As the commercial real estate (CRE) industry continues its momentous shift into the digital age, RETCON 2024 offered critical insights, lively discussions, and innovative perspectives from industry leaders and experts alike.  

From adopting technology to strategies for data management, artificial intelligence (AI), and sustainability, the event served as a comprehensive map to the future of the CRE sector. 

Here are five key takeaways that encapsulate the discussions from RETCON 2024. 

1. Embracing tech innovations for sustainability 

In the session, “Harnessing Opportunities: Optimizing Technology to Transform Real Estate,” Yao Morin, Chief Technology Officer at JLL, emphasized the importance of leveraging existing technologies to positively impact the real estate business model.  

Morin noted that the industry should expect a substantial demand increase for carbon-reduced office spaces in the upcoming five years, due to many Fortune 500 companies setting ambitious carbon reduction goals.  

By leveraging data collected through advanced technology, properties can better understand which parts of their buildings are lacking and where there is room to improve performance. With this reliable data, companies can also make smarter business decisions, ones that support carbon reduction goals. This creates a better experience for tenants and fosters spaces that align with green future initiatives. 

2. Harnessing the power of AI in real estate 

AI is considered a game-changer in real estate. Its transformative power promises to impact the industry in multiple ways, like altering the demand and investment landscape of real estate markets. According to Nick Hayden, Executive Managing Director & Head of Property and Facilities Management Work Dynamics at JLL, AI has the potential to impact how people live, work, and play, thus reshaping CRE over time.  

In the RETCON 2024 session, “Transforming Commercial Real Estate Through AI,” Hayden noted two important stats: 

  1. More than 85% of employment growth in the U.S. over the last 80 years is explained by the tech-driven creation of new jobs 
  2. Over 500 companies are providing AI services to real estate 

However, even as the rate at which AI is progressing, Hayden remarked that we are still in the beginning stages of understanding its capabilities.  

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3. Clean, accurate data is crucial 

The emphasis on clean, accurate data was a recurring theme throughout the conference. In the same session with Moran, Poonam Sharma, Public & Private Board Director at Fifth Wall Acquisition Corp. III, CRETI, and Arden Digital Ventures, underlined that AI is ineffective without clean data. Sharma said we cannot talk about AI without mentioning whether data is clean or dirty. We must come up with a system where data is cleansed.  

The challenge for those in tech is balancing tension – ensuring reliable, functional systems. Sharma also noted that enabling AI at properties is more than a quick fix. It is about knowing who you can trust, what data to trust, and if the technology is going to work. Moral of the story – do your research and continue to ask questions, AI is not a guaranteed solution. 

4. Using technology to enhance cybersecurity measures 

The importance of cybersecurity persisted throughout discussions. Talia Fine, SVP of Information Technology at Tanger Outlets, highlighted the critical examination of vendors for their cybersecurity processes in the session, “Revolutionizing Retail Real Estate: Technology Strategies for Peak Performance.” 

Fine highlighted the importance of establishing robust security measures in the digital age. She said that all vendors, including 3rd and 4th party vendors, should be scrutinized. In fact, it’s not uncommon for vendors to be rejected due to their cybersecurity processes.  

Fine encouraged companies to build pilot programs in which the worst-case scenario is that they “fail fast.” This way companies quickly know where they need to improve their cybersecurity measures. Fine made it clear that generative AI, or technology solutions meant to monitor cybersecurity, is not meant to replace humans, but rather make their jobs easier. 

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5. CRE is all about the customer experience 

Finally, in the session, “Masterful Management: Operating Efficient and Prosperous Properties with Technology,” the speakers underscored the significance of customer experience. Sandy Jaclow, Chief Technology Officer at Empire State Realty Trust, said that real estate is a customer experience business. He mentioned that card access and video entrances provide great sustainable value for tenants. And, according to Aaron Altscher, Director of Technology Initiatives at Carr Properties, a Kingsley survey found that a key request from CRE tenants was the need for a mobile app enabling keyless access.  

Gathering data from tenants and making the necessary changes can go a long way. So, alongside efficient AI and stringent cybersecurity measures, integrating customer feedback could offer valuable data to improve operations and build a more sustainable business model.  

Recapping RETCON 2024  

RETCON 2024 shed light on the urgent need for the CRE industry to adapt to and adopt innovative technologies and practices. From a strong emphasis on high-quality, clean data for leveraging the capabilities of AI, to the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures, the conference demonstrated that the modernization of the CRE industry is well under way, with exciting changes on the horizon. 

To continue learning about the impact of technology on today’s CRE market, reach out to one of our experts today.