Disruption doesn’t have to be a bad thing: DisruptCRE event reveals how technology and real estate are colliding

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We all know that technology is changing our lives. We’re lost without our smartphones by our side, we can’t get from point A to point B without “ubering” there, and we don’t even need to go into a store anymore because we can buy everything on Amazon. But when it comes to our professional lives, the overwhelming presence of those types of disruptive technologies are much less prevalent, and stepping into the workplace is sometimes like stepping back in time. But likely not for long.

The technology revolution is in full force, and no industry is exempt. It became abundantly clear at last week’s DisruptCRE event here in Boston that despite initial resistance, the commercial real estate industry is now ripe for this seemingly welcomed disruption.


If there was one pervasive theme to take away from the afternoon, it was that technology is driving efficiencies that the market seems to be thirsting for. And, perhaps even more importantly, these disruptive technologies are impacting everyone – from tenants to landlords, investors, property managers, and brokers.

The availability of things like apps that tell you about a building’s amenities, or allow you to take part in crowdsourcing temperature or maintenance issues are now critical differentiators. As one panelist at the seminar put it, “it would almost be like suicide” not to have these and similar technologies available.

According to most everyone who sat on a panel last Thursday, WeWork seemed to be setting the standard for this type of disruption. The co-working leader with a $10 billion valuation offers its tenants tons of on-site luxuries and amenities, as well as technologies like a social networking app that lets members collaborate whenever they want. As the NY Times recently put it, “it’s an office utopia designed for Millennials.” And if last week’s event was any indication, the rest of the industry is clearly taking notice.

When it all comes down to it, these technologies are driving efficiencies across the board, but they’re also driving insights. The amount of data being collected as a result of these game-changing technologies is astronomical. As Levon Hooks, JLL’s Global CIO for Corporate Solutions who was on two of the afternoon’s panels said, “big data affects every part of our business.” That couldn’t be more true, and we’re only just skimming the surface of its true potential.

Technology is opening up a world of possibility when it comes to the commercial real estate industry, but there might be a reason why some of it is not more widely adopted. If there was one consistent gripe about the impact it’s having on the space, it was that despite the demand for these types of tools, they are currently too disparate, making it hard to really leverage them in a meaningful way. Despite that, the 20+ companies (including Building Engines, CrowdComfort, PivotDesk, and others) who pitched their solutions at the start of the afternoon were proof that technology has made its way into commercial real estate, and the disruption is fully underway.

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