Technology is simply defined as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. Technology comes in many shapes and sizes and continually evolves as the science advances to meet increasingly complex problems.
The printing press, internal combustion engine, optical lens, and telephone are a few of the most important technologies ever developed—and ones we take for granted today. But without those innovations many of the cutting-edge enhancements we see today in communications, travel, medicine, and other industries wouldn’t be possible.
While the real estate industry is seldom thought of as a hub for technological innovation, technology has always played a crucial role in the design, construction, and operation of the built environment. REITs across all property sectors are now utilizing and advancing technology more than ever. The rise in “PropTech” and the resultant influx of capital has helped drive those innovations.
The “Talking Tech” feature in this issue highlights five REIT executives charged with setting the technology agenda for their companies. Whether it is expanding operational efficiencies or effectively utilizing data and analytics, technology is integrated across company operations to help the business run more efficiently and improve the bottom line.
COVID-19 only heightened the importance of technology as real estate companies had to adapt to operating properties amidst quarantine. Cloud-based systems and contactless customer and tenant interactions were just some of the technologies already being used that were accelerated in 2020.
Going forward, technology will play an essential role in the development and operation of healthy buildings, which will be essential to getting workers, customers, and other occupants back to their normal activities.
Harvard University’s Joe Allen, author of Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity, discusses in this issue’s “DNA of ESG” column how the misperception that operating healthy buildings is too expensive has changed as a result of the pandemic to now being an essential cost of doing business and ultimately a differentiator as tenants sign leases.
The benefits of improved building performance are “massive,” Allen says, because now human health and performance are being integrated into the cost benefit analysis, whereas before they were considered simply as costs.
Any conversation about technology’s impact on real estate must also mention the impact real estate has on technology. Properties owned by data center, wireless infrastructure, and industrial REITs are fueling the growth of the 21st century economy. REIT veteran Bruce Duncan, CEO of CyrusOne (Nasdaq: CONE), discusses the opportunities he sees for the data center REIT.
The examples discussed in this issue highlight just some of the many ways technology is helping to shape how real estate is designed and used in a post-pandemic world. REITs will continue to be at the forefront of those efforts as the benefits to shareholders, tenants, employees, and communities become increasingly clear.
Editor in Chief