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News & opinion

2 NOV 2021

October Highlights

It’s been a hectic, and busy, few months since the launch of the new RICS Tech Partner Programme.  We have had 145 applications to join, with 125 approved and 92 partners already listed on the programme’s home page as I write this.  We now have partners representing all the RICS world regions providing data and technology solutions right across the property lifecycle and supporting land, residential, commercial and infrastructure assets.

Whilst we are familiar with the term PropTech, the scope of data and technology across the built and natural environment is far deeper and broader that that definition.  With terms being used such as ConTech (construction), InfraTech (infrastructure), PlanTech (planning and development), CivTech (the delivery of services to people across cities, towns, and regions), and the blurred lines between all these areas and the well-established world of FinTech, in my view, it makes more sense for us at RICS to simply talk about data and technology.

This wide spectrum of the application of data and technology is reflected in the conversations we have been recording with our partners over the last few months.  We have recorded some three dozen conversations on topics as diverse as digital twins, automated valuation, thermal imaging, property measurement, digital conveyancing, property passports, planning, real estate finance, the governance of algorithms, property management and the short-term rental market.  Please look out for these conversations as we publish them on rics.org.

Despite the huge variation in topics some consistent themes have emerged.  The sector is on a journey of digitisation which was summed up by more than one partner as moving from ‘documents to data’.  Having structured data available for land and real estate assets supports so many use cases around due diligence and operations across the whole property lifecycle.  To support the ability to structure and exchange data in a consistent way we continue to support stakeholders in adopting the RICS Data Standard (RDS) to bring coherence and interoperability to their data sets.  The RDS is freely available on GitHub, and do get in touch if you want to understand the data standard in more detail and get technical support to help you implement and adopt the data standard:

RICS Data Standard

As a reminder, if you want to get an overview of the RDS and listen to my talk on why data isn’t the new oil (yet), do have a listen to my recent talks on the Unissu platform – it’s free to sign-up and view:

The RICS Data Standard: Babel Fish for Real Estate

Data is not the new oil... yet

Another critical theme for our sector is the concept of the democratization of data and technology.  With so many RICS members working in SMEs and microbusinesses, data and technology needs to be accessible, easy to use and integrate with other systems, and affordable.  All whilst delivering real value through gains in productivity and efficiency that deliver improvements to profitability.  Many solutions are now delivered as Software as a Service (SaaS) which is centrally hosted and licensed on a subscription basis.

It’s now almost impossible to discuss data and technology in our sector without the subject of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) being raised as a critical issue – the availability of data to help all stakeholders manage their assets across the built and natural environment remain a huge challenge.  And whilst many new buildings can automatically collect sustainability data, this still leaves us with a vast, long tail, of existing assets where we need to begin to collect data on sustainability to improve their performance and reduce their negative impact on the environment.  RICS have developed a new standard for building operations (IBOS) to support ESG and to put people at the heart of real estate. If you want to learn more here is my Unissu talk explaining the background and principles behind it:

Taking a fresh look at property performance management

In the UK we need to address the issue of retrofitting millions of residential buildings and in the UK, I chair the Data Working Group of the Coalition for the Energy Efficiency of Buildings (CEEB) which was established by the Green Finance Institute to help develop the market for financing a net-carbon and climate resilient built environment in the UK:

Green Finance Institute

As I talk to data and technology firms across the UK and beyond, it is clear, that to develop and deliver solutions that provide real value to the profession requires a mix of skills: technical skills around data science, statistics, bigdata, coding, data design and SQL etc. but also critically the domain knowledge and experience of the built environment that only our profession can provide. It’s vital the RICS members are part of the development of data and technology and that RICS also help the profession to acquire the skills and knowledge to work alongside these new technical specialists who are now working in this new breed of data and technology firms but also increasingly in established RICS member firms.

Many of our new RICS Tech Partners are using technology that owes its rapid emergence and adoption to the video games industry.  The chips needed to power the high-quality graphics in modern video games were developed to process high volumes of data in parallel to deliver vast moving images and game play, and this power is also what is needed to support machine learning and other artificial intelligence approaches that are being used to drive automated valuation and a host of other applications across the built environment.  Another cross over from the games industry is the use of games engines – our RICS Tech Partner Epic Games, perhaps known better for Fortnite, shows how architects and firms such as Zaha Hadid, Arup and Jacobs are using these engines for visualisation of both buildings and infrastructure assets such as roads and rail:

Personalizing property with Zaha Hadid Architects’ real-time configurator

Design and engineering firm Arup embraces an interactive 3D technology shift

Jacobs embraces interactive visualization for infrastructure projects

I continue to work with stakeholders in the UK to promote the adoption of the UPRN as unique property identifier to support the development of digital datasets for both residential and commercial property – if you are new to the subject or want to hear more about the recent activity this link from GeoPlace has a wealth of content including a recent webinar where I spoke with other industry figures together with technical information and my recent RICS Property Journal article on the subject:

UPRN and Property

If you want to get in touch and discuss any of the themes I have raised in this blog, please get in touch at aknight@rics.org.