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How has the internet of things affected the real estate sector?
The internet of things (IoT) represents a new mindset. It’s a move towards less standalone or networked infrastructure and more of direct, built-in capability within products to talk to each other. Simply put, three key elements such as connectivity, data and intelligence working seamlessly to help you to make smarter choices.
There are a few ways I can think of right away where we can leverage IoT to reduce cost, sell more and sell better by enhancing the customer experience. And these capabilities already exist and are in use globally:
Using smart devices to control utility consumption and costs in our homes and offices, with smart devices that provide consumption alerts as well as sensor-based devices that manage lighting. Being used for house search; buyers get detailed information about the house while sellers leverage technology as a selling tool.
For instance, using mobile apps, as a buyer enters a house which has been enabled by any underlying IoT technology, they would be able to access details such as floor plans, customization options and the like. Also, IoT can help us cross-sell. Using home monitoring systems, we can stay connected with buyers as well as help them connect to our facility management team for maintenance if household problems occur, (IoT devices help us constantly monitor and perform health checks).
From a business standpoint, facilities management is a significant part of our business and IoT can play a big role there. Predictive to preventive action to reduce breakdowns, for instance, again helping enhance the customer experience and generate goodwill. Or in some situations help in cost reduction- for instance using sensors in garbage bins to notify garbage collections trucks about the level of garbage and whether collections is needed or not.
By cutting a trip, manpower, etc., it can help reduce cost. To conclude, I must add that the key is to not only use IoT capabilities but to smartly use the data generated via these inter-connected devices and create a win-win situation for both businesses as well as consumers.
Does this approach align with the Smart Dubai initiative?
Absolutely yes, it does. While the Smart Dubai initiative has happiness at its core and not Technology, technology will play a very important enabling role to transform Dubai into an efficient, sustainable and competitive city.
A single unified Smart Dubai Platform will enable unlimited connectivity, integration and leverage opportunities. Smart Dubai Platform will be available to public & private sector; expectation is this will result in innovative and cutting edge technology solutions being developed.
This Live, fully integrated environment, where IoT will have a key role to play, will provide real benefits such as traffic management and decongestion, emergency medical response, energy consumption to conserve resources, etc.; just to name a few.
What type of technologies do you believe drives innovation within the property industry?
IoT, as we've discussed, but also virtual and augmented reality are really driving innovation in real estate. An exciting new space are technology enabled marketplaces, where property listings for leasing or direct selling can happen, and the consumer can see & visualize the space s/he is getting.
While it will not replace the relationship driven model working through brokers, it will shift a sizable business to a direct model.
I also think the mobile apps are promoting creativity and innovation. With limited time and on-the-go culture setting in, all real estate professionals are benefiting from innovation in this space. Developers, brokers, sellers, buyers, etc. are leveraging mobile apps to fulfil their specific needs.
However, I’m also a firm believer that for innovation, we always need not deploy expensive cutting edge technologies. You can very well innovate with existing capabilities, for instance improving our business processes and thereby creating significant operational efficiencies using a core foundational system such as SAP; this is also innovation to me.
Do you have the ability to retro-fit smart technologies into older buildings? Or do they have to be built-in from the start?
Absolutely. There are simple yet effective and non-expensive solutions; such LED based lighting systems with lower consumption and longer product life, smart thermostat, smart metering, motion sensors, alarms, security cameras, automatic locks that can be retro-fitted in old buildings with minor infrastructural changes.
What’s more important is to cultivate the mindset and culture towards sustainable living. Building owners must be a champion the effective use of smart technologies in their buildings.
How has SAP helped enable your own innovative journey as a company?
We started using SAP a couple of years ago. Working with an enterprise grade, ERP forced us to think regarding structure, process, controls and governance, all good things but requiring heaps of effective change in management.
It was a difficult start, but as the learning curve shortened and our technology maturity grew, we started to improvise and innovate. As I mentioned earlier, streamlining processes, adopting best practices and removing inefficiencies is true innovation to us.
Moving ahead, we are transitioning from the legacy or traditional approach of maintaining an on-premise SAP setup to SAP S4 HANA on SAP’s Private Cloud. While we leave SAP to manage the entire stack of offerings, from IaaS to SaaS, we will focus our energies to develop smart business solutions.
We want to enable our users to work with high efficiency and successfully deliver the various revenue enhancement and cost reduction initiatives. We want our partners to have an elevated user experience when working with us. We want to leverage technology to attract & retain talent and fulfil our mission to be the most admired holding company in UAE.
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