Over the past decade, entire industries have been disrupted by businesses embracing innovation in design and technology and leveraging the ubiquity of connectedness.
It's no surprise industries like transportation (Uber and Lyft), entertainment (Netflix), and retail (Amazon) are now led by businesses delivering improved customer experiences via apps, websites, and mobile devices.
While the real estate industry is traditionally slow to innovate, in recent years the technology boom has made its way into the field and is starting to bring new types of innovation that have the potential to transform the industry. Real estate and urban-focused technology, dubbed PropTech, is already being used by organizations large and small, who have their eyes on being the next industry leaders
Our Pivot into PropTech
At Authentic F&F, we used to be a more traditional digital creative services and design firm. We could sense that if we could give our clients more agency/control/participation over the sites we designed, more cost flexibility, and have those products generate feedback and data, along with leads, then we might be sacrificing some larger fee structures, but we would be empowering our clients, and hopefully earning many more.
We are Inspired by the potential PropTech has to transform the way we plan and build cities of the future; so we went all in. This “pivot” into PropTech meant that we had to create our own set of digital tools, to make innovations in design, technology, and user experiences more accessible to all types of real estate projects.
In 2018, after many months of planning and development, we launched our first platform Amplify, which aims to make design and marketing technology more accessible for all types of real estate projects. Amplify takes what's normally a 3-4 month $40-$50K design process, affordable to only large projects, and makes it available at a fraction of the time and cost. Since launching the platform in late 2018 we’ve launched several projects on Amplify including the mkt, Nordost, 76 Commerce Center, andBonnie Management.
Our goal with Amplify is to bring polished digital user experiences – ones that have the ability to connect and captivate their visitors – to all types of real estate projects. We believe the engaging digital experience Amplify provides, sets the foundation and is the first step a project can take to bring design and technology innovation to their project.
In 2019, we have our sights set on building tools that go far beyond simply marketing. We see opportunities for PropTech to streamline the entitlements process, build ways for project stakeholders to collaborate, and create new channels for engagement and commerce using immersive digital experiences.
As anyone involved in the real estate development process will tell you, approvals and entitlements are often the riskiest part of a project. Community engagement, a process used to collect input about a project from the local community, is a needed but seldom productive means of getting a project’s entitlements approved. Not only is the process unproductive for both developer and participant, but it’s shortcomings create a negative stigma around work which has the ability to create better, more valuable projects.
Rather than hosting unproductive shouting matches between developers and a handful of local residents, we believe digital engagement tools can reach a broader audience of local participants, and collect feedback that’s specific, measurable, and action-oriented. This input and collaboration resulting in more community-supported projects and faster speed through entitlements
Virtual reality has changed the way a project can be visualized before ground has been broken on a project. Nowadays people can look around and see all aspects of a project with some fancy software and a VR headset.
With the growth of augmented reality, another breakthrough is on the horizon. Augmented reality provides people the ability to explore and interact with the physical world, using a virtualized digital-layer, augmenting and adding context to the world we live in.
Recently, apps like IKEA’s “Place” have blended the physical with the virtual, allowing people to see what furniture would look like inside their own home or space. Google maps have recently introduced updates to provide users with AR wayfinding functionality, literally pointing the way via digital signage.
While AR experiences like this are extraordinary, they only skim the surface of what AR has to offer.
Recently, we’ve been excited about the potential of AR’s ability to create contextual e-commerce experiences, inside venues far removed from a traditional retail store. For example, hotel rooms with unique furnishings, or coffee shops featuring local artists, could become immediately shop-able when AR gives people the ability to scan, browse, and purchase items from within their space. Check out this demo from the AR platform Torch which we think could revolutionize hotel booking.
Again, the community engagement process could also be vastly improved with the addition of AR. Imagine people being able to load virtualized renderings of updates to a local park when they are standing immediately outside of it.
These people would be able to virtually “see” various renovations ahead of construction beginning, giving them the opportunity to provide feedback and input on the features and amenities they find the most useful. We believe these new ways to engage with the community will help build projects that are more aligned with community values and give developers better ways to source measurable feedback on each project.
The next several years are going to bring tremendous amounts of change to the real rate and urban space. PropTech and new technologies like mixed-reality, AI, and 5G are going to explode innovation and rethink the ways we all live and interact with our built environment. Since our team at Authentic F&F decided to embrace this change, we want to help other organizations navigate this next chapter of our industry.