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By James Dearsley

Co-Founder, Unissu


PropTech Today: We need long-term visions, not short-term fixes

With stamp duty cuts and 90% mortgages on their way back, anyone could think the housing market was about to go through a period of frantic excitement.

We could all be accused of being guilty of looking at all this through a short-term vision, but I urge caution. Today, I want to talk to you about car mechanics. You’ll see why.

Let’s all agree that working with facemasks and two metre distancing is going to create short-term challenges, but there are long-term perspectives to consider. Some of these may not be immediately obvious.


Take the news this week of a partnership between two giants; Microsoft and Samsung. They announced their partnership “to transform real estate and smart property management” to a bit of fanfare internationally, but it will likely get lost in the news as two large firms making news that won’t impact us for some time.

Before giving you a basic overview of the deal, let me first say there are two things that interest me mainly here...

Firstly, it talks to buildings giving live feedback through both hardware and software, as if they had a living breathing element to a structure.

Secondly, it is the quote “to determine who is the right person, with the right skills, in the right location to resolve the issue”. The latter being more obviously concerning perhaps to some of you.

More on that later as an important aspect for property managers to consider their role once more.

Let us just consider the actual partnership for now:

• The companies will leverage Samsung’s smart home appliances, HVAC systems and smart TVs integrated with SmartThings, together with Microsoft’s Azure Digital Twins technology and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service, to improve building maintenance and management by aggregating and analysing IoT data from building systems and connected appliances.

• Microsoft’s Azure IoT platform is able to process data messaging from millions of building sensors and devices and then use machine learning and AI to help building managers and operators determine what issues should be addressed in what order, and then link to Dynamics 365 Field Service to determine who is the right person, with the right skills, in the right location to resolve the issue.

• This collaboration with Samsung extends this capability to include Samsung smart appliances, HVAC systems and TVs, with plans to expand into digital signage equipment.

• The alliance also covers Samsung mobile devices, including the XCover Pro mobile phone, to create improved experiences for frontline workers involved in handling building issues. Additionally, Samsung plans to offer SmartThings mobile development tools to enable builders to craft custom, tailored connected living experiences for their end users.

• The collaboration will leverage data from Samsung’s range of smart refrigerators, washing machines, vacuums, air purifiers, ovens and other devices connected through the intelligent SmartThings platform. Such data integration allows building operators to monitor nearly all devices in real time, identify issues and take appropriate measures before real damage happens, should a problem occur.

Thanks to MSPowerUser for the summary.

One detail to immediately pick out is that of this impacting new builds far quicker than anything else. This isn’t, for now, going to impact your victorian conversion, or small block of flats built in the 2000s. It is more likely to impact newer towns and cities or at least, new developments.

In essence, they are talking about Digital Twin technology. The ability to create interactive models of construction sites. The UK are one of the leaders with these initiatives, with most construction projects (certainly those with a public mandate), having to have BIM models as standard. Digital Twin technology, in my opinion, is one of the most important technologies (even philosophies) that should be considered moving forward.

The potential is tremendous and the applications limitless, but it currently doesn’t facilitate the retro design/fit.

Having said that, there is a clear direction of travel and a lot of the 360 scanning technology is enabling an element of Digital Twin creation - if not full BIM standard - so be aware of the ambitions of companies like Matterport to essentially be able to create this sort of library for existing structures.

The point is buildings will be able to feedback in due course. This isn’t just the sensors built into the fabric of the building but also the equipment that the home owner and indeed office worker uses.

Operationally, a central system will be able to not only say when something is going wrong but predict accurately when it is about to do so and thus entering the element of predictive maintenance - something that we are already seeing as a huge boom in investment potential.

To bring back the point in the press release - “to determine who is the right person, with the right skills, in the right location to resolve the issue” - a generic property management system or company won’t stand a chance against something so complex.

To put it in an analogy of the car maintenance world. A few years ago, your local garage could fix your car. Nowadays, a central dealership plugs it up to a machine and the machine tells you what is wrong, or rather, they phone you to say the car needs a service because they can see centrally that something isn’t working.

The local garage is now a specialist in everything old, and slowly but surely, they are being replaced, or rather their market is becoming more nuanced.

Yes, it takes a generation but their role is now specialist. They enjoy getting under the hood - you yourself might even enjoy getting under the hood and actually attempting to fix the car.

The new cars? Not a chance. They are too complex. The computer runs what they do. You don’t dare get involved for fear of ruining it all.

Therefore, service plans are essential because of the expense of it all. You are dependent on others now to fix the car and to tell you when it needs fixing.

Does that all make sense now? Do you see where this could go?

This isn’t going going to impact you tomorrow while you get used to working with your facemasks and promoting a 90% mortgage.

This is all about the next generation coming in and the old property manager - and more likely the property maintenance team - being phased out over time.

Just look at your local car mechanic.

*James Dearsley is a leading PropTech influencer and commentator, and is co-founder of PropTech platform Unissu. You can follow James on Twitter here.

  • Andrew Stanton PROPTECH-PR A Consultancy for Proptech Founders

    BIM Building Information Modelling or Digital Twin - digital replica, that is the choice for sure, and I agree there is a shift here. On the point about the tie up between these two giant 'brands' and the commercial advantages down the line to smart technology - time will tell. Commercial real estate the built environment and specifically the newly built arena is a hot topic, and efficiency that can be planned and built in is of course key.

    I saw Dharmesh Mistry post some wise words on Samsung and Microsoft when we discussed this on another forum and my hunch is that he will be proved right.


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