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PropTech Today: Smarter collaboration is key to developing a property’s digital identity

Having just had an appointment popped into my diary by my car as it apparently told the garage it’s due a service, it got me thinking a bit closer to home and how this type of connectivity might play out with home ownership.

Our everyday lives are becoming more and more connected with data at our fingertips and our expectation of real-time access to the information we seek is of increasing importance in our lives.  So can we determine if this level of connectivity will ever exist in our home and what will be needed to join it all together.

Of course, many of us will now have some level of ‘connected’ devices in our homes be that an intelligent lightbulb, video doorbell or remote-controlled heating system.  My observation here however, is that whilst they are all connected (to the internet), they are generally all ‘disconnected’ from each other. The internet acts as the data highway, but there is no common agreement or protocol of how all these things can talk to each other. Yes, there is I can hear you crying, IoT (Internet of things) with CoAP, MQTT over HTTP of course (go look them up!).  I agree, there are protocols available, but that doesn’t mean that the various vendors allow or ‘want’ to collaborate and enable the exchange of data and control across devices.


More collaboration and data integration

Our annual survey of property professionals this year; titled ‘Back to the Future’; explored a number of areas concerning the transaction of a property, one such area was that of collaboration – or more importantly the apparent lack of it. In the report, I make the following observation…

“Having been around the conveyancing industry for 20 years now, I think I personally have a similar view now to when I joined tmgroup back in 2002.  Unfortunately, we find it all too difficult to connect our systems together and even when robust integration frameworks exist, there always seems to be barriers to adoption be that lack of technical resource or commercial conflicts.  I’d like to see all legal and property systems operate to a standard set of APIs with a common data standard.  By all accounts however, I’m going to need legislation as a minimum in order to achieve this.”

If I go ‘Back to the Future’ in 10 years’ time, I’d like to think that property ownership has been advanced to at least the levels we have already seen demonstrated with slightly less material objects such as cars.  When I move home, I’d like to pass my house ‘MOT’ and ownership details quickly and seamlessly to the new owner, and register it with their preferred application vendor that they used to control their last home.  Of course, identity and security protocols will need to exist as well as the ability to pass structured data using a common methodology.

Defining the Property DNA

We are beginning to see signs within the industry on how we can begin to uncover the ‘identity’ of our property and how some of this can be achieved in near real-time.  I tend to think of this as comparable to uncovering the identity of a person by holding the key to uncovering the unique DNA strands, be that human DNA in the case of a person’s identity or the unique characteristics of the bricks and mortar in the case of a property.

There are a number of things that need to fall in to place to make this a reality, not least: data standards; protocols; identity; and a willingness to collaborate.  The exact same problem statement with our connected devices I mention above. That being said, we are seeing the first signs of being able to break the property genetic code as we gain access to more spatially represented data sets and with the emergence of new data standards and mechanisms for exploring connected organisations.  There is renewed energy in providing ‘Upfront Material Information’ at the start of a housing transaction – and this comes with both a data standard and a willingness to collaborate with those engaged with helping to develop it.

Material Information data standards

A second observation I make in our ‘Back to the Future’ report:

“Having spent a few months during 2022 working with a number of stakeholders across the industry in both the Estate Agent and Conveyancing sectors, it’s interesting to hear the different views of what is meant by upfront information.  To me, it’s not about what it is, but more about the principle and process of doing things earlier in the transaction.  Being more informed ‘upfront’ means that we can work with higher confidence levels within the transaction and also educate the homemover about the anticipated process. We still have the issue around trust and source of data or provenance, but the more we can do upfront the more opportunities we have for sharing the information and streamlining the process. Data standards are important so we can seamlessly pass this data between connected systems and the new Property Data Trust Framework should help us do just that.”

The future is bright

Wouldn’t it be good if my home could automatically book itself in for a service, window clean (when it knew it needed one) and keep a record of everything that makes it unique (its Property DNA) – that I can then pass on to its new owner once we decide to part ways.

Of course collaboration is still the key and trade organisations such as the LSSA and COPSO have a role to play to accelerate the adoption of FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) data principles.

Pulling these threads together, there is a lot to do before our homes can really have a digital identity.  But we need to start somewhere, and I am encouraged by the opportunity that the Property Data Trust Framework brings to start this FAIR data journey. 

Author: Paul Albone, Chief Operating Officer, tmgroup

Paul joined tmgroup in October 2002, and currently takes the lead in developing tmgroup’s Strategy
and Operating Model. He also has oversight of all things technical – including product development. His biggest achievement to date has been preparing the business for the transition into (and then out of) Home Information Packs, and his favourite quote about life is “Don’t put off until tomorrow
what you can do today”.


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