Globally, the property and infrastructure market is undergoing a sustained period of expansion. With continued growth across residential and commercial building in all markets, the industry is set to be worth a whopping $10.3 trillion by the year 2020.

The industry, according to Economy Watch, generates a tenth of the planet’s total GDP. It employs around seven percent of the earth’s population and consumes a mind-blowing 50 percent of the world’s resources.

I’m one of the 530 million people (give or take), who make a living from this industry, having worked in the business in many different roles for over 15 years. During this time, I have witnessed lots of trends coming and going and seen plenty of changes to the look and layout of buildings. However, despite all the improvements to aesthetics and basic usability, I have always felt as though there is a world of untapped opportunity within every precinct I look at. Along with my team and select large-scale partners, this is something we have recently been working to address.

Stuck in the dark ages?

When it comes to the property and construction industry, not a whole lot has changed over the past half a century. When you think about it, even the term ‘landlord’ is antiquated, describing an aristocrat from the Middle Ages, not your modern day property owner.

All around us, digital technology is transforming the way we live and work, and fast. Look at the transport industry, where driverless vehicles are now carrying passengers from A to B. And the rapid advancement of fintech, which allows you to take care of almost any payment with a thumbprint and a few clicks on your smartphone.

Then we’ve got the building industry. Yes, we have new-age window tinting and automated sprinkler systems but these are individual features and functions. When you compare these ‘technologies’ to game-changing, holistic innovations in other industries, it is easy to find yourself wondering: “What’s next?”

Of course, part of the reason for the lack of digital innovation within the building industry is budgets are tight. They are allocated to delivering a quality project before being committed to the research and development of new solutions. But because of this, even in brand new precincts, there is simply so much opportunity to leverage technology and be ‘smarter’.

Unlocking the potential of the building industry

Once upon a time, our go-to ‘search engine’ was the library, or perhaps the Encyclopaedia Britannica set we had at home (if we were lucky). After the internet began to hit the mainstream, Google came along and changed everything.

From where I sit, I can see that the property and infrastructure industry is on the verge of its own ‘Google’ moment. I’m not talking about small-scale disruption, rather an entirely new ball game when it comes to managing buildings and delivering connected customer experiences.

Right now, the technology exists to create a ‘digital twin’ for every structure on the planet. This will turn buildings from individual assets into part of a wider, digitally connected ecosystem.

By continually tracking and gathering data, a digital twin will provide the information required to slash resources and energy needed to run even the largest of facilities. It will empower managers to automate many tasks, and reduce the risk of human error.

A complete digital building profile provides endless opportunities to expand our focus as property professionals. This includes cost effective ways to ‘surprise and delight’, delivering enriching connected experiences for our workers, guests, commuters, patients, visitors and customers.

Using this technology, we will be able to improve the cash value of our assets and to reduce their impact on the environment. Around the world, spaces will provide better services to tenants and facilitate ongoing improvements through Big Data analytics.

Willow has been hard at work developing incredible new technology which will drive the property and construction industry forward in leaps and bounds. In the coming weeks, I’ll be able to share more about this with you.

Josh Ridley

Co-Founder and CEO, Willow

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