The recent events in Ukraine, and the knock-on effects in the global energy market have brought into sharp relief the need to keep an ever-closer eye on our areas of expenditure at home and at work.
With the government, at the time of writing, addressing the instability with a proposed 2-year price cap for consumers and a 6-month price ceiling for businesses, many are searching for practical and innovative ways in which energy can be conserved and costs managed. In the property management sector, the recent escalation in costs have important implications for landlords and property managers.
Prop-Tech may offer a timely solution to building owners. The rise in property technology has been accelerated by the pandemic and as many of us return to offices, even on a hybrid basis, effective and smart building management systems allow businesses the ability to adjust energy and resource usage proportionately – flexible demand management means real time, spatial intelligence meets day to day operational management and more cost (and time) efficient administration.
There are also the benefits of integration. Effectively joining prop-tech solutions to “fin-tech” (financial technology systems) can further enable the seamless conversion of data into meaningful financial insights, automating readings, preparing statements and billing. A consideration here, however, is the compatibility of systems. Developing smart solutions must be planned in the round and the ability for differing software to interface successfully requires detailed planning – however the longer-term benefits and achieving a “single source of truth” for building performance and intelligence is a compelling proposition.
There are also potential benefits to communication and engagement between landlords and tenants. Virtual whiteboards can provide a means by which updates are provided, notices posted and responses gained – a useful channel for collecting, recording and reporting progress internally and for compliance purposes. For property owners and investors, buildings with these and similar features may be perceived a cutting edge, higher quality and ultimately add value to rental and sales value.
With considerable focus across the industry on the urgency of ensuring safe habitation under new building and fire safety legislation, Prop-Tech will undoubtedly play an increasing role in monitoring safety systems and their performance – detecting malfunctions, providing triggers for maintenance without recourse to the potential delays of scheduled equipment inspections.
Many of the potential benefits are yet to mature, however it also important to note early on the need to identify and mitigate potential risks. With data driven online solutions, there will be increased vulnerability to cyber-attacks, the potential loss of data and loss of access to confidential information – be it personal, financial or performance related. As such, smarter buildings with greater system integration may pose a proportionately higher security risk.
As migration to smarter buildings continues apace, building owners and property managers will need to consider their security architecture, including access levels and permissions, back-ups, firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spam software and appropriate certification. The measures will also need to be reflected by any other parties to system integration. There will be a need to develop incident processes which will require frequent testing against various failure or breach scenarios. As an added element of security, it may be worth determining whether any additional risk insurance is required.
There is an interesting and evermore apparent rule of thumb with technology. The more sophisticated solutions become, the greater expectations are for simplicity in application. Big data, the cloud, virtual reality artificial intelligence, blockchain and others are becoming an increasingly common part of the property management vocabulary. Property owners and managers will need real time data to provide intelligence in modelling, planning and control – as well as meeting the expectations of commercial partners and residents. The benefits are many, but is vital to ensure that the process of change is managed securely, with diligence and with a clear sense of “future proofing” your solutions for long term value.
Gareth Rowlands is IT Director at JB Leitch