Workplace technology affects us all whether it is an entry system to a building or personal devices connected to work email servers. A lot of technological advancements have been made out of sight and only become apparent to us when something breaks or a magazine writes a headline. Here are some of the most commonly used terms, and their acronyms, affecting commercial real estate (CRE) currently.
Building Management System (BMS)
The least a tenant should demand from a building is a Building Management System. A BMS is a data collection and monitoring system that can do a number of things depending on its level of sophistication. A BMS can monitor who enters and leaves a building via key cards or biometric scanners. It can manage lighting and temperature depending on where in the building people are. A BMS can monitor power distribution, highlighting fluctuations and faults which could lead to an increase in utility bills.
Some systems can be operated remotely meaning a facilities manager can be anywhere with an internet connection. Some systems can schedule maintenance tasks for the facilities management team based manufacturer recommendation rather than emergency need. Additionally and perhaps most importantly, a BMS will help with building efficiency. An efficient building has elevators which are able to transport people up and down in good time, has automatic doors that don’t require a one second wait before they open, can manage water heating systems, can monitor water usage for green spaces, and much more.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
Virtual Reality is not the same as Augmented Reality (AR). Augmented Reality is a change to an existing landscape, Virtual Reality is the creation of one. In terms of commercial real estate, VR is being used to conceptualise how a building will look; think holograms and headsets. AR is used differently because it adapts a space. A shell and core floor can easily be imagined with VR but with AR an existing office space can be reimagined without the need for anything other than software.
AR is becoming so mainstream in real estate that building materials firms are creating apps. Jotun for example has a colour matching app which allows users to take a picture with a smartphone and create a colour pallette so as to match new wall paint to existing furniture. The possibilities are almost endless if we consider a digital version of an office can be created using a smartphone.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things has been referred to as the next industrial revolution. The reason such emphasis has been given to this term is simply due the scale of ‘things’. Cars, toasters, watches, air conditioning units, televisions, and an indescribabale amount of other things now contain computer processors of some variation. Connecting everything to the internet is being seen as the process of efficiency thanks to AI and machine learning.
In terms of retail, IoT is already being used to track the movements of customers as they shop. The old assumption that daily staples should be at the rear of the store (forcing customers to pass goods they may buy on impulse) is being challenged as cameras teach retailers consumer behavior. Arguably the highest profile development in retail recently has been Amazon’s cashierless stores, which allow customers to shop and self-pay thanks to person and product tracking software.
IoT could one day create a building management system which could recognise the entry to a property of a tenant, judge how long in terms of elevator journey and security checks the tenant needs to reach an office, and by the time the tenant has opened the office door, the temperature and lighting, and possibly even the coffee machine (or toaster), have all made themselves ready for use.
Many buildings in the MENA region offer management systems on par with the best systems available globally. With workplace comfort having been proved to improve staff efficiency, it’s time tenants demanded more from their buildings. Tenants who do are able to take advantage of generally lower utility bills and an overall better lease experience.
Author: Toby Hall
Toby is part of JLL’s MENA Agency team and is Head of Office Leasing in for the UAE. He is a Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and is a registered broker in Dubai with The Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA). Toby has over twelve years of experience in Office Leasing focusing on Landlord Representation in Central London, Hanoi, Vietnam and in the UAE