Tech Trends in Commercial Real Estate

November 12, 2019
Written by: Susan Cumins, CREW Miami member since 1998
Presented at CREW Miami’s Luncheon Meeting, October 29, 2019
 
  Moderator:  
 
  Olga Vieira, Partner, Greenspoon Marder
 
  Panelists:       Eryka Gemma, CEO, Bitcoin Center Miami
Claudia Kaufman, Territory Sales Manager, Southeast, Latch
Patrick D. O’Meara, Chairman and CEO, Inveniam Capital Partners
Olivia Ramos, Founder and CEO, DeepBlocks

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming every aspect of commercial real estate. From blockchain’s secure transactions, to a platform called DeepBlocks that streamlines development processes, to Latch, an IoT product that serves property managers and residents, digital disruption is here to stay. Panelists described ways that AI is being used to speed up deals, reduce construction time and expense, decrease risk, and increase property value.

Eryka Gemma, CEO of Bitcoin Center Miami and Cofounder of blockchaincenter.com gave an overview of blockchain technology, which was invented to combat a lack of transparency that preceded the 2008-2009 financial crisis. The open source technology, originally developed for Bitcoin, has been modified to service many use cases including smart contracts, data sharing, and electronic money transfers. “Data is the most expensive commodity, more expensive than oil,” Gemma said. “Once hackers get past an organization’s firewall, they are able to access all the information inside. But with blockchain, verified information is packed in a block where it cannot be changed. No names are attached to individual atoms of information and the nodes are distributed so that the data is not easy to hack.”

Patrick O’Meara, Chairman and CEO of finance and technology firm Inveniam Capital Partners, confirmed the importance of keeping data in an owner’s control. “Securing your data is at the heart of future transactions,” he said. “With blockchain technology you can have a real-time updated price on your assets, while controlling all your data. The owner of this digitally-recorded asset performance data retains control and the data is better protected from leakage.”

He said blockchain is a secondary data retention system that manages data on an atomized basis; paper is first. “Before blockchain, a notary would verify transaction documents (appraisals, termite/mold reports, etc.) for completeness within accepted parameters, but not for accuracy of content. Now, when all relevant documents and information are placed in a blockchain, they can be validated and indexed for searchability and then verified as true (in range).” O’Meara said reinsurance and pension plans benefit from his firm’s work for balance sheet information on buildings they themselves own. “The CFO people like digital,” he said. “Going all digital is only two to five years away.”

In 2016, Olivia Ramos, Founder and CEO of DeepBlocks, launched the software that uses artificial intelligence to combine, automate, and optimize the work of multiple disciplines that apply to the concept, design, and construction phases of real estate development. It also keeps track of zoning regulations, transaction history, and other information. Ramos said that DeepBlocks’ ability to address elements related to architecture, engineering, market and financial analyses, construction cost, and sustainability benefit all concerned. “When everyone involved in a project is optimizing their portion using all of the information, then the whole project is fully aligned and dynamically integrated, and the result is a better building.”

That intense level of coordination during planning phases can decrease overall costs, because, as Ramos noted, “Consultants’ fees can amount to 40% of a project’s hard costs.” Another use of DeepBlocks is to quickly show the potential of an existing property. “We can use it to search by maximum allowed units, zoning restrictions, size, and price.”

Claudia Kaufman of New York-based Latch, the first full-building access solution for multifamily properties, shared that the company, now in one in 10 newly-built US apartments, provides residents and property managers with flexibility, convenience, and security—and helps owners future-proof their buildings.

Related Group's Wynwood 25 in Miami is equipped with Latch, which integrates access-control hardware, access management software, and services. Residents can unlock their doors with the Latch App, a doorcode, or a keycard, and allow temporary access to visitors and service providers. The system also helps property managers run buildings more efficiently. "If a property manager recognizes that, for example, the gym is not being used, he or she may consider converting the space to something else," Kaufman said. She added that Latch has partnered with UPS to facilitate unattended package delivery (a major pain point for residents and operators), and with Airbnb's Niido to power smarter, more secure short-term rentals.