The power of data

“At the moment, Mastercard and Facebook know more about your tenants than you do,” Savannah de Savary, the founder of IndustryHub, told a stunned audience. “If you had that wealth of data the amount of opportunities opened up to you would be immense.”

Data, access to it and a fear of sharing it was the main topic of discussion at REWIRE’s REWIREd debate last month. The panel, which comprised de Savary, Chlump Chatkupt, founder of PlaceMake, Anthony Eskinazi, founder of JustPark, Henry Holme, LIVE executive at Pavegen, and Elizabeth Vega, global chief executive of Informed Solutions, all advised the audience to get to grips with the power of data in real estate – and to do so now.

Chlump Chatkupt and Nikhil Vadgama, Placemake
Chlump Chatkupt (R): “You are basically shooting yourself in the foot.”

“The first step is to open up the data,” said Chatkupt. “Transparency is a huge issue, especially in commercial real estate. Property companies are very territorial and very protective of their data, and that is counterproductive. You are basically shooting yourself in the foot.

“There is so much more that you could be doing with the information that you have,” he told the audience.

JustPark’s Eskinazi offered an example. He said that by tracking cars coming in and out of a car park over a six-month period and logging how long a vehicle stays, JustPark was able to add between 10% and 20% of additional revenue for one operator.

“We did this just by building up a dataset and analysing it,” said Eskinazi. “So many people talk about data, about gathering and collecting data. Data is everywhere but analysing it, providing insight and actioning it just isn’t happening enough.”

“The industry is very old-fashioned and very resistant to change,” added Chatkupt. “There is no incentive to adopt any of the new technologies out there. They are waiting for someone to come in and upend the industry and only then will they start to embrace data.”

But de Savary was more confident that the real estate sector was taking steps forward – albeit small ones – when it came to tech.

“We talk a lot in proptech about how backwards the industry is but I do think we are making progress,” she said. “I was told when I first started IndustryHub that I would have a real struggle with some of the big advisory firms; that I would have to go with one and that they wouldn’t all want to play in the same field. I was pleasantly surprised when everyone understood that it was about collaboration. That is something that I think even five, definitely 10, years ago you would not have had. You would not have had someone saying ‘we want to put our data out there and collaborate with our rivals because we think it is important for the future’.

“Everyone is scared that tech will disrupt and replace you, but if you jump on the train you can actually use it to be more of an authority than you ever could without it.”

A straw poll of the audience revealed that most believed their businesses could make use of the tech solutions described at the event (see box), but that few thought they actually would. A lack of understanding appeared to be the main reason.

“The real estate industry is surprisingly bad at understanding location,” said Chatkupt. “It is unscientific. But there is definitely going to be a shift towards adopting more scientific methods for understanding location, place, place-making, city management, logistics, all of this.

“There is no choice,” he warned. “You have to accept data and technology or risk falling behind.”

Pavegen’s Holme and JustPark’s Eskinazi both said the time was ripe to pick up new skills to make sure that you – if not your boss – understand the importance and relevance of data and tech in the urban realm.

Holme said that secondary school pupils were now being taught how to build computers and code and that he, just a generation above, already felt like he was missing out. “Catch up as quickly as you can,” he said.

Vega agreed. “You have got to be smart and fearless about adopting innovation,” she said. “Become early adopters. There is an industry-wide shortage of digital skills, particularly in the built environment, particularly in women.”

Savannah de Savary. Portrait by Jon Enoch
Savannah de Savary: “The most important thing is that you are never too old to learn.” Portrait by Jon Enoch

De Savary added: “Even if you haven’t had a lot of experience with tech, like the kids coming up nowadays have, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn it. I have a property background but have learnt so much on the job and am learning every day. The most important thing is that you are never too old learn and segue. I think that is especially true for women in property. We always think that if we are not expert then it is not the right opportunity for us, but that is just a mindset.”

For most of the panel, the key to understanding and making the most out of technology was being passionate about it. “When it comes to jobs in property overlapping with jobs in tech, there is huge potential for people who are enthusiasts to segue into it an to utilise it in their jobs,” said de Savary.

The REWIREd Panel

Savannah de Savary, IndustryHub

An online platform bringing word-of-mouth relationships in real estate into the digital age. A who’s who of the built environment providing a portal for collaboration across the industry.

Anthony Eskinazi, JustPark

Parking made easy. Find a parking spot and pay with your phone. Turning unused spaces into revenue providers.

Chlump Chatkupt, PlaceMake

A data gathering and analysing mapping system that allows users to identify up-and-coming areas based not only on price and future developments but everything from healthcare to social media check-ins.

Henry Holme, Pavegen

The floor tile that turns footsteps into off-grid energy while at the same time collecting data about the people walking across it. A vital ingredient in the move to make buildings smart.

Elizabeth Vega, Informed Solutions

An independent IS and IT professional services consultancy offering advice on digital transformation services and agile solution delivery.