Locale celebrates a successful webinar that focused on the key moments of PropTech, and where it will go in a reimagined future.
On February 25th, Guy Windsor-Lewis, CEO and founder of digital property management firm Locale, hosted a webinar that explored the past, present and future of PropTech. Guy was joined by an esteemed panel of speakers – Dan O’Gorman, Chief Product Officer at Locale; Annie Panteli, Head of Operations at 22 Bishopsgate and Eden Dwek, Director of Expansion at WiredScore.
From the get-go, the conversation was ignited with an in-depth discussion on the relationship between real estate and technology over the last 10 years. It became clear quickly that while attitudes and products have changed, there is still major hesitation from the industry to fully accept and adopt the PropTech solutions that lay before them, even in the face of the unprecedented challenges that COVID-19 has brought globally to commercial and residential real estate.
In a discussion of the past, Dan and Guy realised that, despite the technology being applied to the property sector for many years, there wasn’t a glimmer of PropTech as a trend until it’s explosion around 2017. Major projects that Locale was a part of in the early days remained custom projects, as there was yet demand for the SaaS products we see today. The turning point came when building managers were able to streamline the management and processes of their portfolio of sites, finally seeing whether each of their buildings was running to the same standards, and having access to data to improve operational efficiency.
Despite Locale’s offering making large strides, it wasn’t without mistakes. Dan notes there was an early assumption that clients would use their property portal as the main source of information that they could easily google such as travel times and weather, he said “I think there was the assumption that people would go to their portal or property page and get information they could just get from the BBC news or the weather forecast. Realistically people are not going to wake up first thing in the morning and check their property page!”
This led to the observation that residential buildings are now more open to their tenants being social and interactive on their portal with one another, an activity previously stopped due to fears of united complaints. This attitude change has been put down to the greater need for transparency, and the present priority of putting the customer experience first.
PropTech is put in place to provide a frictionless experience for the end-user, a point that Annie makes when talking about the present landscape of PropTech, Annie says “There are two end-users in my case which is the customer such as the resident or guest, and the people providing that service. So we need to look at what technology is now doing for the people who are running the building and attracting the right talent to provide and use that service to stop a possible ‘complaint forum’ from the other audience”
Customers expect a smooth journey and building experience, which is why the attitudes of building management have shifted to becoming not only streamlined in their services but towards transparency. She acknowledges that data transparency has also been widely questioned by customers, and is an ongoing reassurance to those they onboard to their PropTech providers.
Talking about the future of PropTech, it became painfully obvious that putting PropTech services and technology providers at the forefront of developments is essential to future-proofing properties. After witnessing global commercial developments make the costly mistake of not prioritising connectivity and technology, Eden knows it is critical to onboard Asset Managers to the benefits of PropTech, as they understand the long-term impact it may have on their commercial sites, particularly now during the COVID-19 era where real estate has to compete with remote-working to create a better workspace experience.
He says, “The last 9-12 months have reinforced the importance of digital connectivity. Often in the office if we have good connectivity, we take it for granted. But working from home, we realised how much bad connectivity can have on productivity. Now as we look to come back to offices, we are starting to think about how we can assure the workforce that it is a better working environment. We would love it if all buildings had great connectivity, but unfortunately, this still isn’t the case, even in 2021.”
Despite coming a long way since 2005, PropTech is still fighting off some of the same scary stories such as job automation and redundancies that have proven to be a myth time and time again. As Annie puts it, there is no replacement for the human element, which will always be needed and always be a priority to maintain a high standard of customer service and experience.
You can watch the full webinar here.