Even in a year when everything changed due to the pandemic, technology continued to develop at a fast pace across all sectors. Companies have relied on new innovations to weather changes to the way people work and live due to the pandemic. Commercial real estate is no exception, and as we look forward to the remainder of 2021, technology will impact everything from the return to in-person work to how prospective tenants find new spaces to lease.
- Virtual Forms of Communications to Continue
In 2021, you can expect more conversations to take place virtually than in person. Even though many areas are rolling back restrictions, many companies are opting to keep employees at home permanently. Others have decided to put an end to all or some business travel for cost savings.
Many meetings will happen over Zoom, and services like Slack and Microsoft Teams will provide a platform for informal, ongoing conversations. Submitting forms with technology like DocuSign will take the place of in-person lease signings.
- Increased Adoption of Occupancy Sensors
Prior to the pandemic, some office and industrial buildings were beginning to add occupancy sensors to their smart systems connected to the Internet of Things. Now, the pace of adoption is picking up. Companies can use passive infrared sensors attached to seats and desks, imaging sensors mounted in hallways and doorways and temperature sensors deployed throughout buildings to monitor traffic flow. The data provided by these sensors can improve social distancing compliance and allow for HVAC and lighting systems to automatically adjust when offices are empty. Industrial buildings will also increasingly feature sensors that monitor efficiency and quality control to improve performance and spot equipment in need of service.
- Virtual Tours Are Here to Stay
Throughout 2021, the use of drones is certain to grow as it has in recent years. Before COVID-19, companies in the market for new spaces and buildings to lease benefited from how drone footage and virtual reality could make spaces come to life, allowing tours to take place any time from any location. With concerns about coronavirus, these types of virtual tours will become the norm with in-person tours becoming less and less common.
- Building Upgrades With COVID-19 in Mind
Landlords hoping to attract new tenants will adopt technologies that make buildings healthier places. Touch-less plumbing fixtures, doors controlled by automatic sensors and voice-activated elevators will prove worth the investment as they eliminate concerns about germs being spread through high-touch surfaces. In addition, high-tech Internet-enabled air filtration systems that provide real-time data will be in high demand, as many studies have shown that poor air quality increases the rate of coronavirus spread.
- Greater Reliance on Artificial Intelligence
Great strides have been made in artificial intelligence and machine learning in recent years, and these improvements have led to many opportunities for integration into commercial real estate. Sophisticated systems can analyze and predict market data to give tenants and landlords new insights about the changes brought by the pandemic and assist with lease management and portfolio optimization.