Inventing Dinosaurs - by Andrew Waller

Our friend, Antony Slumbers’ recent Estates Gazette article on technology let slip the comment: "The iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 are virtually indistinguishable. Therefore, the smartphone has been perfected”.

But has it? I am completely dependent on mine but despite this, I think there is lots wrong with the design.

My smartphone is currently sitting on the desk beside my laptop because it is uncomfortably large sitting in my pocket. It’s too heavy; it’s easily broken; and the battery life is still too short. The memory fills up with data after a year and slows down the phone, and, it fails to connect up properly with other devices (sports) or I need to compromise on what I want to do.

On form and function it therefore fails. So why are Samsung and Apple apparently content to stop making huge leaps of innovation?

If you were to assume that Apple simply went for a land-grab to capture as many fee paying customers as possible, the end goal of a truly useful, portable and inconspicuous piece of design becomes irrelevant; Apple (and Samsung) has achieved the land grab – why not stop there?

We also know that people – customers - hate change, and so further marketing to persuade customers to adopt the Next Big Thing would not add greatly to revenues. Why not stick with what customers like?

And so, dinosaurs are born. The way is therefore clear for someone with the clout of Apple to reinvent things. Again.

However, step-changes come about infrequently and unexpectedly. For example, we are seeing small changes in the real estate market despite some very active PR surrounding Proptech – the generic name for the new band of revolutionary property ideas based on new technology. The recent Proptech 2016 conference in London was very similar to ones back in the dotcom boom in 2000 – new ideas emerged in the years after, but few were revolutionary.

Rather than rely on technology alone to solve our problems, let’s look at some obvious issues.
The “Average time to sell a home falls to record low of 57 days” proclaims the FT on 20th June. Nearly two months? Really? When travel markets, financial markets and the banks can exchange data digitally and instantaneously? If the current Proptech evangelists are to succeed they need to find a compelling reason to change and that simply isn’t happening.

We think the change will come from one of three places, or all three at the same time. Firstly, digital data will eventually find its way into real estate. When this is captured reliably - using technology already available such as BIM, BMS and block chain - due diligence time will shrink, speeding transactions to days if not hours. Next up, flexible use of space on non-lease agreements such as those offered by Regus and WeWork will begin to replace leases as soon as traditional landlords recognise the profits that are being sucked out of their legacy investments. Lease-as-a-Service is real and transformational. Lastly, Machine Learning is being leap-frogged by Deep Learning at a rate that is terrifying – how can a lawyer or broker add value if not only knowledge, but quite significant reasoning is being done by machines. People will be needed - but not for the basics… or even quite complex analysis.

In real estate, we have not yet had our iPhone moment but it may come sooner than most people think.