Dr. James Canton is CEO and chairman of the Institute for Global Futures, a think tank he founded in 1990 that advises businesses and governments about future trends. His latest book, Future Smart—Managing the Game-Changing Trends that Will Transform Your World, outlines the key forces he thinks will positively and negatively change the way we live, work, and think about the future.
Why is it so crucial to be “future smart” today?
There isn’t a business, city, or nation that will not be affected by today’s disruptive technologies. The only question is, will you be ready to deal with these and will you have planned ahead to take advantage of the changes that are fast approaching?
The challenges facing the REIT industry have to do with the future of cities and climate change. What will be the impact on real estate assets that are potentially in harm’s way? The whole real estate asset class will be predicated on how future smart the industry becomes and how well leaders prepare their businesses to be in locations that are conducive for occupancy and trade.
Is there a specific way REITs can make themselves future smart?
REITs should really be focusing on smart buildings that will leverage artificial intelligence and the blockchain to run more efficiently and deliver more value to shareholders and occupants.
Imagine every building in your portfolio has AI that’s buying and trading unused energy, monitoring the lights, and responding to industrial controls that are driving efficiency, performance, safety, and security. When you combine the “internet of things” with 5G technology, you’re talking about a revolution in what I call the “Smart Building.” REITs will be part of that.
You mentioned the blockchain—where is that taking us?
We’re just scratching the surface of what could potentially be a tremendous tool for companies to embrace that will create more transparency and accountability. A lot of companies don’t realize that their supply chains may contain bad actors or not be conducting fair trade. We’re headed toward an era where every company has to be a good social steward. The blockchain can help them achieve that.
I’ve already been in conversations with a company that’s looking at turning its REIT into a tokenized, blockchain business that is a digital twin of its real-world portfolio. It’s happening much quicker than you’d even imagine.
Is there a future for REITs we haven’t considered yet?
They’ll follow Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Tesla into space. We will have near-Earth orbit condos; we will have moon habitats; we will have Martian habitats; we will have space habitats. I think REITs in space are going to be very exciting as an investment opportunity and for occupancy. I expect to see that.