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Digital technology and its impact on property

19th April 2018

Categories: Latest News

As an Estates Manager, I understand the importance of data and how it plays an integral part of my job.  I think it is also fair to say that no part of surveying practice has remained untouched by the impact of data and digital technology over the last 20 years.   From experience I have also found there is a great deal of variability amongst my peers in knowledge, understanding and expertise in this area.  The good news being that young professionals entering the profession will only know a digital environment and therefore will work with colleagues to provide that added benefit and expertise.

I am absolutely certain the industry, whether a property firm, property owner or agent, needs to embrace the changes and challenges emerging from data and digital technology if they want to flourish and succeed in the future.  Reading a recent report Andrew Baum titled PropTech 3.0, he suggested the users of digital technology which have tapped into emerging sectors are having the greatest success, which has often been linked with the development and ownership of a platform. For example, Airbnb, Uber and Rightmove.  He believes, and I agree, these technologies will have a radical impact on property, a traditionally slow moving asset class, in a conservative industry.

Another area where data is becoming more important is the advent of more ‘intelligent buildings’.  The RICS has also recently released an Insight report titled, Big Data, Smart Cities and Intelligent Buildings.  This report highlighted a very valid point around the desire to improve customer experience, lower operational costs and for a building to become more sustainable, without spending substantial capital sums.  It is not always possible to design and build new accommodation and therefore refurbishments are often the only choice available.  Typical upgrades can include, connection to solar PV arrays to generate renewable energy on site, water harvesting with efficient plumbing fixtures and fittings, improvements to ventilation and energy use and management and the installation of energy efficient lighting.  The report does confirm these measures can have huge benefits but it also comes with a risk in that the intelligent building sector is evolving faster than many traditional real estate support structures of consultants and contractors can keep up with.  The upshot being that a generational skill gap is beginning to emerge, which is resulting in greater capital expenses which in turn leads to greater operational and maintenance cost.  This demonstrates the need to invest in our staff to ensure they are trained to a high level of expertise.

The wider built environment is not immune to digital technology either, particularly in town and city centres.  A term called ‘Geolocation’ appears to be, whether we are aware of it or not an increasing part of our everyday life.  A digital device normally a tablet or smart phone, will provide data on where the holder of the device is located on the surface of the planet.  Using that data through downloaded apps it can deliver information on what products and services are located nearby.  This information can be delivered to your own digital device or alternatively a street side advertising screen close to your location.  Working with many local authorities I can see a real benefit in the use of Geolocation.  News can be issued in real time, such as traffic updates, health warnings and missing persons for example.  When coupled together with social media outlets this would provide our customers with a better and more informative service in our city and town centres.

I have only touched upon a couple ideas but it is clear data and digital technology will offer many benefits which can only grow in the future. TDA recently commissioned a Devon based digital company called Cosmic to help research and review our digital options.  With their help we have been able to develop a digital roadmap which aligns with TDA’s Business Plan.  As a company we are embracing digital technology, identifying a series of digital initiatives that will help the company develop going forward, which can only be an advantage to our customers and clients.

Paul Palmer is the TDA Estates Manager and can be contacted on

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