Technology Solutions

Tech on Deck

Find out what innovations will lead off the new year.

New technologies offer enormous opportunities to increase productivity and improve client service. Yet, like most emerging systems, success hinges on how the advancement is applied within an industry. The following five technologies have the potential to change the way commercial real estate professionals do business. Some are big-picture applications and others affect day-to-day brokerage activities. While mass acceptance and adoption of these advances depends on many factors, these technologies clearly point the way to commercial real estate's future.

1. Connected Real Estate

While not a new idea, connected real estate is the future and it's moving closer to reality every day. Large companies such as Cisco Systems now are pushing the idea of wiring buildings for complete data capabilities and offering tenants information technology services. It makes sense: Providing a large, shared Internet connection can reduce tenants' costs, offering services such as voice over Internet protocol means immediate phone service for new tenants, and supporting the wired infrastructure reduces tenants' individual IT needs. As technology services transition from building amenity to necessity, connected-building leasing agents have a sharp competitive edge, provided the follow-through infrastructure support meets tenants' needs. Landlords also gain built-in access to potential new revenue streams as wired buildings have the technology in place to expand their IT services to include e-mail hosting, server co-location, and network administration.

Pro: Great competitive leasing edge and potential revenue producer

Con: Requires high initial investment and strong follow-up support

Bottom line: Those willing to take an early risk will profit the most in the end.

2. Google Maps

Recently Google made two great leaps by integrating data from Google Earth with Google Maps to produce satellite imagery maps and releasing the Google Maps Application Program Interface (www.google.com/apis/maps). Web developers can use the API to create feature-rich Web sites that incorporate Google maps. For example, brokers can enter the address of an office building and retrieve all the competing lease space in the area. By using Google Earth Pro, offered through the STDBOnline Power Tools section (www.STDBOnline.com), users also can create overlays that display other detailed property information such as crime statistics and household demographics. Such integration of maps and data illustrates the real strength of Google Maps. For more examples of how Google Maps are being used, visit www.googlemapsmania.blogspot.com.

Pro: Maps, satellite imagery, and information creates an easy-to-understand visual

Con: Satellite imagery is spotty and Web development is required

Bottom line: Look for more commercial real estate professionals to incorporate Google Maps into marketing materials and presentations.

3. Really Simple Syndication

The news industry did it, but will it work for commercial real estate? News Web sites use really simple syndication, or RSS, to distribute news articles in a standard format (visit www.cnn.com/services/rss for an example), but RSS has the potential to distribute more than just news. If the commercial real estate industry adopted RSS or a similar standard as its format, users could update listing information in one place - the RSS feed - and the change would be reflected in all listing engines that pull data from that one feed. For example, your company could host an RSS feed featuring 1031 exchange needs and a commercial information exchange such as CCIMNet could pick up such feeds and display them. Yahoo, Google, and Windows Live now allow you to add RSS feeds directly to your home page so that you can see news from the sites that interest you. Imagine adding an RSS feed from real estate sites so that all the listings from particular market sectors or companies are displayed in one location.

Pro:More listing exposure and better information management

Con: A major listing engine needs to take the first step in implementing RSS for commercial real estate

Bottom line: To be effective, a standard listing format for commercial real estate would require the majority of the industry to participate.

4. Fiber to the Premises

Fiber to the Premises, or FTTP, entails replacing current copper wire infrastructure with fiber-optic lines, which results in much larger bandwidth and much faster Internet speed. This opens the door to providing such services as video feeds for online conferencing or visual walk-throughs of building spaces on a regular basis. Verizon already has introduced a major initiative to implement FTTP so that it can begin offering television along with phone and Internet services. Local municipalities also are getting into the act: Lafayette, La., residents voted to unplug current providers and develop their own FTTP infrastructure.

Pro: Faster Internet and more bandwidth means increased Web applications

Con: Higher expectations from businesses for increased speed

Bottom line: FTTP already is becoming a reality.

5. WiMax

WiMax, or wireless broadband, is capable of blanketing complete cities with wireless Internet access. While still relatively young, WiMax already is seeing widespread adoption. Companies such as Clearwire already have deployed WiMax in several U.S. cities. One of WiMax's advantages is its comparatively low cost in areas without a broadband infrastructure: The cost of adding WiMax to an existing cellular tower is much cheaper than laying Internet lines in rural areas. WiMax increases opportunities for people to work from remote locations by offering seamless wireless connections from desktop to laptop to cell phone. One of WiMax's biggest advantages may be wireless VOIP, which could reduce the cost of telephone service for business as well as residential use. Once this technology is integrated with cell phones, even more possibilities will emerge.

Pro: New hope for rural broadband and increased wireless technologies

Con: New technology standard still needs fine-tuning

Bottom line: WiMax will change the landscape of day-to-day business.

Jeff Whitworth

Jeff Whitworth is the information technologies manager for Brown Investment Properties TCN in Greensboro, N.C., and a Microsoft-certified systems engineer. Contact him at (336) 379-8771 or jwhitworth@bipinc.com.

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