The rise of the robot surveyor

I do not know if you saw it, but back in April Dr Sabine Hauert of the Royal Society wrote an article for the BBC regarding the “Eight ways intelligent machines are already in your life”.

The list includes how AI (Artificial Intelligence) is changing the way we shop, the way in which we communicate and use our mobile phones and how we do our banking, along with other changes in science, education and in healthcare. Doctor Hauert concludes the article by saying: “Over the next 10 years machine learning technologies will increasingly be part of our lives, transforming the way we work and live.”

So what transformations can we expect in the world of real estate? How will jobs in surveying change over the next ten years?

It is a topic that I, and my colleague Bob Thompson, have taken a close look at over the past year or so and our findings are now available in an Insight Report that has been published by the RICS. 

As part of our study for the ‘Impact of Emerging Technologies on the Surveying Profession’ report, we identified a set of 43 basic tasks that surveyors undertake as part of their day-to-day activity. Having identified these we looked at their exposure to automation and found that almost half were found to exhibit a high degree of vulnerability, while a further twenty showed a significant degree of vulnerability.

We believe this means that, over the next decade, almost 90% of the core tasks undertaken by surveyors could be impacted by new and emerging technologies.

Our own findings were complemented in the report by a survey of property professionals, who were asked for their own opinions on the likely impact of technology on surveying. This allowed us to conclude that the disruption caused by automation within surveying is most likely to be seen in the specialisations of lease management, valuation and the direct management of property, investment & asset management and facilities management.

These changes will come about as a result of an increase in the consistency and transparency of transactions and an increase in the accuracy of reporting which will be increasingly done in real time, thanks to a massive increase in the deployment of building sensors.  In turn, there will be a reduction in the cost of managing buildings and portfolios. We also think that there will be a significant reduction in staffing in certain areas such as valuation.

Surveyors are multi-skilled professionals but with so many tasks being suitable for automation we have to expect far-reaching changes in our profession in the next few years with a change in the skillset of surveyors, who are likely to become either data scientists or client managers.

The changes that AI will bring about will offer both challenges and opportunities for surveyors that embrace the new technologies to bring value to their clients through increased efficiencies and high-level, strategic advice to their clients. The new technologies will allow property to compete with other asset classes on a level playing field.

Those that ignore the changes that are rapidly coming down the road will do so at their own peril.

Download a copy of ‘The Impact of Emerging Technologies on the Surveying Profession’.


Wheel Estate

Cycling is very much in the news at the moment. The Tour de Francehas just concluded in Paris and the Mayor of London has just launched his Transport Strategy. In the former, British cyclists are dominating the headlines.

On the face of it cycling would appear to be a solitary sport about individuals - Cavendish, Sagan, Thomas, Aru, Froome etc. However, it is one of the greatest team sports. One of the most impressive parts of cycling is that members of the team will sacrifice themselves and their whole race to "break" other teams by increasing the pace at key moments and by protecting the Maillot Jaune (Yellow Jersey) until the last few hundred metres - surely this is extreme - and very human thing to do. Behind these and a host of other names, is a big team of people and equipment, all playing their part.

And it's not just confined to sport. The property business is a team game too. Sometimes individuals may take the glory for a deal or for managing a client account but they have many more behind the scenes making things happen. Our experience with property outsourcing is that it's not about the key account manager nor the system but the all-round team, their performance and strength in depth. 

The experience of a workplace can be ruined by one link in the chain (like the pun?). At a recent event, ironically on the importance of the workplace, I was instructed that my Brompton bike, despite being folded up to a similar size as other guests bags, was not welcome. ("I'm sorry Neil you can't do that"). That spoilt my day and my experience at that building.

In our supply chain and also in the workplace, we need to welcome our new team member with a growing influence - the robot. Our work published this week as an Insight Paper by the RICS on the future role of the Chartered Surveyor suggests that your team will soon be made up partly of bits and bytes.

So, teamwork, often highlighted, not always celebrated or credited, is as important in cycling as it is in the property business. And talking of teamwork, the Remit team is proud to have been the authors of the recent BCO report on the implications of the growth in cycling on the workplace - The Market Cycles.

But how will the future of teamwork change? Who will be the property Maillot Jaunes? How will we protect them, how will we interface with the robots and what human aspects of the business of property will we lose? And, will the teamwork, esprit de corps and sheer hard work in real estate continue to provide an enjoyable career?

We think it will.


Velo-city conference 2017 - Nijmegen, The Netherlands

By Hans Gerritsen 


This year’s international cycling conference was held in my home town Nijmegen in June, so I pushed my way in, after hearing that several other associates of mine would be attending. The conference was hosted by Region Arnhem Nijmegen, which looks after various cities in the Netherlands.

Commuters, students, inhabitants and visitors travel to and from these cities in large numbers each day. In conjunction with the surrounding municipalities, the region can be best described as a smoothly-running ‘daily urban system’, which is becoming increasingly organised on a regional scale. Much effort is currently being devoted to developing new mobility systems, which include traffic and mobility management systems, public transport and the creation of an extensive infrastructure network of fast cycle routes. These fast cycle routes ideally complement the daily urban system: because they offer greater comfort, are free of obstacles and they allow cyclists to travel much greater distances. 

The conference involved a Mayors Session, in which 30 mayors participated, including the Mayors and Deputy Mayors of Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Dublin, Mannheim, Kampala, Oslo, Dusseldorf and Nantes. Other renowned participants included EU commissioner for transport, Violeta Bulc, ITF secretary General José Viegas, and the Luxemburg minister for transport. The main objective of the event was to exchange ideas and experiences on how to create 'Governance for more Cycling'.

More about Velo-City

ECF’s Velo-city is the world’s leading provider of international cycling conferences. It is the largest gathering of cycling professionals in the world, enabling both academics and practitioners to discuss innovations, ideas and best practice strategies for cycling. This year’s event, was hosted in the ‘cycling capital of the world’ - the Netherlands. The theme was ‘the freedom of cycling’, which relates to the physical, economic, social and spiritual freedom of travel and well-being. The conference had a vibrant structure, bringing together cycling professionals from every sector, including academics, politicians, cycling advocates, mayors from many cities, press and media, cycling networks and communities.

More about Scientists for Cycling Network

Launched at the Velo-city Global 2010 conference in Copenhagen, the Scientists for Cycling network was created due to the growing recognition that there is a large number of experts worldwide, in many different academic disciplines, who are able and ready to contribute to ECF’s mission: to improve and to increase cycling. Research, research-plans and scientific-based publications on cycling or cycling-related matters are often not sufficiently connected to (the networks of) other scientists, professionals and volunteers who concentrate on cycling. The Scientists for Cycling network is designed to bridge this gap.

Why the Netherlands? Bicycles! The Netherlands!

Two terms, two images that are inextricably linked with each other! The Dutch really enjoy cycling. Most Dutch people (84%) own at least one bicycle. Of the 17 million inhabitants in the Netherlands, 13.5 million are cyclists, who own 22.3 million bicycles in total! There is no other similarly-affluent country in the world where bicycles are used so intensively! The Dutch cycle mainly because they find the bicycle to be a pleasant and reliable means of transport. The Netherlands is the world's number 1 cycling country for good reason!

Facts and figures

The Dutch choose the bicycle for a quarter of our journeys overall and one third of all journeys up to 7.5 kilometres in length! That equates to more than 4.5 billion journeys by bicycle each year, and a distance of 15 billion kilometres. On average, each inhabitant of the Netherlands completes 300 journeys by bicycle each year, covering a distance of more than 900 kilometres!

Those key facts and figures about cycling in the Netherlands are part of the reason why holding Velo-city 2017 in the Netherlands, and more specifically in the Arnhem-Nijmegen region, was such an attractive and unique opportunity!