Realcomm’s 2019 event has wrapped. It was significantly larger than last year (500 more attendees). Most attendees noticed the significant increase in conference size. Additionally, there was a lot of attendee enthusiasm for the industry and its future prospects. Last year. I noted that Realcomm is “one of the best real estate technology events”, but I think it’s has cemented its status as the best.
Nashville was a fitting location — the city has many cranes, a lot of real estate investment, and has been inundated by many of the same young professionals that drive some of the technology investments in commercial buildings.
If the week was a blur and you’re still trying to catch your breath, or in case you missed the event, here are five of my observations from the event:
- A very fragmented industry. We’ve written about the fragmented nature of the smart buildings industry, but the issue is bigger and stretches across all of RE tech. One presentation noted that there are over 3,000 “proptech” firms. We’ve tracked a few hundred technology firms focused on facility management and operational use cases in buildings. Many of these firms are small startups, and many buyers and potential buyers are overwhelmed by the wide range of vendor options. In general, attendees agreed that more consolidation is coming, but it’s unclear when that will happen. And, like last year, there still are new vendors entering the market.
- New technology leadership. Many real estate firms are hiring senior IT leaders to focus on building and real estate technology. This may accelerate the IT/OT (information technology / operational technology) convergence. This also will help vendors identify the right target for their sales efforts and may expedite the budgeting process for new technology investments. We spoke with a few of these IT leaders who recently moved from other technology projects at their firms. One common opinion: a lot of building technology could be modernized.
- Rise of “as-a-service”. There were many references to new as-a-service models. We’ve covered this topic in presentations and see it as a large shift in the market. Since upfront capital is a big barrier to many investments to improve building operations, an OpEx based model holds promise. One speaker referenced the significant installed base of “40 year old equipment” in buildings that needs to be replaced, Similarly, one speaker noted that many technology and equipment decisions were “inherited” — made by others, in the past.
- Many Exhibitors. Many of the exhibitors were smaller firms, though some larger firms had a significant presence. Many or the building equipment OEMs kept low profiles.
- Staff and talent shortage. One of the emerging challenges to facility management is the lack of talent. We hosted a great panel on this topic. While 8–10 years ago, a key concern of smart building adoption was the negative impact it would have on employment (job displacement). Now, trouble finding employees to replace those that retire is the main concern. This may drive investments in automation. And, smart buildings, with more automation, may be more attractive to younger employees looking for employment.
If you were there, what are some of your observations?
- What are some of the things you learned?
- What surprised you?
- What was missing from the discussion?
- What are some topics that you think will become big topics next year? (but weren’t prominent this year)
Share your thoughts in the comments below!