7 Tech Trends That Will Change Your Business
Here’s what real estate companies need to know.
Business computing choices
are becoming more complex — from cloud computing and software as a service to
ascertaining the best security measures and managing by exception. These
technologies are changing the way you do business on a daily basis. In short, these
are the seven trends real estate companies should know about today.
In the 24/7 environment of
commercial real estate, staying in communication is of vital importance. That’s
why today’s real estate companies must adopt long-term solutions to meet their
business continuity needs following disasters. A modern business continuity
plan that uses private cloud technology along with time-tested procedures
provides a critical backup plan for managers facing the issues caused by damage
or failed public infrastructure.
A private cloud safeguards
a company’s system from on-site mishaps and network failures and allows
management to continue via remote operations both distant and local. It is a
secure and convenient way to network your organization virtually and allow
people to work from anywhere — from home, different offices, or even the local
In terms of security, a
private cloud offers greater control over a company’s data because it is a
separate and secure network that is managed by the organization, whether it’s a
real estate investment trust, property management firm, or brokerage office.
This arrangement better protects sensitive data such as lease information and
However, since most real
estate companies cannot afford to implement and maintain their own data
network, server, and storage platform, private clouds are a growing alternative
that offers customizable space on a distributed infrastructure. Shared hardware
and base software “distributes” only the portion of storage and processing
power that the company network needs to operate efficiently while remaining
reliable, fast, secure, and flexible. All computing, memory, and disk
performance are dedicated to each distinct organization.
Private clouds provided on
distributed architecture can save an organization 75 percent or more as
compared with implementing it internally. While the private cloud on
distributed infrastructure can cost approximately 20 percent to 30 percent more
than upgrading the typical existing client/server network, it provides all the
redundancy and business continuity that configuration provides today. Real
estate organizations running critical enterprise resource planning systems on
conventional licenses such as Yardi, MRI, and JD Edwards are able to transition
to the private cloud while continuing to utilize the in-place licenses they own
today. This is critical for supporting legacy environments.
BYOD — Bring Your Own
Companies that use private
cloud infrastructure can allow employees to use their own smartphones, tablets,
and laptop computers to conduct company business. The company no longer needs
to support the employee-owned hardware because they are relegated to “dummy
terminals”: no processing occurs locally; it all happens at the data center. It
also frees up everyone to work in a uniform environment from anywhere. For
example, Mac users can perform their jobs in a Windows desktop environment by
simply downloading an app. This enables all employees to enter the corporate
environment from wherever they are (at home, on vacation, while traveling for
business), from devices they choose to use, and collaborate and share files
within a secure digital platform.
employee-owned iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets have invaded the
real estate landscape. These devices allow users to access both personal and
work-related email accounts, creating better time management of work and
personal lives, and instant access to work documents, such as providing space plans
to potential tenants or equipment service manuals for repair technicians. The
BYOD trend has saved companies thousands of dollars a year as
company-provided-Blackberries and Blackberry servers have been dramatically
reduced. Apps such as 2x Client RDP/Remote Desktop allow employees to access
their work Windows desktop and applications on their mobile devices.
Managing by Exception
The notion of 24/7
monitoring is being turned on its head, thanks to next-generation remote video
monitoring. This new technology precludes the need for live-guard security at
your office, apartment building, retail outlet, or even construction site,
while saving the owner or property manager up to 50 percent on the costs for
video technology — think Google Maps — can transmit video with minimal
compression to allow the security company to remotely monitor the video in real
time. Not only is this form of monitoring safer — no live human must check on a
potentially unsafe or dangerous situation such as intruder or a fire — it can
be integrated with the property’s safety systems such as fire, security, or
elevators, which can then be deployed based on the video surveillance findings.
As a result, being able to send resources to attend to a problem in a timely
and safe manner is also a benefit. This is called managing by exception: to act
only if the monitoring picks up something that is unusual or requires
Companies such as
Engineered Security Systemsare outfitting state-of-the-art network operation centers with software that
allows remote video monitoring with intelligence and fire/life/safety
integration. Such companies can provide “virtual guard tours” to various types
of real estate at 50 percent of the cost of maintaining a live guard onsite.
Software packages such as N3N’s Innowatchare enabling
these service platforms and changing the way we think about security.
SaaS — Software as a
Software providers now
offer multiple software licensing models, from standalone licenses to software
as a service, or SaaS, which is generally cloud-based.
When comparing purchased
licenses and SaaS, think of it as the difference between buying and leasing a
car. Like leasing a car, SaaS gives companies access to the license for a
cost-effective monthly fee.When you stop paying monthly, you no longer
have access to those licenses. However, the out-of-pocket costs are
significantly lower and there is generally no hardware to buy.Note that
SaaS providers are quickly eliminating the option for clients to purchase or
upgrade their core onsite licenses, making SaaS the only option going forward.
Over the past two years,
some heavy hitters of the real estate application industry have moved to
offering the SaaS model. Most notably, Yardi now only offers the SaaS model.
Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate (formerly Timberline) now offers their
Sage Construction Anywhere product. This change in licensing will certainly
drive new users given the lower cost and built-in business continuity that the
SaaS model offers to users. However, moving all of a business’s confidential
information to a client’s hosted system is causing significant push back from
many large real estate owners.
iPBX — Virtualized Phone
These new phone systems
are a real game changer for properties and construction sites because it allows
owners and management firms to launch a single phone system systemwide with
just an Internet connection. This means that commercial real estate
professionals can take their phone numbers with them whenever they change
offices without having to bring in an IT person to set up the new phone. The
cost of a phone network is reduced by as much as 50 percent, and this
portability allows people to work remotely by turning their smartphones or
tablets into an office extension — yet the company has just one phone bill.
This type of voice over Internet protocol takes the virtual network benefits of
a private cloud to another level.
By utilizing an iPBX,
construction companies and real estate developers are opening their
construction trailer offices in record time. Since only the basic Internet
connection is needed to establish both network and voice capability, reliance
on the telephone carrier has dropped, while the Internet carrier dependability
is critical. Property management firms and construction companies now have the
ability for one employee to reside in multiple offices and have his/her phone
ring in multiple places.
4G WiFi Enterprise Routers
In late 2013, cellular
carriers launched a product that will allow for enough Internet bandwidth to
accommodate all personal computing and phone services at construction sites
without ever running a wire. Although this technology is only a few months old
and companies should still rely on a main Internet line, this 4G-enabled router
can serve as a firm’s backup Internet line. In the event of a downed Internet
line, your firewall switches over to use cellular data so that everyone can continue
to work on the Internet connection afforded by this new router. The cost for
such a router is approximately $699, plus monthly data fees.
Verizon has partnered with
CradlePoint to offer this 4G service.Both
construction companies and real estate developers are utilizing this hardware
and technology to “instantly” open new offices/construction trailers nearly two
weeks before wired lines can be installed. That gain in time can be critical
for a project timeline.
Apps for Commercial
New apps now allow
property managers to control a building’s heating, ventilation, and air
conditioning, lighting, locks, and water systems all with a text or email
message right from the property manager’s phone. In fact, the property manager
can arrange the settings to turn systems on and off on a scheduled basis or
adjust timings when needed. The apps can also enable the manager to shut the
system off when an unusual or unexpected event is detected.
Companies such as Johnson
Controls, Honeywell, Nest, Control4,and Lutronare leading the way in many of these initiatives. Automated building management
systems can save a property owner 5 percent to 25 percent on operating costs,
while lighting retrofits and controls can have an even higher return on the
A professional IT service
provider will take a holistic look at your operation and suggest the technology
that suits your needs, show you what’s new on the market, explain how to
integrate applications, and implement the IT solutions that make sense for your
Ian Marlow is CEO of
FiTech, a technology firm serving a wide range of businesses and industries,
including real estate. Contact him at email@example.com.
Within the rapidly
changing real estate management landscape, a number of software capabilities
focused on data integration and accessibility add value and provide a quick
return on investment.
1. Building Modeling
Commercial real estate
organizations have collected vast amounts of information related to building
occupancy, systems, and analytics. It often is stored in various places and in
multiple formats. Companies want to mine and integrate this data and then push
it out to leasing professionals to help them match tenants with available
Building modeling software
does a good job of assembling two- and three-dimensional, building-by-building
stacking plans that can be accessed by mobile phone or tablet. More-advanced
integrations can feed tenant detail, space availabilities, rental rates,
building specs, and other information from the system to these third-party
2. Facilities Management
Companies are creating
products that facilitate online communication between tenants and property
operators. However, when it comes to work orders and payments, the benefits are
greatest on the back-end. Work orders submitted online can be routed directly
into a company’s property management system and assigned to maintenance. When a
bill is paid online, accounts receivable automatically updates as well. This
immediately eliminates the need — and costs involved — for someone to enter
work orders and payments manually. The benefits become even greater when mobile
devices are incorporated in the field. Engineers can receive and update work
orders and access building plans, equipment schematics, and repair manuals
3. Lease Abstracts
The ability to store,
access, and create reports from detailed, technical-building or tenant
information within a property management system has been around for quite some
time. However, in most cases creating lease abstracts has been limited to a
“cookie cutter” template. Today’s browser-based technology is enabling new
levels of flexibility and functionality that captures information on customized
pages. System users can choose what sections they want to include in their
residential abstracts and define the fields on each page.
On the property level,
this type of next-generation abstract can keep track of every detail of every
system — in real time. The abstract might incorporate make and model of a
building’s HVAC components: who purchased the units, from where, and for how much;
warranty information and expiration dates; repair history and documentation;
and maintenance schedules. On the tenant level, abstracts can keep track of
contact information; application data; the original lease and all renewals;
rental payment histories; maintenance requests; and copies of every
communication exchanged with property management.
Michael Mullin is
president of IBS, a 35-year-old boutique software firm based in Totowa, N.J.,
specializing in real estate management systems. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.