We’ve covered six of the most exciting proptech trends in 2021 below, so read on for an insight into the future of tech in flexspaces. (This is a guest post for Yardi by Zoe Ellis-Moore – owner of Spaces to Places and an expert in the flexible workspace sector.)
From video-calling family abroad to booking doctor’s appointments online, it’s hard to imagine a world where our lives aren’t continually streamlined by advancing technology. The global shift to remote working over the past year has only emphasised how critical digital innovations are, showing the true scale of what technology can do for us, both as individuals and professionals.
Speaking more specifically, positive sentiment towards tech implementation has been growing within the commercial property industry for years. A 2018 proptech survey by KPMG revealed that 97% of respondents believed tech innovations would impact their business but, importantly, 73% view this as an opportunity rather than a threat. Flexible office operators, in particular, are in a unique position to benefit from the combined opportunity of innovative technology coupled with a growing market.
It’s clear that there’s demand for more tech innovations in the commercial property sector, but the harder question to answer is what emerging technology will make the biggest impact.
What is proptech?
Proptech – short for property technology – is the application of technology within the property sector. It entails a huge range of individual innovations, from bespoke software to help real estate operators manage property listings to advanced security systems within a flexible workspace. Property technology is designed to help owners and managers in the industry keep up with ever-evolving demands, improve efficiency of operations, and create a better user experience for customers.
Flexspace proptech trends for 2021
Virtual viewings and remote onboarding
Previously, occupiers looking for an office space would narrow down their selection to a handful before even setting foot inside any of them. In person viewings require travel to site and not everyone has the time to go on an endless tour of potential spaces.
Virtual viewings, however, provide a great opportunity for both occupants and operators – clients get to choose from a greater selection of offices, and operators get access to an increased number of occupants looking for a place to work. Fast forward to the onboarding process, and advances such as digital document signing and online resource centres remove the need for an in person walkthrough at all.
In essence, the entire conversion process from lead generation to onboarding can benefit from integrated automation fuelled by data capture. A great example of this is the idea of a personalised funnel for leads, with data collected from previous online interactions influencing the next step in the process to give them a tailored experience.
WiFi itself is hardly a new trend, but better management of WiFi networks and bandwith distribution through automated and integrated tech solutions is. Flexible workspaces inherently have high demand for fast and efficient WiFi, and technology that can help ensure that wireless networks in flexspaces stay fast and nimble, even at peak times, is extremely valuable.
Products like Yardi Kube IT Management – a high-performance and flexible connectivity solution allowing customers to flex their WiFi parameters with ease – are making network management much simpler. Automated data reports enable occupiers to visualise bandwidth use by occupier, uncovering highly actionable insights and enabling better bandwidth partitioning to create a more efficient and cost-effective network.
Office security has always been a high priority for both operators and tenants, but it’s becoming increasingly important as workspaces shift towards 24/7 models, allowing access any time of the day. It’s not practical to have on-site security at all times, so operators are forced to consider how to keep their space and its occupants safe outside of traditional working hours.
One of the main solutions to this problem is being provided by advances in security technology. Innovations such as smart cameras and door access control systems, which only grant access to authorised individuals, are on the rise. They can help to create a workspace that’s secured around the clock, while still remaining welcoming to anyone who belongs there.
Online portals & mobile apps
Online customer service portals are nothing new but the move to ‘online everything’ in 2020 resulted in a shift in how we prefer to manage admin. Customers are now happier than ever before to deal with an automated service over a person, with a Statista study showing 88% of people expect organisations to have an online management portal of some kind.
Technologies like chatbots, online room-booking, and video-conferencing platforms have opened up a world of possibilities. Online portals can now be treated as a fully-fledged part of the customer experience, integrating with the physical environment to create a seamless user journey.
The same ideas hold true for mobile applications for members, too. A mobile app can be the perfect tool for members to manage their experience in flexible workspaces including easy space booking, community interaction and license management. Mobile app technology can also take the hard work out of running a flexible workspace for operators. With tools that capture leads, streamline bookings, simplify accounting and member management, connected technology such as Yardi Kube, underpins the entire process.
Internet of Things
Internet of Things (or IOT) is the term used to describe the vast (and growing) collection of devices that are connected to and interact with the internet. A particularly notable example of IOT devices that have helped to make physical spaces more connected are smart ‘home hubs’ such as Nest. These devices, usually fixed to a wall and connected to a local network, allow you to control the thermostat in your home remotely via the internet.
As we head into the future, the Internet of Things will grow to cover most aspects of life, optimising the day-to-day human experience. Flexible workspaces are bound to benefit from such advancements, with features like instant room booking and access helping to keep up with the varied needs of occupiers.
Automation has the potential to have the biggest impact on how flexspace operators run their space. The automation of services, both customer-facing and not, frees up time for staff to focus on innovation and service improvements.
But automation isn’t just about saving time – automated data monitoring and error flagging, and features such as smart glass, which intuitively adapts to light to ensure a glare-free environment, help to create a high-end customer experience, where issues are fixed before they’re even raised.
In fact, there’s not much in a workspace that can’t be automated, from member and space management to billing, property operations to contract renewal. Simpler examples include intuitive features that don’t require human interaction, like meeting room bookings, while more complicated examples of automation applications include CRM management and onboarding processes.
Air quality monitoring
Air quality monitoring might sound like a sci-fi fantasy, but a survey from the Shelton Group shows that up to 60% of people are concerned about the quality of indoor air. Occupational health and general wellbeing are both growing concerns and there’s never been more of an emphasis on creating physical environments that are good for the people that use them. Air quality monitoring systems help with this aim.
Contrary to their name, they don’t just monitor air quality within a space but also automatically adapt to counter negative changes in air quality within an environment, purifying the air and creating a healthier, happier workplace.