PropTech: trends and goals for 2021
We saw the uptake of technology across both the residential and commercial property sectors accelerate dramatically in 2020 as parties moved to doing more business online in response to the pandemic. So, what lies ahead this year?
Here’s five key trends I believe will change the PropTech sector in 2021:
1. Improving the customer experience
The need to modernise and focus on delivering a better experience to customers is a top priority for all firms, whether residential or commercial. There’s a clear opportunity for digitally-native PropTech firms to lead the way in this area, and also to assist established players in making the transition. A key part of ensuring a more joined up experience for customers is to review business processes throughout the customer journey so that improvements can be made at each stage, including a review of how data is captured, stored and shared at each stage of the process.
2. Putting data to good use
There’s no doubt that trusted data is fundamental in driving innovation in PropTech. In fact, we’re seeing a growing demand for data of all types across the industry. Trusted geospatial data from Ordnance Survey is at the heart of this given that every property has a unique location. But there’s a huge number of additional data sets that can potentially be linked together including: environmental data, property-specific data, local area data, mapping tools, satellite imagery, demographic data, planning data and more. In fact, you can keep on layering in data sets to support decision making.
There’s a growing appetite for the insights this additional data can deliver – from investors, property developers and others. Ride hailing apps, for example, can use such data to advise their drivers on the best parts of town to pick up passengers at particular times of the day, based on where people live, work and spend leisure time.
There are no doubt countless ways that different combinations of data could be put to use. For PropTechs with strong data analysis skills there’s an opportunity to lead the way in this area, and to innovate compelling use cases that others might not have even thought to look for.
3. Using open standards and APIs to facilitate collaboration
Of course, in order to leverage the data – firms need to be able to easily access, share and cross reference the data. Today, this necessitates the use of APIs, which is where offerings like the OS Data Hub deliver real value.
Generally, geospatial datasets are extremely large and historically have only been available from trusted sources via direct download or DVD. As such, they were costly, difficult to obtain, update and maintain. This is especially frustrating for firms that only require a small sample of a dataset, such as data for commercial properties within a certain area, as they would need to extract, sort and correlate the relevant data manually from the much larger dataset.
Through the OS Data Hub, users are able to access the precise data they require via APIs and scale their requirements and usage accordingly. Furthermore, maintenance overheads are vastly reduced as Ordnance Survey take on the maintenance of the data, which is updated daily.
This is also where the importance of common standards comes into play, as they allow different players to integrate, interact and collaborate using geospatial information.
A key problem still faced by the PropTech industry is that there is no unified standard for defining buildings, which makes it difficult for firms to work together and integrate systems. One potential solution to this problem is the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN). UPRNs work as unique identifiers for every addressable location in Great Britain, providing every property with a consistent identifier throughout its lifecycle, from planning through to demolition.
If a standard like UPRN is adopted as a “data anchor” that all industry users sign up to use, all data pertaining to specific properties can be to be more easily found, cross referenced and, most importantly, trusted. This will help drive digital transformation, increasing efficiencies and helping to shorten lead times for property transactions.
4. Delivering on industry goals
Another key focus for the year ahead will be how to make progress in meeting environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) objectives. This includes a focus on how PropTech firms can help the industry reduce waste and minimise carbon emissions. Part of this includes creating a digitally- enabled workforce and reducing reliance on paper.
The pandemic’s impact on city centres has also highlighted how buildings can quickly fall into disuse, and the importance of increased flexibility in how buildings area used and can be adapted for different purposes down the line.
5. Achieving growth through innovation
It’s an exciting time to be involved in PropTech – and many opportunities lie ahead. The government is encouraging investment in this space – and the industry can play a vital role in helping the economy start to heal from the crisis.
As with most industries today, data is proving to be the most valuable asset – and there are many nascent opportunities for data specialists in the PropTech space. But if the industry is to harness tech developments like AI and blockchain, it first needs to get its data in order: how it shares, creates and innovates with data.
A huge amount of property-related data, for example, remains tied up in paper-based systems Digitising this information, structuring it and making it readily usable will be key to unlocking its value. UPRNs and other open standards will provide opportunities to create ever more compelling use cases. The main hurdle for the industry, however, lies in uptake and adoption of these standards.