It’s been nearly 20 years since the term “Internet of Things” was coined, and since then it has transformed the way we run our businesses and live our lives. From smart home thermostats to sensors that track our movement through the grocery store, there seems to be no limit to the possibilities that exist in the IoT.
The numbers back it up, too. In 1990, only 0.3 million connected devices existed. By 2025, that number is expected to jump to 1 trillion, according to the tech research and advisory firm Gartner.
So what does all this mean for the commercial real estate and property management fields? An article from Forbes may have said it best: “Whatever business you are operating inside a commercial building, if you aren’t collecting, storing, using and learning from data, then you are not doing your job.”
In this installment of Conversations from the Corner Office, we talked with ID Plans Chief Technology Officer Taz Ngo about IoT, its impact on the CRE and property management industries and what we can expect to see in the future.
TN – Management of a network is a good example to start with. When a router goes down, you know immediately when there’s a problem. Something turns red and you get a notification. Now you can really dive into the asset and say, “OK, this is what the problem is,” and you can start thinking about who is responsible for fixing it and who you dispatch to do the repair. That’s really critical, especially if a lot of people are going to be affected.
In real estate, it’s the same thing. If you think about it, property managers are also managing a bunch of objects and assets that are part of their environment or network. When a problem arises, it can affect users just as it would we if were talking about a computer network, only now we’re applying it to tenants and customers. Property managers need to be able to react quickly to issues, and that’s why it’s important to have connected devices like water and electrical sensors. They can automatically alert the property manager when there’s a problem.
TN – Real-time notifications are one of the biggest trends right now, and it’s something I haven’t seen in the commercial real estate environment. We want property managers to be able to use our software on their phone or their iPad to keep track of what’s going on at their property at all times. This way, they can be ready to take immediate action when there’s a problem. For example, if a repair needs to be made, the property manager can take pictures and communicate the information to a vendor right away. Beyond real-time notifications, by using the collected data, our platform will be able to provide predictive maintenance of assets to proactively mitigate downtime.
TN – If you’re building something new, it’s easy to implement smart technology at the beginning. The challenge is that real estate companies are sitting in between the new world of smart buildings with IoTs and with a whole bunch of legacy systems still in place that we must work with. The key is looking at technologies that can make the legacy systems a little bit smarter.
TN – There are some vendors out there that are trying to retrofit equipment to make it smarter because it’s more cost effective than, say, buying a new A/C unit just so it can connect to the IoT. Although it won’t be as sophisticated as an IoT-built unit, it can work to at least alert you when there’s an issue. However, another challenge we face is in managing how the older devices can connect to the newer ones when you’re using them side by side, but I also see it as an opportunity to add technology to an industry that has been late in adopting it.
TN – The number one starting point is the electrical systems because those are the easiest ones to manage, and anything to do with power consumption will be easier to retrofit. The next one is water. If you’re going to put new meters in, you might as well put in IoT meters that can give you information and data you can use, and then finally your A/C. That’s a good start in terms of getting modernized.
TN: Not necessarily. Simply having an IoT device means nothing to a property manager unless you tell them what do with it. The tech people may tell them they need to put these devices into the buildings, but if the people using them don’t know what to do with them, what’s the point? The value of IoT isn’t just that you can control the devices – it’s the data that it provides on how you can make better decisions on how to run the property.
TN – If your HVAC unit is saying your consumption levels are higher than you want them to be, you can look at the data and find solutions to how you can run it to use less energy. You can take into account the time of day, how many people are using it, etc. You can use all this information to make smarter financial decisions and that’s where you see the ROI.
TN- I envision a big part of it will come from us. At ID Plans, we have a unique opportunity to help our customers by providing solutions than can teach them how to be more efficient in terms of managing their buildings. We get the chance to educate them and bring them along while setting ourselves up as a premier leader in the software industry.
How are you implementing the IoT at your properties? What solutions would make your job easier? Leave your comments below.
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