Lois Barton, Head of Customer Success talks Industrial + Logistics on Placetech's panel
Rapid adoption of new technology, a renewed focus on the environment, online shopping and growing development of everything from 3D printing to autonomous vehicles have all radically reshaped what landlords in the industry have to deliver.
Panel Two included:
Gareth Sumner, commercial innovation lead, Transport for London
Will Young, head of UK, NavigatorCRE
Patricia La Torre, head of strategic partnerships, Humanising Autonomy
Robbert Heekelaar, VP, architecture and emerging technologies, Prologis
Lois Barton, head of customer success, Edozo
Speakers on the second panel picked up where the previous session ended, exploring practical ways for the sector to try out and adopt new technology.
The reason better data is important, Will Young said, is that there is a pool of capital looking at the industrial sector. Executives and their teams, therefore, have to move faster to respond to rapid changes, which requires access to accurate market data.
But that’s easier said than done. Sharing a landlord’s perspective, Robbert Heekelaar, said real estate companies struggle to choose the right software companies for their needs, and they might be daunted thinking they have to stick to the first one they choose.
He said: “What people should do more is just pick a solution, experiment with it… for a few days or for a few weeks or a month or so and determine which use case can be solved with that – and then move on. Don’t get married to the first company that you encounter.”
Another potential hurdle is having a lot of data to begin with but not knowing what to do with it. Young made the case for NavigatorCRE, which combines and visualises whatever data sources a company has to make it useful and interoperable. He said: “We’ve seen a lot of customers have large swaths of data, whether they generate it or are subscribed to it, but they can’t really use it because it’s either not clean, it’s not accessible or it’s not integrated.”
When starting to think about what data and what tools a company wants, Lois Barton said teams should decide what their specific needs are and why. “Really understand what it is you’re trying to get out of that data and technology, because then I think that will give you a clear path moving forward,” she said. Like Heekelaar, she recommended companies ask software providers for a free trial to determine whether a product is right for them.
The process of choosing the right tools for the right uses can be more complicated for public sector bodies, according to Gareth Sumner. The bare minimum for Transport for London , he said, was complying with GDPR “but then building on that and understanding more about what the public believe we should be doing with data, so understanding the kind of public perception, public feeling about what we can and can’t do. “It doesn’t matter if it’s written down in the rule or not. If we do something which is seen as not essential to the public, we’re doing the wrong thing based on our objectives.” Those objectives include finding ways of reducing road deaths to zero.
Patricia La Torre, whose company provides software that can analyse, understand and predict the behaviours of vulnerable road users, said that trust is key when using data. “I always say to businesses that are looking to use any data analytics platforms to make sure they understand the AI that they’re going to be buying so that it’s ethical and explainable AI,” she said. In other words, people whose data the software collects have to know what it does, why it does it and whether it is secure. “People only use the technology if they understand it and trust it,” she said, adding that this ultimately goes back to educating users. Both Transport for London and Prologis have set up dedicated teams for innovation in recent years in order to work directly with external teams and, in Transport for London’s case, run “innovation challenges” asking for solutions to problems they are trying to solve.
But the reality is that even the most dedicated innovation team has a limit on how quickly it can bring in new technology. At Prologis, Heekelaar said, occupiers want the company to start monitoring air quality and other metrics. With 5,000 buildings across the world, however, retrofits will take time. “It will not go that fast. It is a handshake between the customer and ourselves in that sense,” Heekelaar said. The company has adopted WELL Certification in some of its new developments and is putting sensors in its warehouses to start monitoring air quality. Going through the whole portfolio will be a monumental task, but it’s a task that Prologis and its competitors will have to tackle.
As Heekelaar put it: “[The warehouse] has to be a healthy and a safe environment… and you have to make sure that your warehouse is better to work in than your neighbour’s.” After all, every major landlord in the sector will have this on their agenda.
Watch the panel in action below (from minute 55):