Forge

Connecting Buildings & People

Today, there’s an awful lot of proptech out there. The property industry might have been slow to the digital party compared to other industries, but in the last few years, there has been an explosion in technical solutions that manage many elements of real estate, from tenant experience and facilities to investments and leasing.

The result can be that tenants and building managers end up with a whole swathe of apps and dashboards that they need to log in to. What is needed is interoperability, said Paul Speariett, regional director at Yardi and co-founder of Forge, a company Yardi acquired in June.

“Interoperability means you can get the best system for the job, connecting it with others to create an output that drives value,” he said. “There is increasing cooperation in the proptech industry, driven by the fact people increasingly expect the same interoperability between systems used in an office as those used at home — think video doorbells that connect to Alexa. However, more cooperation is needed if property users are going to get the seamless, technology-driven experience they’re coming to expect.”

Benefits Of Interoperability

The visitor management technology created by Forge, called Bluepoint, has been designed with interoperability in mind from the beginning. For example, the company has recently integrated Bluepoint with tenant engagement platform Office App at an office in Southwark. Visitors to the building receive a meeting invitation, building information and QR code to enter all without leaving the Office App.

When two digital systems work together effectively, the beauty is that users won’t know they are using more than one system, Speariett said.

“The huge amount of complexity behind the scenes should create transparency for the end-user,” he said. “With Bluepoint, you shouldn’t even know you’re using an access control system – you should be able to get to a desk without experiencing a complex interface. Showing what happens behind the scenes would be like having a car with a glass bonnet. This isn’t what technology needs to be.”

Creating this seamless experience isn’t easy, however. In fact, it is highly complex.

The Challenges

“Each system has a different method to expose information, which has an impact on what can be done,” Speariett said. “For example, the data within some systems lets us open a door while others don’t. This can be frustrating for the customer and you need to be aware of limitations when integrating with another system.”

Currently, there is no standard in proptech that could govern how a piece of technology produces and manages data. CCTV, for example, works on a shared framework agreement that determines how images are delivered; a user will know that if they connect a camera to a system, they should be able to get the images. Speariett believed that a standard for proptech could be created in the future by an independent body.

A second challenge comes from the sheer number of people involved in integrating various platforms. The more systems there are to connect, the more requirements there are to get them to work. Speariett said that the reason other digital platforms are happy to partner with Forge is that the in-house team has knowledge of all the moving parts, having worked with many other platforms, and thus can triage and fix problems.

“To achieve interoperability, you need to work with partners who have a deep understanding of multiple systems,” Speariett said. “That have the ability to see other systems rather than remain in siloes. Also, you need to set clear goals from the outset with a specific requirement to be achieved.”

Future Applications

When two systems can connect, the result is a seamless experience for the user and potentially new ways to understand how people are using office space. This is something Forge is keen to explore, Speariett said.

“We’re still in the infancy of connecting things together and what can be done when this happens,” he said. “Often, you don’t see the value of connecting until you do it – you can get new data points that you couldn’t see otherwise.”

Speariett highlighted how connecting Bluepoint with other platforms could help businesses understand how to get the most out of hybrid working. It can connect with meeting room booking systems as well as video call systems to understand when a meeting really needs to happen in person, for example.

“There is certainly a role software can play in sustainability in the future,” Speariett said. “We’ve got a lot of ideas about how to measure how people travel to the office, how a company can promote different modes of travel.”

As more tenants recognise the insights they can gain from mining data about office use, undoubtedly the role of proptech platforms will grow. If these platforms work together, the future applications could be limitless.

This article was first featured in Bisnow.