Guy Windsor-Lewis, chief executive and founder of Locale, shares why the moment is now for real estate to step up and make the move towards basic digitalisation.

Since 2005 when I first developed my vision for Locale to digitise property management, I’ve fought for PropTech acceptance. The journey, at times, has been frustrating as the world’s hunger for technology has grown and the era we live in is very much digital, yet, convincing the wider real estate industry of what impact technology will have on streamlining their operations, the time and cost savings, and the overall increased engagement and satisfaction of their stakeholders on a large scale continues to be challenged. However my mission remains unchanged – educate, inform, and guide real estate on the benefits of PropTech, and see-through that its adoption is a success.

Of course, there have been those ahead of the curve – those who understood that technology was not only about short-term operational gains but a long-term behavioural change that would ensure they were trailblazers. It’s the pandemic that has swiftly evolved the nature of real estate, triggering acceptance that change is needed to survive the new environment and attitudes. However, a reticence remains, as many continue to question its true value.

Real estate is no longer viewed as simple bricks and mortar. Its new purpose is people – those that live, work, and breath these spaces and communities. Retail and office sectors have been pushed to reflect and reshape their identities through tech innovation to appeal to an audience that is no longer captive. The choices from where people work to how they shop continue to transform and multiply, so transforming bricks and mortar into desired destinations is now critical, not just ‘nice-to-have’.

Digital toys and solutions are now amply available, making it a struggle for real estate to understand what PropTech is needed and what isn’t. The truth: fancy, disruptive tech might look tempting, but what’s the point if it doesn’t serve a purpose and aid occupiers’ experience? Today, we seek solutions that offer speed, quality, and convenience, any genuine tech solution must be simple to use, can evolve, and speak to its customer and its end-user – especially when it comes to re-establishing its relevancy in society. Therefore, only PropTech concepts that have been proven to work and deliver for its customers year on year, can provide long-term sustainable solutions and add genuine value.

It’s also crucial that the decision-making should not only be left to real estate players. The adoption and education of PropTech must be a collaborative process between provider of tech, those adopting it and those using it too. It’s the responsibility of technology and service providers to demonstrate their contribution to the living and working experience, and show they are the drivers behind creating desirable spaces that deliver a great experience in real estate. We deserve to no longer be an afterthought.

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