July 6, 2020

In recent years a wide range of technological solutions has enabled companies to enhance resilience, maintain stability, ensure business and real estate continuity. However, the adoption of these digital tools has been gradual in some companies as they lacked the urgency or compelling reasons to alter their approach. However, COVID-19 has initiated companies to adopt digital solutions at an unprecedented pace, with the outbreak appearing to be a genuine catalyst for change.

But how will India emerge on the global digitisation curve, and why? The world is in the throes of the fourth industrial revolution – one driven by the convergence of physical and digital worlds (machine learning, robotics, artificial intelligence, etc.). While India must cover significant ground when compared with the developed world, technology is now fundamentally changing the way citizens live and work.

According to a survey by CBRE, digitisation is taking precedence across the sector, and more than 90 percent of the occupiers and developers are aiming to bring a technological shift in their business operations within the next five years.

Technology will become an integral part of sales–both online and offline and will be instrumental in commercial real estate in India, for example; cbre.co.in/properties- Commercial Listings Platform.

The COVID-19 situation has increased focus on the installation of collaborative technology and PropTech for business and FM operations. Some of the technologies that have been or can be utilised in the office, retail, project management, FM, logistics sectors and why they are likely to have a far-reaching impact on the real estate industry are listed below:

Virtual reality platforms

Visualising a built-out space without an on-site visit can be challenging--even when plans and renderings are available-- potential tenants prefer to visit sites in-person to evaluate whether space is suited to their requirements.

For occasions when this is not possible, there exists a range of 3D interactive tools with virtual reality (VR) technology enabling users to conduct virtual tours of potential sites to visualize how they might look in the real world.

CBRE’s Floored Build digitises the site inspection process and helps companies understand what their potential new space looks and feels like and how their staff and workstations fit into it.

Floored Build can create a virtual 3D model from sketches, floor plans, photos and computer-aided design (CAD) images and can also re-create existing space and visualise remodeled spaces or planned sites. Images can be captured and accessed remotely and across a range of devices.

Cloud-based solutions

The COVID-19 outbreak has prompted the government and private sector in many countries like India to order or encourage employees to work from home to limit social contact.

CBRE believes this largescale–and broadly successful–trial will spur companies to be more willing to accelerate the adoption of flexible working policies in the future. While this may result in companies requiring less office space per employee in the long run, there will be more robust demand for higher quality space capable of encouraging collaboration, innovation, and employee well-being.

Cloud technology has played a key role in supporting remote working by connecting users with their enterprise databases and other online resources.

With demand projected to grow significantly in the coming years, enterprises should enhance their cloud capacity to ensure business sustainability, which will also require an emphasis on security. Large corporations typically use Virtual Private Network (VPN) and multi-factor authentication technology to ensure access to data and systems restricted to authorised employees.

Remote communication

With many employees working from home or other remote locations, companies have deployed a range of technologies to help their staff facilitate communication, perform their day-to-day duties and attend virtual meetings.

Project management apps that enable remote collaboration between teams and allow remote access to documents and folders include Microsoft 365 Suite etc and workflow management tools have also seen rapid take-up.

In addition, client relationship management and sales management software including Salesforce, and human resources management platforms have also started seeing traction.

The convenience offered by these technologies is helping us sustain business continuity during the COVID-19 outbreak, with companies set to continue relying on such tools even when business is back to normal.

Digitisation has also resulted in a more coherent relationship between developers and occupiers; the former are fine-tuning their strategies to be in line with occupier’s expectations on technology and infrastructure. Cost efficiency has remained a major aspect in improving processes and business efficiency.

Technology has enabled companies to digitise processes and make data-driven decisions about how to manage and use space.

Moreover, the current scenario of social distancing and the lockdown of physical spaces due to COVID 19 have led to more importance for digitisation. As a majority of the people pre-research their buying interests online before making a decision, real estate is no different. In this digital era users' expectations have also risen and players that provide a differentiated post-crisis experience will stay ahead of the curve.