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Artificial Intelligence - Its Impact On Commercial Real Estate

By Shashidhar Sharma, Associate Director – Indian Occupier Services, Cushman & Wakefield

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Shashidhar Sharma, Associate Director – Indian Occupier Services, Cushman & Wakefield

With over a decade of expertise in top level management and marketing in real estate domain, Shashidhar strives to redefine the construction and infrastructure development landscape.

Artificial Intelligence often sounds like a mythical future prediction rather than a reality. However, it is no longer a Sci-Fi Movie concept but a real-world scientific endeavour, in which numerous scientists and technologists have spent part or, in some cases, the whole of their professional life in decoding or rather coding AI. The scientific community is racing towards decoding the human mind and in turn create intelligent machines, which will irrevocably impact our lives. But, as all evolutionary process goes, things start building up with little imperceptible changes, which over a period, creates a completely different product, process or in case of biological evolution, a new species.

AI is not a ‘New Kid’ on the Block.

We are already using many AI embeds in Gmail, Google Searches, Mobile phones, etc. As the computing powers of computers/machines kept on growing, AI delivered many impossible tasks like Language comprehension, driverless automobiles, etc. The current level of AI breakthroughs and technological advancements are at the disruption level, which has no historical precedents.

“Currently, only one tenth of the companies in the field of AI have been able to develop viable products and only three per cent of them are successful in the Commercial Real Estate sector (CRE)”

The Challenges & Future of AI in Commercial Real Estate

Currently, only one-tenth of the start-up firms in the field of AI has been able to develop viable products and only 3 per cent of them are successful in the Commercial Real Estate sector (CRE). The following challenges are still to be overcome…

• Availability of comprehensive and cohesive Data

• Actionable and Digitised information

• Security and/of IoT

• The availability of appropriate resources

However, with the advancement of chip technology, quantum computing, IoT, etc., the advent of AI systems will soon become impossible to ignore in the CRE sector. Slowly, AI will harness different silos of information and collaborate with all the other forms of digital/IT/ Tech systems and data to form a 'Neural' knowledge network, which will exponentially grow to deliver solutions& technology far beyond what we can imagine now. The AI will ultimately coalesce various technologies, data and provide a comprehensive platform for an end to end solution for the CRE sector – Transaction, Leasing, Construction, Project & Facility Management, and others.

Buildings will become Software

We are taking the first few tentative steps towards an integrated CRE world 2050 – Worlds is different that we would barely recognize it. A World where among most of the other things, buildings will become a source of data, information and intelligent engagement with occupiers. This trend has already started with office buildings getting bigger and better. The floor plates, in China and to some extent in India, are consistently moving towards Giga Floors (half million Sq.ft. and above) from the humble super floors and Mega Floors (200,000 Sq.ft. and above). These Mega Buildings, armed with hi-tech data gathering tools are giving a better experimental data for the researcher to unravel the mysteries of office space – Open Office versus Cabins, Collaboration vs Connection, Flexibility vs Adaptability, Health vs Wellness, etc.

The buildings are no longer ‘hardware’ and only a ‘space’ to occupy but are becoming ‘software’ with immersive and ‘just in time’ data points to provide deep insights into behaviour and psychology of occupiers, resulting in increase of productivity, efficiency and providing actionable inputs for wellness, innovation and better quality of life.

The buildings are no longer ‘hardware’ and only a ‘space’ to occupy but are becoming ‘software’ with immersive and ‘just in time’ data points to provide deep insights into behaviour and psychology of occupiers, resulting in increase of productivity, efficiency and providing actionable inputs for wellness, innovation and better quality of life.

Impact of AI in Employability

In the early stage of AI development and use, in my opinion, the professions that will suffer the most will be mundane jobs like Junior Level Lawyers, Journalists, Drivers, Chefs, Telemarketers, Customer Service Executives, Medics, Construction Workers, Manual Laborers, amongst others. Then AI will move on to fill the next level of skillsets for professionals like Consultants, who traditionally collate information and provide answers based on human intelligence and the power of logical analysis. As the various traditionally defined roles continue to merge e.g. roles of Admin and Facility managers, it is believed to become one seamless activity in the near future. This convergence will slowly become a tidal wave of change across multiple roles.

The initial impact of AI in the CRE will be on roles like the junior level of supervisors, engineers, collators of information, compilers, maintenance and service managers, etc. It is expected that the various junior level operation roles will merge into a kind of command center module - taking inputs and the data through drones, sensors and RFID chips, etc. spread across the campus. Many of the repetitive tasks will be automated and taken over by machines and their next-generation counterparts, which will learn on the job, and probably prove to be far more efficient and effective than human beings.

Yet not all is lost –the Future Employability in CRE Sector is bright.

Every five years, CRE faces disruption and every 10 years the Real estate turns around and changes the way it does business. Presently we are seeing structural changes in the CRE sector with Coworking, Co-living, and Real Estate Aggregators – positioned to be the next landlords, which is providing new opportunities with demands of a new skill set in place. This demand, we saw first in case of the industrial revolution and more recently when Internet evolved and automation technology made various roles redundant like in Banking Sector (ATM), Travel Sector (Ticketing, Transport, Hospitality). The advent of AI in the real estate sector, I am sure, will release the whole generation of knowledge workers who will command high position and growth and in turn create new opportunities for creativity and innovation.

The future is bright for the CRE professional, who would embrace technology, up-skill and redefine their job description to the kind roles which use AI / Technology as an enabler.

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