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COMMENTARY

Unlock the potential of data to transform buildings and cities

THERE was plenty of buzz surrounding Innovfest Unbound, South-east Asia's largest innovation festival that was held last week in Singapore. It was an opportunity to talk about and showcase new technologies, from the most cutting-edge applications of artificial intelligence and facial recognition, to thinking about tomorrow's cities and workplaces.

It was clear through these discussions that the bedrock of technological innovation is the use and management of data.

We live in a world where many believe that "data is the new oil", but that aside, it has become an essential tool for businesses to report and make decisions.

In the real estate world, the easiest way to think about data is how historic transaction values can be used to work out how to price an asset, for example, an apartment. Those numbers give buyers and sellers the information they need to make smart decisions.

Or in a retail setting, mall operators are using information gathered from cameras and sensors, such as foot traffic and time spent at stores, to understand consumer behaviour in order to tailor marketing campaigns for better consumer targeting.

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The scope for data in corporate real estate is potentially even more powerful and more disruptive.

When it comes to office buildings, there are already some established applications of data such as in facilities maintenance and management of utilities at the building level. This is where building managers and facilities professionals can rely on data and predictive technology to lower energy and water usage, increase savings and improve sustainability.

Meanwhile, data on how people work and interact in an office will help companies stay competitive as they search for talent. Understanding how space is used - or not used - can help companies create a work environment that enhances well-being and productivity.

The combination of data and human-centric design is what will drive innovation and growth, whether it's in the office, our homes or our urban spaces.

There also remains a huge opportunity in how we harness the Internet of Things to maximise the use of real estate resources such as equipment and materials during construction. For instance, through remote real-time monitoring and control of equipment through embedded sensors, a building owner or manager can be notified of impending problems or malfunctions. That means they can be rectified quickly, preventing shutdowns and costly delays.

Perhaps less understood is how data is transforming real estate development at a portfolio level. Analysts and real estate developers have long used economic data to determine factors such as site selection and property values.

But now, new data sets such as real-time traffic, crime, occupancy rates and demographics can be analysed for developers and owners to understand and profile risks on an individual asset basis, and work on getting an optimal mix in their portfolios. Tenants can also be empowered by this knowledge to conduct more informed negotiations.

It's evident that data in real estate and urban planning is a huge and growing opportunity. As it continues to be collected in huge volumes, governments and businesses must grapple with how to govern it and interpret it, and how to put it to work most effectively.

We need to understand and prioritise which issues we can collectively solve to help filter and prioritise the data types that must be retained and maintained because innovations in technology cannot exist in isolation of significant (big) data architecture.

By working collaboratively and leveraging the extensive corporate, government and academic resources and data available to us here in Singapore, we can continue to make huge strides to improve our urban spaces.

  • The writer is the chief information officer at JLL Asia-Pacific

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