INNOVATE

Construction and Real Estate are Ready for Disruption

The construction and real estate industries are primed for technology disruption. Don’t miss out on the opportunity.

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BY Rhett Power - 03 Aug 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Heard of constru-tech? How about RE-tech? If you're scratching your head, don't feel like you've missed something. Those monikers simply don't exist.

Construction and real estate may be some of the last holdouts when it comes to fully embracing technology. Some players have tentatively toyed with it, of course, but only 8 percent feel they've hit leading-edge status when it comes to tech, and just slightly more than 20 percent are even trying. Enter the disruptors who will help them take the leap to the next level of performance and efficiency.

Mike Kalis, CEO of Marketplace Homes in Detroit, is one of the leaders of the charge. His brokerage firm acts as a tech-driven solutions provider that helps both construction companies and homebuyers improve their success. When Marketplace Homes launched in 2007 amidst the real estate market crisis, the company saw the industry's volatility as an opening for tech advances. After launching its app, Zip Tours, it was on its way to becoming a go-to source for builders, investors, property managers, and homebuyers across the globe.

I recently sold a property in Virginia that I had been trying to sell for years with traditional agencies and agents. It was a bad investment on my part (that's another story) and hard to sell the way traditional agents market properties. It was frustrating and I knew I needed an agency that could target the right buyer. I finally hired Teddi Alyce Segal Principal Broker at Honey House a boutique, high-touch real estate brokerage that emphasizes strategy and employs a sophisticated tech strategy. The place sold in days because she used analytics, social media and a proprietary system to find the right buyer.

Joining the Tech Revolution -- One Step at a Time

Construction and real estate startups have an opportunity to match -- and maybe even surpass -- the tech powers of the finance and agricultural industries, both of which are using big data for an array of processes. From the construction site to the office, companies can differentiate themselves from competitors through tech innovations.

Perhaps founders would be wise to study the financial tech industry, which is earning high grades for its adoption of new fintech products and services. According to the World Retail Banking Report 2017, two out of three of the industry's consumers use technology, and about 80 percent believe it changes their experiences for the better.

If construction and real estate could reach similar numbers using tech to bridge gaps, close sales, communicate effectively, and alter perceptions, the industries would likely see record success at a local, national, and even global scale. Companies eager to shed outdated skins and enjoy the benefits that come with technological advancements can start with these strategies.

1. Ditch the pulp, and head for the cloud

Still drowning in paperwork? As the saying goes, "There's an app for that!" Fieldwire, for instance, allows real-time tracking from construction site workers to back-end employees, promoting instantaneous information exchanges and eliminating needless gaps in decision-making. Want OSHA guidelines at your employees' and subcontractors' fingertips? Safety Meeting App is the fast, paperless answer. Professional apps turn your crew into an empowered machine that isn't hindered by distance, time, or documentation.

2. Switch to advanced materials

Tech overhauls aren't limited to computers and mobile devices. They also make up the fabric of everyday tools and materials. Forward-thinking construction companies of all sizes use everything from 3D printing to carbon fibers to create items stronger and more sustainable than ever before. For example, a Harvard University report found environmental and practical benefits to using epoxy honeycombs for wind turbine creation, as opposed to traditional balsa wood solutions.

3. Improve project monitoring

Drones sometimes get a bad rap, but they're proving useful for construction site monitoring. Skycatch, a drone image-processing platform that can create 3D models from photos, gives companies the ability to comprehensively see the trees and the forest. And Fieldlens improves site examinations and communications by spurring collaboration among colleagues to streamline processes that would otherwise seem chaotic.

4. Try renewable energy

Renewability goes beyond replacing the light bulbs in your headquarters -- so proved Dutch firm Heijmans, which introduced Smart Highway in collaboration with designer Daan Roosegaarde. This roadway features solar-powered lights, as well as electric vehicle priority lanes and dynamic paint. Not worried about avenues? Consider placing solar panels on roofs or wind turbines to boost natural energy.

5. Invest in the latest wearables

Wearable technology isn't just cool; it's often safer, especially for construction workers. Plus, it comes in plenty of shapes and sizes, from smart vests to bionic suits. A great example is Smart Helmet, which has several features, including an augmented reality component. If your workers have to wear helmets, anyway, it makes sense to have them use the best technology.

6. Use analytics to deliver better customer experience

As Segal told me,"effective use of analytics and technology allows me to serve up marketing on behalf of home sellers to precisely the right buyers. Almost all buyers start their searches online so I want to be right there when they get serious about selling or buying. In my opinion, great service in real estate depends on access to the right data to make smart decisions and the right platforms to deliver stress-free transactions".

The world is changing rapidly and business has to adapt to that change. It will be interesting to see who in real estate and construction will find new ways to use technology to improve customer service and experience. Who will disrupt these two industries?