On the future of PropTech and real estate: Interview with Michael Ewert, JLL

By 1 February 2017Commentary

JLL is a professional services and investment management firm offering specialized real estate services to clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying and investing in real estate. JLL started its operations in Poland in 1994 and operates in more than 280 corporate offices across 80 countries with global workforce of more than 70,000 people.

JLL is a partner of ‘The Heart Warsaw’, a brand new corporate-startup collaboration center. Michael Ewert, the Head of Business Solutions and Business Intelligence EMEA from JLL, shares his insight on the future of PropTech.

What are the current trends in the real estate industry?

PropTech, a field that encompasses digital business models around buildings with products around smart buildings, AI or IoT.  It is a cluster that has recently emerged and is starting to revolutionize the real estate industry. Five years ago, this field was practically non-existent and innovation were mainly covered by established technology companies. Now, first VC investors, accelerators and advisors are starting to concentrate on PropTech. JLL sees its role, in this field, as a co-innovator and a partner to scale products for the benefit of our clients. Last year, for example, we acquired Corrigo, a cloud-based facility management solution making our technology even better for our clients. I think that the industry has not yet reached a point where we can talk about a boom, but in a 2-3 year perspective, a large wave of innovation will make its presence known in our industry.

What will happen in the near future?

The main challenge is that the real estate and construction industries are in most instances technologically 10 or even 15 years behind other industries like automotive or consumer goods. What we observe is that disruptive technologies that can be applied in business processes, services or even in construction works become already available on the market – think about drones performing quantity surveying, or robots executing construction works. Trends like robotics or 3D printing will be ready soon to be scaled in this industry. For us, it is extremely interesting to see how others react to these trends. It allows us to predict their impact on the real estate industry and to participate in a collective disruption in the market. Personally, I consider it the most effective way of creating new products and innovations: finding partners and an ecosystem that goes beyond the traditional corporate innovation path. This is exactly what ‘The Heart Warsaw’ will be dealing with.

Is this why you became a partner of The Heart?

For us, ‘The Heart Warsaw’ is an access point to innovations of start-ups dealing with FinTech, OmniChannel, smart buildings, smart cities and IoT. We see great potential in ‘The Heart’ not only because of startups offering interesting products, but also because of the presence of Fortune 500 corporations like ourselves. This will help us to create a common understanding of the future for all of our industries.

The first program of ‘The Heart’, FinTech, has already begun. Are you participating in it?

The core program which we would like to participate in is the one that concentrates on smart buildings, smart cities and IoT – essentially an arena for PropTech. Nevertheless, when we look at the FinTech program that is currently happening, we can see some innovations that are also of interest to us. Our clients’ real estate has to keep evolving because of disruptive trends – think about virtual or digital banking. JLL helps its clients build solutions to address these challenges within their portfolios. So, whilst we don’t solely concentrate on FinTech, I can see a strong correlation with this field.

Do you think that in the future, the boundaries between these fields will merge even further?

Every single company will experience the effects of digitalization and will have to react in some way. For example, the biggest trend I see is the Internet of Things – there is virtually no industry that is not interested in IoT and the data it produces. I expect to see a dominant corporation, such like Google or Amazon, to emerge as aggregator or the key innovator in this area. This in turn will surely bring industries closer together and cause boundaries to blur. Will they merge completely? I can’t see it yet, but the existence of places like The Heart Warsaw, where companies from various fields work towards a common goal, is an indicator that we are moving in this direction.

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