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PropTech – Trends and Predictions for 2021

In 2021, the PropTech trends in commercial real estate are dominated by safety, security and sustainability  +  big data and artificial intelligence.

Looking back, our 2020 PropTech trends predictions insight could never have anticipated the year we saw, with a global pandemic dominating headlines.

With this, the commercial real estate landscape had a rollercoaster twelve months of office closures, lockdowns and re-openings.

Fuelled by the challenges of the Coronavirus crisis as well as the changing business landscape and rising User expectations , PropTech companies are providing solutions to better manage commercial real estate buildings, add value to increase property appeal, providing services to build tenant confidence the environment is safe, etc.

Solutions of high interest provide technological features and services that add intelligence to processes, have more property insights and better metrics to manage their business and assets, make it easy for  people to know what’s happening in their space, improve user experience and boost productivity, build trust, facilitate achieving environmental and  sustainability objectives, providing a safe work place, etc. that include –


1. Data for Space Management and Optimization for the New Style of Work

In the year that witnessed disruption in the work environment, people are working from home with many using table workspaces (versus a desk at the office), participating in virtual conference calls (versus in-person meetings), etc. And while people are hopeful society reopens, with the strains of the virus and challenges in healthcare to address the issues associated with COVID-19, it isn’t clear when the situation will improve !

Because of this and ongoing uncertainties, organizations need to provide connected, intelligent and flexible environments – that can adapt and safely monitor occupancy.  For example, Smart Buildings enabled with digital twin technology provide real time data for space management and optimization. With meeting room booking systems and desk management, there’s an effective solution to social distancing in the workplace. The digital twin works by sensing and processing building occupancy data, providing real time availability information and visualization of desks and meeting rooms.

Further, it’s important to have a comprehensive facility management solution with a flexible booking system that lets you decide which spaces can be accessed and the number of people that can enter them. This keeps staff and occupiers safe with appropriate head counts per current social distancing guidelines in each room. It’s also a great way to manage occupancy with a more flexible, hybrid approach in the office or to balance office and home working needs – now and post-pandemic.

2.  Indoor Air Quality & Healthy Buildings

The air we breathe will also be placed under closer scrutiny in the post-COVID world, so we predict a greater emphasis on indoor air quality in 2021. Various health associations and real estate regulatory agencies have / are making recommendations to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus – including increasing the ventilation of spaces, switching to using outdoor air when closing the building recirculation dampers, etc.

Proactive property managers can maintain high standards of indoor air quality by leveraging the full control of a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) integrated with the Building Management System (BMS).  With a Smart Building Platform all the building systems are brought together to provide full control of the property.  This includes data being collected, collated, and analyzed from the HVAC system and cloud-connected smart IAQ (indoor air quality) sensors so that facility managers can monitor levels of airborne particulate concentration in the workplace and control the ventilation, temperature and humidity in the building – to provide a healthy and safe workplace environment.

3.  Charge Point Infrastructure – for EVs, etc.

To improve indoor air quality as described above, there is also a need to reduce CO2 emissions.  With the numerous issues with fossil fuels and the need to have a more sustainable planet, this is triggering additional requirements for clean energy. With the United Nations calling for net zero emissions by 2050, and various countries setting lower CO2 emission limits in the years ahead, providing building infrastructure is a new opportunity to increase property appeal and value into a growing market with expanded services and revenue streams.

Based on this insight, the demand for electric vehicle infrastructure is expected to grow. With this, organizations can reduce their carbon footprint and have a more sustainable workplace and improve optics that reflects shared values with tenants and employees.  With this, electric vehicle charging points enable people to charge their car at work (after their commute) and utilize a Smart Spaces Platform that integrates with the charge point system to supply a host of features to streamline processes, ensure the vehicle is ready for the trip home, provide metrics to quantity value, etc. With this, property managers can monitor the energy use and the associated fees for each user at each station – with occupiers scheduling and paying for their charging through a  Mobile App, including users being notified when charging is complete.

4.  System & Facility  Security

As commercial real estate becomes more technologically advanced, it is important to ensure there are safe guards against security or privacy concerns, regulatory non-compliance,  and other risks.  For example, because data breaches can cause significant financial losses and brand damage, it’s essential systems are in place to protect company IP, employees, Customers, etc.  Because of this, ensure people in the company are well versed in Cybersecurity and have processes to mitigate unwanted surprises !   IoT-connected sensors and devices are vulnerable to cyber-attacks, but technology like blockchain fully automates data storage, removing the risk of human error that remains the leading cause of data breaches.

To mitigate issues, real estate companies need to approach cybersecurity threats in advance, with measures in place like risk assessments, system security and architecture reviews, penetration tests, incident response reports, a crisis management plan, etc.

By utilizing Smart Buildings Solutions (ie: Microshare, etc.) for smart cleaning , occupancy monitoring, environmental monitoring, contact tracing, automation, etc. you can have the needed capabilities and security with seamless system integration.

5.  Sustainability and Net Zero Carbon Emissions

With ESG becoming very important by large investment firms and the need for companies to meet the 2050 net zero carbon deadline, many businesses are increasing up their ESG activities in 2021.  Having observed large commercial buildings having lots of lights on after hours (despite being vacant),  this will be a thing of the past with smart ‘green’ building technology.

With energy efficiency being vital to achieving net zero carbon emissions, Smart Building Environmental & Workplace Solutions are crucial to get there.  To improve outcomes – software, a platform, sensors, data, analytics, and increasingly artificial intelligence are utilized in real time to monitor and better manage energy usage and the work environment.  Further, this level of control by a Smart Building platform extends from access and lighting to climate control too.  For instance, rather than running an AHU (air handling unit) at 100% round the clock, the platform optimizes the rate to replace air and can turn down the AHU in response to this – for energy and cost savings.

And with a digital twin, you have information about the carbon footprint of a building, tracking and analyzing information. This goes beyond energy consumption, to insight into the carbon impact of waste and water consumption too, to maximize efficiency throughout the building and create a sustainable future.

6.  AI , AR , VR , Bio Metrics and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence is no longer the reserve of futuristic fantasy films, and is fast becoming the norm in many industries, including real estate.

Augmented and virtual reality will be increasingly used for experiential property viewings that bring commercial real estate space to life. VR can be used to provide prospective tenants and buyers virtual tours of buildings anywhere in the world.  For example, AR – which inserts virtual layers over the top of reality –  helps agents demonstrate a rich view of what a space could look like when occupied.

The use of biometric data is also another popular technological advancement. Features like voice and facial recognition provide control in smart enabled buildings and offer clients increased safety and security. For instance, there is capacity for contactless access to buildings using facial detection where minimizing surface contact is important to stopping the spread of disease.

Further, a Smart Spaces Digital Twin portal uses machine learning to transform building data into actionable insights that provide analytics and visibility for proactive property management.


Jan 25, 2021                  –                PropTech / CAIL  Newsletter