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Proptech Could Speed Return To Offices, But Only If Digital Networks Keep Up


To bring Americans back into the office safely, experts are proposing an abundance of high-tech upgrades from sensors that track employees and keep them from congregating, to air quality improvement equipment, to unmanned cleaning robots that can disinfect high-touch surfaces.

While all that technology might sound pricey, financial feasibility isn’t the main issue. The real question is: Do office buildings have strong enough digital networks to leverage these healthy building applications to their full potential? Without a strong digital backbone to collect and collate data, these property technologies may not actually make the office environment any safer.

Before they buy a proptech solution, owners may want to assess their digital capabilities. Airwavz, a technology infrastructure services company, has begun offering to analyze buildings’ networks at no cost to the owners, to determine what technologies are actually feasible on their current systems and where improvements can be made to expand owners’ capabilities. 

“We’re meeting owners where they are in their digital journey to empower them with the technologies they need to create a safe and sustainable environment for tenants,” Airwavz President Mark Horinko said. “That means making customized financial and technological decisions based on their situation.”

The sensors and WiFi-enabled devices that are being touted as prerequisites for reopening offices send a constant stream of data to central building servers. Owners that don’t have optical fiber running throughout their buildings could be overwhelmed by that mountain of new information. If property managers and owners lack the power to comb through that data and make decisions based on it, their new sensors may not actually help keep employees safer.

Plus, if they are not placed on a dedicated managed network, the sensors could negatively impact the tenant user experience and expose cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

When tenants do return to their offices, they will likely expect to see concrete ways that their building management teams are looking out for their safety and health. Much of that concrete investment is going to come in the form of proptech, according to JLL President of National Investor Accounts Tom Griffin. 

“The buildings that can point to their technologies and demonstrably show that they are doing more for their tenants to keep them informed and healthy, those are going to be the ones that retain their tenants through this crisis and come roaring out of the gate during the recovery,” Griffin said.

A strong digital backbone can provide seamless and secure wireless coverage throughout a property that will enable numerous applications to promote health and wellness, Horinko said, including technologies like:

  • Infrared thermometric imaging at scale, which can accurately measure temperatures across a building’s lobby without human contact and alert building operations of any high-temperature individuals on-site.
  • Smart parking solutions, which can reduce tenant interactions in parking garages, elevators and other common spaces.
  • Security and surveillance solutions that count and track employees throughout the workspace and can detect and discourage crowding in high-traffic areas.
  • Environmental sensors to improve tenant health with air quality monitoring.

For many owners, though, this shopping list of technologies may look overly ambitious, especially when they are working to keep cash on hand. Horinko said that Airwavz has always worked to provide the most cost-effective means toward client goals. 

For one client, Airwavz installed a fiber backbone, but delayed network deployment so that the client could take the time to define their asset needs more clearly. For another client, the firm devised a “continuity program,” building a network today while deferring payment for 12 months.

Some tenants may be more ready to move back into the office than others. Airwavz recently partnered with a client to rapidly deploy a partial square footage network solution to satisfy a demanding tenant.

“In the post-pandemic world, we are exploring ways to partner with our clients to support their effort to get back to work-live-play cities with equally creative and customized solutions to match their unique needs,” Horinko said.

This feature was produced in collaboration between the Bisnow Branded Content Studio and Airwavz Solutions. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.