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AI's thrills and cyber-security's chills

The property industry is no stranger to shifts in the technology landscape.

The past year in particular saw rapid growth in technology developments, many of which will almost certainly deliver exciting new growth opportunities for forward-thinking estate and lettings agencies.

In 2023, AI was the buzzword on everybody’s lips. According to research by property data company Landmark, 80% of agents believe that artificial intelligence will become commonplace in everyday estate agency – and while few of us doubt that it will profoundly change the way we all work, we should also be aware of the pitfalls and challenges.


Technology suppliers must play the important role of ‘canary in the coal mine’: that means offering their customers new opportunities for tech-driven growth, while also alerting them to the potential risks to their businesses and reputations. Technology evolves, but there’s no business advantage if you’re not using it properly, or if you’re not partnered with a supplier that’s deploying it for the right reasons.

Don’t believe the hype

A key challenge with innovative and exciting technologies is seeing past the hype to understand the genuine potential. The rise of commercial and consumer-focused AI – and the surge in businesses looking to quickly capitalise on it – is an example of where we clearly need to be careful.

You may be familiar with the Gartner Hype Cycle – a model used to represent the maturity, adoption, and social application of specific technologies or innovations. Following the hype around the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, Gartner warned in August that we are “at the peak of inflated expectations”; essentially that all the hype surrounding AI was at its peak and would likely reduce over the coming months.  

But that’s not yet happened – and it currently seems like almost every technology company has jumped aboard the AI bandwagon, with promises to revolutionise the way we work and play.

The property industry has been no stranger to innovation, and I’m certainly not here to warn you away from AI, quite the contrary, but I would advise any business to resist chasing innovation for innovation’s sake. It has to make a real difference – either to your agents or your customers (or ideally, both). As a leading technology supplier to the property industry, Reapit only ever deliver AI-powered tools where they can enhance agent productivity, optimise the consumer experience, improve decision-making or provide valuable insights for agents to better serve their clients.

But that’s to be expected, right? From using AI to write property descriptions (which saved our customers over 450 hours last month alone), to a ChatGPT based self-service support portal trained on thousands of knowledgebase articles (and with some exciting data analysis projects in the works), we’re making strong in-roads in the AI department.

Get serious about security

One of the most important use-cases for AI is on the front-line in the battle against cyber-threats – providing a critical layer of support that you don’t think you need until you need it. AI has a key part to play in advancing cyber-security, and most forward-thinking technology suppliers should already be utilising advanced AI-based threat detection tools to keep their customers secure. 

Cyber-threats will continue to be a big concern this year (bigger even than previous years, recent research would argue). In an age of increasing digital threats, safeguarding against a variety of cyber dangers has become paramount, especially for property businesses that are entrusted with vast amounts of valuable customer data.

For smaller businesses, the challenge is particularly daunting, with a report from the insurers Hiscox  indicating that a UK-based small business falls victim to a successful hack every 19 seconds. Small businesses face around 65,000 attempted cyber-attacks daily, with approximately 4,500 proving successful.

Estate agencies need to be well-informed about the risks and equipped with both strategies and the technology to mitigate them. Upholding consumer trust hinges on the ability to safeguard their data and privileged information, so prioritising cyber-resilience will be crucial for agencies to safeguard both themselves and their clients, and to foster trust amid the property industry’s growing digital landscape.

All that glitters…

The technology world is incredibly fast paced. Promises are made, and expectations run high. That’s why it's crucial to navigate through the noise and make informed decisions.

Some technology suppliers may offer you the world, a shiny UI and a laundry list of enticing functionalities, but it's important to look beyond the surface. I fully understand the desire for the ‘latest’ cool features, but it's equally important to assess the depth of their offering, the foundation upon which it is built, and of course its security architecture. Always look for globally recognised standards such as ISO 27001 to ensure you make a secure choice.

The opportunities offered by technologies such as AI are to be applauded and, where they can truly add value, embraced. But they’re more wide-reaching than the headline-grabbing ‘quick wins’, and it’s equally vital that fundamental necessities such as robust cyber-security are not sidelined in the face of cooler technologies.


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