Big Data, AI and VR: The Next CRE Tech Trends From The Commercial Observer Innovators Forum

Julie Samuels, Maya Gal, Robert Entin, L.D. Salmanson, Matthew Baron

This week at Commercial Observer’s inaugural Innovators Forum, our CEO L.D. Salmanson participated in an insightful panel on the tech trends that will impact the commercial real estate industry in the years to come. Joining L.D. on the panel were Robert Entin, CIO of Vornado, Maya Gal, Co-Founder of Okapi, and Matthew Baron, President of Simon Baron Development with Julie Samuels of Tech:NYC moderating.

While the discussion covered different topics, there were a few main themes that were consistent across all panelist comments:

  • Technology for technology’s sake doesn’t really resonate with the commercial real estate industry. For example, a decision maker is not interested in buying something just because it’s a new technology in the space, they want to see the value-add or how a certain technology will impact their business and increase the bottom line. The business benefit derived from technology is more important than the fact that its new or “shiny.”
  • Commercial real estate is very capital intensive which means planning for technology can be a challenge. For a new building, it’s difficult to estimate the technological needs that might emerge five or ten years down the line and therefore, difficult to allocate capital to something that hasn’t even been developed yet. For existing buildings, it’s also very difficult to update or renovate to accommodate newer technology, largely due to cost and the challenges to existing tenants. 
  • “Going green” can have a real impact on the bottom line but once again, can be very capital intensive to accomplish. Government incentives can partially offset the cost of going green, which helps with motivating CRE owners/developers to consider environmental impact. Another motivating factor is cost-savings associated with making sustainable changes, such as energy sensors and energy-efficient fixtures. 
  • AI and machine learning are interesting developments in commercial real estate, but mostly within the context of the business impact. As L.D. noted, Cherre’s customers are very interested in the unique insights and differentiation they can derive by connecting their data, and are less motivated by the fact that Cherre uses AI and machine learning to collect, standardize, and connect the millions of data points on the platform. 

To close out the conversation, Julie asked each panelist what technology they were most excited about for the future. Answers ranged from fully connected smart buildings to 5G, but all were excited about how tech adoption is creating change and new opportunities in commercial real estate.