What Corporate Real Estate Leaders Can Learn From Smart Cities

by Hai Falor on April 9, 2018

The criteria to be considered an “innovative” corporate real estate (CRE) leader is constantly changing. And the element that has the most significant impact on those standards is adoption of technology — more specifically, smart technology.

Enterprising CRE professionals have always thought big picture. But now they must think even bigger since the possible applications of smart technology are expanding every day. It started with smartphones. Next were smart TVs. Then smart homes came along. And now: smart cities.

Here’s a closer look at the components of “smart cities” and how corporate real estate leaders can apply some of these principles to the workplace.

What Are Smart Cities?

In smart cities like the one in Lake Nona, Fla., information and communications technologies (ICT) are used to increase operational efficiency, promote sustainability and share information with the community. ICT encompasses all of the technologies needed to transmit data about the city and its residents. A smart city leverages devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) to collect and analyze information that is used to drive the decisions that improve the quality of the infrastructure and positively impact the lives of the city’s residents. At Lake Nona, a partnership with the Jiyo app tracks residents’ behavior and suggests daily habits, such as exercise and meditation, with the goal of improving their wellbeing.

Connectivity is the core of a smart city. For a smart city to thrive, there must be connections between the residents themselves and the residents and the organizations that serve them.

What Do Smart Cities And Workplaces Have In Common?

The same level of connectivity must be present within the workplace for it to function at its best — and CREs can play an important role in facilitating that.

In their Upskilling the CRE Organization survey, CoreNet Global and CBRE found that soft skills — such as relationship building, strategic thinking and cross-functional collaboration — are becoming increasingly important for CRE leaders. CRE leaders must not only find connections between datasets, they must also build connections across departments. And the key to both of these objectives is technology.

According to digital security solutions leader Gemalto, all smart cities possess four fundamental elements, three of which are applicable to CREs:

● Accessible data

● Wireless connectivity

● Reliable security

Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

1. Accessible Data

A city is an organism, constantly growing and changing. So is the workplace. This means the methods and strategies for managing both environments must evolve as well. In order to know how to evolve, those in charge of the managing the city or the workplace must be able to easily collect and analyze data.

In a smart city, every stakeholder works together to build an infrastructure that supports not only data aggregation but also data sharing. This includes government agencies, businesses, service providers and, of course, the residents. Corporate real estate professionals must ensure their organization’s workplaces follow suit. The IT team, facilities department and CRE leader must collaborate to implement technology that empowers them to optimize every workplace using accurate, real-time data.

2. Wireless Connectivity

The technology needed to sustain a city is far greater than that required for the workplace, but both require a powerful network and IoT sensors. CRE professionals must join forces with the IT and facilities management teams to determine what kind of IoT technology the organization needs and how it will fit into the design of the workplace.

In smart cities, the technology is essentially invisible because it’s seamlessly integrated with houses, offices and vehicles. That’s what CRE leaders need to achieve within each workplace in their portfolio. Achieving this requires collaboration between the IT team, the facilities department and the corporate real estate leader.

3. Reliable Security

The author of the Gemalto article put it succinctly: “Smart cities can only work if we trust them.” The same can be said for smart workplaces.

Again, it is the responsibility of the IT pros, facilities managers and CRE leaders to ensure workplaces are safe. This applies to both the organization’s data as well as its employees. The IT and facilities teams and CRE leader can take a page from the smart city’s playbook and implement robust authentication solutions and ID management systems. This reduces the vulnerability of databases and helps minimize safety risks for employees.

Technology fuels smart cities. And technology must fuel a CRE leader’s strategies.

Whether it’s due to high vacancy rates as a result of an environment that negatively affects the employee experience or poor energy utilization draining the budget, there’s no sense in constructing and maintaining property that’s costing the organization more money than it’s generating.

The trend toward smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT) that powers them is one all corporate real estate leaders should have on their radar. At our upcoming Workplace Champions Summit April 25 and 26, longtime corporate real estate strategist Vik Bangia of Verum Consulting will talk about how to capitalize on trends like these to maximize their portfolios. Register now to join us!


Hai Falor

Hai worked in the corporate real estate division of BB&T for 10 years focusing on facilities management, vendor management, and IT systems before coming to work for iOFFICE. With extensive experience in the IWMS software industry, where he served many years in sales and as a solutions engineer, Hai knows his facilities management stuff.

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