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The Technologies at CES That Could Change the Property Industry

In full disclosure, this was my first time attending the world-famous Consumer Electronics Show held annually in Las Vegas. It might come as a surprise considering my background is in electrical engineering, but in my defense, it’s a consequence of historically being stuck in the lab and only recently delving into the startup world. Needless to say, I’m hooked and excited to return next year. My goals at this year’s CES were threefold: capturing 360° content for our media partners throughout the week, attending client meetings to assess potential for integration of our services, and exploring the various exhibition halls in search of technologies relevant to our existing clients in real estate.

Among the flurry of exhibits this year was tech ranging from paper-thin foldable screens and micro-displays for AR, AI car assistants powered by cigarette lighter plugs, robots of questionable utility (looking at you, Big Clapper), and of course, smart/IoT tech.

First off, I think many of the products marketed as ‘Smart Home’ devices might just as well be called “Smart Prop”, as potential use cases extend well into the commercial property space with a little imagination. Within this category, some notable innovations include the LG Hausys Hidden Display Handle: an IoT door handle networked with the property’s ventilation systems; the Samsung SSM-U Series: miniaturized, radar-equipped smart lighting sensors with adjustable range detection; and iCreation’s Facial Recognition Wi-Fi Video Doorbell – verbose, but self-explanatory.

In my opinion, the iCreation networked, facial recognition doorbell is particularly interesting. Beyond more obvious use cases such as letting tenants and residents remotely buzz-in business partners and family or creating party guest lists, I believe the technology applies to on-site property tours as well.

For example, easy to share, online walkthroughs such as the kind we at VirtualAPT create with our moving, 360° tours already extend broker marketing reach and efficiency by orders of magnitude. They do so by allowing a potential tenant to ‘see and feel’ a space from the comfort of his or her home, without taking up precious time, including that of the broker – all for just a first-time visit. No matter how many text-based facts and pictures are provided about a property on a conventional listing, the first time visit is a costly game of chance. As with the adage that the first five seconds of meeting someone largely determine our first impression of them, property visits are much the same.

People should be buying and leasing property based on the space, not the broker. Needing to continually visit a property to meet one of potentially dozens of interested parties is a major bottleneck in the brokering process – an unnecessary one at that with the help of technology.  What if a broker’s initial property vettings could be made more efficient by completely eliminating the need for them to return to a location after it’s prepared for placement on the market?

The networked facial recognition doorbell makes this a reality. By combining reliable identity verification technologies available widely on mobile devices, an on-site visit can be as easy as a selfie. That is, the applicant’s selfie is sent to a broker (or more likely uploaded to a platform linked to the smart doorbell and lock), approved by the broker, and then used to allow the potential tenant access to the space at her or his convenience.

I realize that this proposition may be initially daunting, perhaps in the same way that autonomous cars have been to the taxi and ridesharing industries. That said, while improved road safety is the biggest justification for the hundreds of thousands of human drivers set to be out of a job, this ‘Smart Prop’ situation is different. Until now, opening doors has been an unavoidable part of the broker’s primary role: negotiations of price and finalization of the deal. Brokers should welcome these technological advancements as tools to make their schedules more flexible while at the same time increasing their sales volume

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