How the UAE's real estate sector is going virtual in a big way

So-called PropTech solutions are commonplace in the emerging post-pandemic world – but that's not all

Real estate is a relative latecomer to the digital arena, but significant advances have been made since the Covid-19 outbreak. Sarah Dea for The National
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The Covid-19 pandemic has catalysed a new wave of opportunity for every industry around the globe. As the acceleration of the digital continues to disrupt every sector, the applicability of digital solutions across the real estate value chain is becoming increasingly evident.

Compared to the banking, retail and healthcare sectors, real estate is a relative latecomer to the digital arena. However, significant advances have been made since the onset of the health crisis when real estate players were forced to pivot rapidly to overcome the significant challenges posed by the lockdown. As a result, in the irrevocably changed landscape of the “new normal”, the industry is embracing the digital as the only way forward: a recent survey reports that 69 per cent of global real estate owners consider the adoption of technology to be a high strategic priority. As the post-Covid-19 horizon starts to come into view, so-called PropTech solutions – which include intuitive property search apps, virtual property tours, chatbots and transaction automation – are now commonplace, along with advanced customer relationship management tools for enhanced customer targeting and lead nurturing.

The criticality of technology for real estate growth is well recognised by the leadership of Dubai. As part of a raft of initiatives to support the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, launched a new platform, Dubai Re-Tech, earlier this month to help bolster investor confidence. Driven by big data to enable complex insights, the platform’s integrated database allows for reliable mapping of the future of Dubai’s real estate sector.

In this new digital world, data is a valuable currency. Consequently, awareness of the ability of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to enable more accurate market projections and better risk management investment is increasing. From the developer and urban planning perspective, putting the right seamless digital infrastructure in place not only helps to stay ahead of the curve but enables a deeper understanding of current and future supply-demand dynamics, while enabling efficiencies, decreasing cost overruns, expediting delivery and, ultimately, increasing profits.

Sony's latest entertainment robot "aibo" is displayed during a press preview at the company's headquarters in Tokyo on November 1, 2017.  
Japanese electronics giant Sony is marking the year of the dog by bringing back to life its robot canine -- packed with artificial intelligence and internet capability. / AFP PHOTO / Kazuhiro NOGI

To drive meaningful outcomes, a primary objective of digitalisation in the real estate sector should be on solving real-world problems, which needs to be approached with a customer-centric mindset. From the use of smart contracts powered by blockchain technology that simplifies and speeds up asset exchange while enabling transactions to be made from anywhere in the world, to a raft of smart urban planning solutions that enhance quality of life and deliver outstanding experiences, the future of technology is entirely human.

A prime example of how the integration of human-centric and technology-driven solutions can promote inclusive, positive and engaging experiences is evidenced by something called Society 5.0. This is an initiative introduced in 2016 to transform the Japanese way of life by blurring the frontier between cyberspace and the physical space. Since its introduction by the government-run Council for Science, Technology and Innovation,, more than 170 smart city projects using advanced technologies such as AI, the Internet of Things and big data have been established in Japan. By balancing economic needs with pressing issues such as climate change and ageing populations, everyone benefits, and nobody is left behind.

Going forward, customer-centricity is the critical component that will fuel long-term value for real estate development. By leveraging real-time insights through data analytics solutions, a deeper understanding of customer segments can be gained, and customer behaviour predicted with greater accuracy. This, in turn, enables businesses to respond rapidly to deliver the hyper-personalised, seamless and frictionless experiences that today’s customers demand. In particular, personalisation is a make-or-break deliverable: research shows that 71 per cent of consumers now expect companies to deliver personalised interactions, 76 per cent of consumers state that personalised communications to be a key factor in prompting brand interaction, and 78 per cent are more likely to return to companies that personalise.

The next generation of developers will be those that can move in an agile manner across the capabilities of their connected platforms, with seamless data integration being vital to move beyond mere customer satisfaction to the consistent delivery of customer delight.

Digitalisation is here to stay, and every participant across the real estate value chain must either get fully on board or risk becoming obsolete. The big question is, are you ready to embrace the new digital era, rapidly and at scale – or are you resigned to fading away as a digital dinosaur?

Published: January 06, 2022, 9:00 AM
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