Last time, we talked about the importance for Canadian real estate companies to adopt not just new and innovative technology but an innovation mindset—not just an interest in the virtues of innovation but a recognition that innovation is essential to future growth and security. Technology is critical, of course, but as I wrote, it "is not an end but a means; innovation by its very nature has no end, just a 'next.'" And while this has always been true, the events of 2020 in particular have given new life to the old adage, "necessity is the mother of invention."
The good news is that the Canadian real estate sector is on the way. We're more fast followers than pioneers at this point, still incubating more than harvesting, but the pace is accelerating and I remain optimistic about our potential—and our prospects.
If you're curious about what exactly those prospects look like, KPMG in the Netherlands Real Estate Innovations Overview 2020 is a good place to start. Highlighting nearly 600 innovations from all over the world and the companies driving them, the Overview considers real estate innovations that are transforming the sector's landscape in the following nine distinct categories:
- Digitizing processes is about transforming traditional processes so they can analyze more data and be accessible online and in real-time—while also making them more efficient and user friendly.
- Flexible workspaces allow people to work "anywhere" and "anytime," contributing to a transformation of real estate from a fixed asset into a flexible service.
- Innovations in healthy workplace and living focus on optimizing internal working environments, from boosting air purity to optimizing employee satisfaction, health and productivity.
- Innovative constructions include enhancements in design and construction materials and processes, such as 3D printing or wooden skyscrapers.
- Internet of Things (IoT) innovations connect multiple devices, systems and/or buildings using online technology, allowing tenants and commercial property managers alike to control traditional in-house devices in an easy and centralized way.
- New ways of funding aim to make financing less complicated, more accessible and/or to increase liquidity for both the demand and supply side.
- Platforms to connect allow users new and more seamless ways to interact with stakeholders, increasing collaboration and knowledge-sharing.
- Sustainable innovations focus on energy-savings, water-efficiency and the circular economy in order to boost sustainability, support regulatory requirements and reduce costs.
- Virtual reality and 3D mapping replicates built environments using computer or drone technology, allowing users to create and/or experience normally physical spaces in a virtual environment.
Canadian companies are players, to varying degrees, across this range. Consider BIM Track, which has a cloud-based communications platform for the construction sector; Homicity, whose online and AI-powered real estate marketplace helps people find the properties, mortgages and insurance that are best for them; Breather Products, which offers workspace-as-a-service via its network of private workspaces for those who require office, meeting/conference rooms, and presentation spaces on demand; and DIRTT, which creates customizable and sustainable prefabricated interior wall and millwork systems.
They're just a start.
There's also Relogix, whose advanced IoT sensors monitor workspace movements, workplace design effectiveness and employee engagement; REBCA Solution, whose app aims to help real estate agents streamline the home buying process; and Stambol Studios, which provides architectural visualization services using virtual reality that allow customers to assess home designs prior to construction.
And many more.
But there's more work for all of us to do, and it begins with the mindset. As I noted in my last post, Canadian real estate companies are only a fifth as likely as their global counterparts to have a well-established data strategy, and a third more likely to have no data strategy at all.
No data strategy means no innovation mindset. The coming new reality means it's time—it's a necessity—for that to change.