Artificial intelligence: The unknown friend

July 6, 2020

The real estate sector has often devoted little more than marginal attention to Artificial Intelligence (AI). Nevertheless, AI offers immense potential and its proponents even equate its significance with the invention of electricity. If used correctly, Artificial Intelligence could also lead to major productivity gains throughout the real estate industry. Clearly, the industry needs to upgrade its AI capabilities, especially in areas such as data management.

Artificial Intelligence – underestimated by the real estate industry?

Real estate experts have many answers whenever they are asked which technologies are likely to have the greatest impact on the industry over the next three to five years – from Big Data and Blockchain to the Internet of Things (IoT) and Building Information Modeling. However, one technology comes up less frequently than its potential would suggest: Artificial Intelligence.

In many areas of life and work, specially trained algorithms are already hard at work. Every day, Artificial Intelligence is making our lives easier and better by performing specific tasks and processes, from autonomous driving and evaluating X-ray images to voice-activated smart assistants in factories and households. No other modern technology offers such great potential for delivering efficiency gains. According to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, AI is going to have a bigger impact on the world than fire or electricity.

Potentials of AI

When it comes to implementing AI-driven applications, our industry has a lot of catching up to do. AI could deliver significant productivity gains in data extraction, automation, analysis and reporting. In terms of the real estate industry, data management is a good example. Most real estate companies are still wedded to traditional, analog processes. Yes, lots of companies have spent the last few years painstakingly digitizing mountains of documents. However, these scanned documents are often only stored as static files. They have simply moved from the filing cabinet to the hard drive, where they sit untouched and largely redundant. If a company fails to keep the data in these documents up to date, they cannot use it as the basis for their data-driven applications. After all, the 24/7 availability of up-to-date commercial, legal and technical data, especially in asset and investment management, is the key to efficient operations and fact-based decision-making.

People and machines

There is no reason any company should have second thoughts when it comes to exploiting the potentials of AI, except perhaps when they weigh up the achievable short-term return on investment. Companies don’t have to be afraid of the technology, but they shouldn’t expect miracles from it either. Contrary to widespread fears, experts believe that Artificial Intelligence will neither replace nor supersede humans in the foreseeable future. We’ve all read stories of AI systems beating human players at video, board and card games, such as chess, poker or Go. But each of these AI systems is only unbeatable in one domain. If they are asked to perform even the simplest task outside their field of competence, they are lost. We humans have a clear advantage in terms of flexibility, imagination and in making decisions in uncertain and complex environments. Clearly, the future lies in balancing the unique skillsets of both man and machine.

Thomas Herr