OPINION: AS the old adage goes, with great uncertainty comes great opportunity. Over the past twelve months, disruptions to the way we live, work and play have altered our status quo and sent ripples of change through many of Australia’s most resilient industries. These changes have proven fertile ground for new innovations in proptech, with commercial, residential, and industrial property sectors quick to reap the benefits.
Known for its strength and lucrative investment opportunities, the Australian property sector makes for an excellent testbed for experimenting with new innovations that drive efficiencies in the way we buy, sell and interact with property.
Prior to the pandemic, Australia’s proptech industry was rapidly gathering momentum, with a staggering 428% increase in the number of local proptech companies between 2013 and 2019.
The pandemic has only accelerated this growth trajectory, catapulting its nascent proptech sector years forward and firmly establishing it as a transformative force in real estate, with companies readily embracing new technologies such as digital twins, AI and virtual reality – not only to remain viable, but also to survive and thrive. In doing so, they have set in motion the datafication of the built world – the world’s largest asset class – unlocking a treasure trove of unrealised value.
Virtually anywhere, anytime
Throughout the pandemic, the most disruptive and game changing technologies have been those with the ability to transcend time and space. In this way, digital twin technology has the potential to do to the property sector what Zoom achieved in the workforce. That is, completely revolutionise the way things are done. But what exactly are digital twins?
To put it simply, digital twins are photorealistic and dimensionally accurate digital replicas of physical spaces – whether it be a room, an entire building, or an outdoor space. They bring any space to life, offering capabilities such as interactive virtual walk-throughs and providing a more immersive and engaging experience that traditional 2D photos, floor plans and text simply cannot replicate.
Digital twins can be toured without an in-person visit, providing a more interactive and engaging experience than traditional 2D photos and floor plans. These replicas also serve as living, breathing building models that can be leveraged across the property lifecycle and used for accurate planning, maintenance and remodelling, saving clients time and resources.
For property managers, digital twin technology allows people to see sites without an in-person visit and provides the tools that free up employees to focus on other tasks. However, it’s not just about virtual staging and 3D walkthroughs. The real value of digital twins lies in the masses of data this technology can capture, allowing us to understand and analyse the built environment in ways we never thought imaginable.
Datafication of the built world
Over two-thirds of Australians agree they will need to use workplace analytics in the next five years to support new ways of working. Digital twins is just one example of this, offering property owners deeper insight into not just what a space looks like, but also the visibility needed for an accurate scope of work identification and effective coordination with third parties. Digital twin technology helps not only gather data, but actually interpret it and derive insights from it that can drive more effective, informed, and strategic decision-making.
Before tenants occupy a new space, they need to ensure operational readiness and address any issues that could arise as foot traffic returns. Research has revealed that in the future, 92% of office property will require a range of varied spaces to conduct different types of work, 83% will use technology to connect with remote workers and clients, and 67% will require personalised communications to keep people informed and updated on changing circumstances.
Using digital twins to understand how end-users will interact with a space before it’s even occupied allows for properties to be built or refurbished with operational readiness as a top priority. Virtual spaces offer enhanced marketing experiences, decreased physical site visits and orient prospects to spaces in just hours rather than days. Digital twins allow property businesses to match prospects and existing clients with spaces perfectly suited to their needs – and do so remotely.
Building back better
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 accelerated massive growth within Australian proptech, with the uptake of advanced technologies such as digital twins, AI and virtual reality. However, these technologies have proven so successful – unlocking new efficiencies and competitive advantages – that we can only expect this growth trajectory to continue long after the virus has receded.
While 3D listings and virtual tours have been a liferaft for the property sector, the real power of these solutions lies in the insights that can be unlocked through the data they generate. The next step will be leveraging the massive untapped opportunity this data offers in terms of value and competitive advantage that future proof not only the property sector, but virtually every industry with a roof over its head – both now and into the future.
By Bruce Wells, APAC Managing Director, Matterport.