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Augmenting commercial Real Estate reality

Posted by Marc Stroebel on 27 April 2014 in: mobile, bleeding edge

While Augmented Reality may sound futuristic, it’s a technology that’s actually been around for a decade or two. I believe that within the next few years, it could become an integral part of our everyday experience. And, more importantly, an essential tool in staying ahead of competitors in the commercial Real Estate industry.

Augmenting commercial Real Estate reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that allows us to superimpose computer generated images, models and even sounds onto a real world space. Essentially, it has the power to add digital layers to your reality, thereby creating a rich, all-encompassing experience.

This works in two different ways: firstly, by using your smartphone’s Global Positioning System (GPS) and other sensors, the technology can identify where you are, and what you’re pointing your device at. For instance, if you’ve ever pointed your phone up into the night sky to identify a constellation, you’ve already experienced AR for yourself. If not, head outdoors this evening with an Android phone and try the Google Sky Map app. It’s out of this world.

Here’s another example of AR using GPS: your client could be walking ​down the street and by simply pointing his smartphone at certain buildings, he would be able to see exactly where available office space is, as well as key information such as square footage, floor numbers, recommended rent, interior features and more. Of course, just a swipe of the finger would put him in touch with you.

Secondly, AR also functions around the concept of shape recognition. It’s predicted that this technology will transform our notion of paper-based advertising. For example, if you were to point your smartphone at an AR-enabled magazine advert for a running shoe, extra information or images would pop up on your mobile and perhaps the TV ad as well.

Take the last brochure your company printed. Now picture it in 3D, literally. The photograph of your flagship building on the brochure cover could contain a hidden tag. And through AR shape recognition technology, your client could simply point their smartphone at the picture, and the building will pop out of the page into full 3D view. As they turn the brochure, they’ll see 360° views of the building. You can even “drill down” into the interior of the building, exploring shops or floor spaces in incredible detail. The possibilities are endless.

Along with the AR software comes some pretty impressive hardware too. Google’s Project Tango is set to take a giant leap forward in the AR realm. The current capabilities of smart devices are somewhat limited, as they weren’t specifically designed for this technology. This is where Project Tango steps in with a 5” phone containing the capability to track the device’s full 3D motion and simultaneously create a map of the environment.

But that’s not the only thing Google has been busy with. The Google Glass headset is designed for everyday wear and provides a kind of Heads-Up-Display (HUD) to the wearer. This is touted to become another, more convenient way to experience AR.

So how does this become a business tool in the commercial Real Estate industry? AR could potentially add value through each phase of a project - right from a building’s inception through to the management of the completed building.

Imagine taking potential investors on a grand tour of a new development before the first brick has even been laid. Using AR technology, this is all possible using 3D modelling.

During the construction phase, property managers could use this technology on their smartphone to do ongoing building inspections. For instance, by simply pointing their mobile device at a wall that needs re-plastering, they would receive previous notes regarding that concern, updated information about which contractor is fixing it, the time frame, etc. Taking a photo of the utilities before plastering could be used by future maintenance teams using AR-enabled apps to identify where the utility pipes are located. All the relevant information would be fully up to date, all in one place.

AR technology would continue to be useful for various stakeholders once the building is completed.When partnered with a mobile building inspection application, property managers and inspectors would be able to tag areas of concern and upload photos to a central server. This could be shared with the appropriate people, helping to eliminate confusion around which particular light bulbs need replacing, where the cracked pavements are, or the exact location of damp areas… each and every detail that has been highlighted during previous inspections, all in one virtual place. They would also be able to view the building’s stacking plan, and see at a glance which spaces or tenants are coming up for renewal.

What’s more, CEOs and executive management could also use the technology to view anchor tenant information, rent rolls, tenant rosters etc… all the information you need to enhance Customer Relationship building and management.

The benefits for potential tenants are also significant, with the ability to provide them with a view of available space for lease with all necessary information such as gross leasable area (GLA), intended rental, contact details and more.

While the possibilities of this technology are endless, one thing is for certain: With the potential to revolutioniz​e the way we do business, AR could be augmenting realty before we know it. The reality is, AR will be augmenting Real Estate reality. Will your organization be leading the way?​

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