin can be harnessed to provide information about the carbon footprint of a building, tracking and analysing information. This goes beyond energy consumption, to insight into the carbon impact of waste and water consumption too, to maximise efficiency throughout the building and create a sustainable future.
6. AI and Machine Learning continues to progress
Artificial intelligence is no longer the reserve of futuristic fantasy films, and is fast becoming the norm in many industries, including real estate.
Augmented and virtual reality will be increasingly used for experiential property viewings that bring commercial real estate space to life. VR can be used to provide prospective tenants and buyers virtual tours of buildings anywhere in the world, whilst AR – which inserts virtual layers over the top of reality – will help agents to demonstrate a rich view of what a space could look like once occupied.
The use of biometric data is also another popular technological advancement. Features like voice and facial recognition will be used to provide control in smart enabled buildings, and offer clients increased safety and security. For instance, there is capacity for contactless access to buildings using facial detection, particularly in this post-pandemic environment where minimising surface contact is key to stopping the spread of disease.
Smart Spaces Digital Twin portal uses machine learning to transform building data into actionable insights, arming you with analytics visibility that can enhance proactive property management.