Fulfilling AI potential


Technological developments in commercial real estate are offering a dizzying range of operational benefits for investors willing to take the plunge, says Yardi’s Rob Teel.

Automation and artificial intelligence solutions are being touted as the future of commercial real estate. From improving productivity and slashing operational costs, to freeing up more time for human-led creativity, a range of innovative tools and packages promise to disrupt the asset class in the coming decade.

AI is undoubtably in the first wave of adoption, and despite critics pointing to potential job insecurity, an increasing number of firms are looking to the technology as a key differentiator to stand out against the crowd. Rob Teel, president of global solutions, discusses the main factors driving adoption and future growth.

The present: firms in trial mode

“To say that anybody has fully figured out AI would be premature; everyone is launching small projects to trial the new technology. Firms are experimenting, but it is likely too early to expect much budgeting just yet.”

The future: presence across operations

“AI-aided digital assistance is set to grow substantially over the coming years. My bet is that enterprise-ready AI in the future will be embedded across accounting, performance management, fundraising and investor portals. I see it propping up the value of our existing products.”

Enhanced customer interaction

“The first main operational benefit of AI is chatbots. Over the last three years, multifamily has embraced chatbots to help with prospect flow. The technology is valuable, especially when leasing agents are not available and customers have questions. In commercial properties, for example, a customer may have a leaky tap, or an investor might call with questions over a weekend. Customer interaction and automation are a natural fit for AI and chatbots.

“Generation of content is another important benefit. Firms are starting to use AI in pure content creation, particularly for marketing when creating videos with AI-generated voiceovers and engaging text. Floorplans are an obvious area where AI can be used to create more optimal visuals. We are also hopeful that ingesting and abstracting documents will be greatly pushed forward by new models of AI.”

Positive impact on sustainability

“We have been helping clients reduce their power usage and cut energy costs for many years via machine learning algorithms that help optimize heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, one of the largest consumption sources of energy in commercial buildings. AI can be trained on the best use of HVAC to compare commercial buildings. The benefits of delivering AI far exceed the cost from an energy and ESG [environmental, social and governance] standpoint.”

Boosting decision-making

“In 2014, blockchain enjoyed the same level of buzz that AI is experiencing today. It added some transaction and security validation but did not have the impact that everyone expected. AI is a completely different story; possibly the closest comparison in terms of global impact was the launch of the World Wide Web in the 1990s.

“Access to data makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of AI. Our clients are sitting on a mountain of data around every asset in the portfolio, every fund, every investor and around their own operations as well. With a fully deployed ERP stack, the benefits of AI around decision-making and efficiency are limitless. For an investment manager, data is key to making better decisions, and this will become more acute as AI solutions mature.”

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