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From Tracking Shoppers To Tenant Gym Schedules, Landlords Embrace Tech

Predictive analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data are increasingly becoming a part of day-to-day operations for landlords. Developers and landlords are partnering with tech companies, investing in and creating tech to create better experiences for their tenants and streamline operations within their companies. 

Brookfield Ventures Managing Director Josh Raffaelli, Kilroy Senior Vice President Matt Griffin and EQ Office Vice President of Real Estate Technology and Innovation Ryan Salvas during CREtech San Francisco event

Tech is a big part of EQ Office’s shifting real estate strategy. Instead of being asset-focused, it is moving toward a customer-focused strategy, EQ Office Vice President of Real Estate Technology and Innovation Ryan Salvas said during the CREtech San Francisco event Thursday. That means using tech to better understand a customer’s spatial needs and develop services that benefit them.

With more companies farming out their real estate departments, EQ Office has changed the way it provides surveys to its customers to better understand their needs. Instead of asking about square footage needs and using real estate jargon, it will use common language and ask about future hiring and expected growth to assess a tenant’s needs, he said.

EQ Office also is focusing on the flex office market to make sure clients aren’t locking themselves into space they don’t need. It partnered with Industrious to bring flex office space to Howard Hughes Center in LA with plans to add this service to other locations. 

The company also is assessing customers' digital clutter and who employees email and work with the most to make sure those employees are seated closer to each other to cut down on digital clutter.

One way to make a user’s experience better is to provide applications to employees in the building that can anticipate the user’s needs instead of just be a cluster of apps, Salvas said.

Landlords have been creating applications for their tenants to add an additional level of service, such as ordering food or scheduling transportation.

Using machine learning, apps can learn what a person uses the app for the most, such as going to the gym and notifying the user if they want to schedule a class they took the previous week, Salvas said.

He said the company is building these capabilities in its Willis Tower in Chicago. The biggest challenges with creating these interfaces is building off of legacy tech in older buildings without ripping everything out, Salvas said.

Prologis Innovation Lead Breton Birkhofer said Prologis looks at tech to solve the company's challenges whether involving leasing operations, building management or improving tenant experience.

This means looking at ways to digitize assets and leverage data in new ways such as using drones, artificial intelligence analytics and asset tracking. The industrial developer also is looking into ways to solve customer problems such as finding better ways to work with automation in warehouses and connecting warehouses to a truck's telematics, which typically monitor a truck's location and travel time.

The company has strategic partnerships, develops in-house tech and invests in tech companies. It partnered with Airware, a drone analytics company that automated the property inspection process of Prologis' buildings. The partnership resulted in improving the company's safety record, reducing the time an inspector spends on the roof and resulted in predictive analytics to better anticipate maintenance needs.

Rendering of Kilory Realty's Flower Market project in San Francisco

Kilroy Realty Corp. is planning to use tech in its mixed-use Flower Mart project years before its 2024 delivery date, Kilroy Senior Vice President Matt Griffin said. The project involves turning a wholesale flower market into a 125K SF market and building 2M SF of office. The project also will include a European-style food hall and experiential retail, Griffin said.

He said the company is building a 35-foot-wide and 17-foot-tall electronic wall in its marketing center to create an augmented reality experience for prospective tenants to give them a better idea of what the building will look like.

“If you don’t have that immersive experience for your prospective tenant base and really … take that opportunity for that one chance to make that impression with that CEO ... or whoever you’re dealing with, it could really blow that opportunity,” he said. “So we really invest heavily in tech when it comes to the marketing side.”

Brookfield is investing in tech through Brookfield Ventures, a new unit devoted to investing in startups across real estate, infrastructure, power and private equity. It plans to invest $200M to $300M over the next three years across these lines.

Brookfield Ventures Managing Director Josh Raffaelli said his organization targets Series B tech that is relevant to improving operations at Brookfield.

Brookfield Ventures has already invested $15M in BuildingConnected, a networking platform for general contractors, owners and subcontractors. Prior to the creation of the unit, the company invested in Convene, a flex office and meeting provider.

Using More Market Intelligence To Assess Opportunities

JLL Managing Director Jak Churton and Prologis Innovation Lead Breton Birkhofer during the CREtech San Francisco event

One of the forms of technology landlords are heavily focused on is predictive analytics to better understand acquisition opportunities and target specific demographics and tenants. 

To make better decisions about which retailers should be at Flower Mart, Kilroy plans to work with JLL to use its PinPoint tool, geofencing software that analyzes mobile GPS and cellular to track customers and tenants coming and going from a building, Griffin said. Sensors typically track how long and where a person goes while in the area.

Prologis is looking at data to better understand market opportunities. It is using data to better understand where quality labor is to better assess where valuable real estate opportunities are, Birkhofer said. Industrial companies have been struggling with finding labor during a period of very low unemployment, so proper placement of facilities would better benefit users.

EQ Office is finding ways to better develop market intelligence and understand where people are moving from and where they are going, housing absorption, where venture capital funding is going, where graduates are going and mapping that out, Salvas said.

When the company considers buying an asset on Market Street in San Francisco, it will be better informed about the asset and the surrounding neighborhood.

The biggest challenge to data is finding the right data that speaks to the users, he said.

“Really trying to slice and dice [data] and make it mean something for people who are not tech savvy, I think is the biggest challenge real estate and tech have,” Salvas said.