“Facility Manager’s ought to start now and embrace Internet of Things technology. Five years from now, no one will be able to say they did not see it coming,” said Vik Bangia, founder and CEO of Verum Consulting, in a powerful opening salvo at the Inaugural “Thought Leadership in Real Estate and FM Technology” Symposium on November 16th, at Wells Fargo Financial in Chandler.

In a week in which Bill Gates announced his intention to build a Smart City in Belmont, Arizona, there could not be a better time to discuss the convergence of Corporate Real Estate, Facility Management and Technology.

Opening the half day long event, Simon Davis, President of CoreNet Global Arizona Chapter and Lisa DeRosa, President of the IFMA Phoenix Chapter welcomed the 100 plus attendees and outlined the comprehensive agenda that was planned – three panel discussions – “Occupier Perspectives on Technology”, “IoT Trends” and “Implementing Solutions”, and three fast paced “Innovation Sessions” on Virtual Reality, IoT Enabled Workplaces and Innovations in Construction.

Said Davis, “We are truly honored to be able to put on such an outstanding event, showcasing the talents of 16 Thought Leaders in the CRE/FM IT industry, imparting their experience on an engaged audience. This event was conceived out of an event put on by CoreNet/IFMA North Texas (which is going into it’s 4th year in 2018) and we are pleased that the founder, Ed Buckley from Ericsson, was able to join us. We are looking to partner with other chapters around the globe to bring thought leadership, technical innovation and practical experience to bear. There is a wealth of talent in this industry and we are just happy to share.”

The wealth of talent Davis referenced was on show in the first panel, with prominent Real Estate experts from Wells Fargo, GoDaddy, Avnet and Apollo discussing everything from drones to virtual reality. In spite of the hype surrounding available technology in the CRE/FM space, it was refreshing to note that the panelists considered how technology enables the employee’s experience as the primary driver for their adoption of new tools. The need to attract and retain talent, whilst improving productivity and limiting expense are driving the global economy and Real Estate and Facility Management are front and center in delivering the product the occupiers of space need.

The cost components were rung true in a dynamic presentation by Ian Morley, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Australian innovators Serraview. Serraview’s real time data on how companies are actually using space provides a great business case for adopting agile and activity based working styles to lower real estate costs. Morley referenced a client in Australia that was able to increase their headcount by 8,000 without increasing their square footage by simply managing to their use of space which averaged 49% prior to adoption of new working styles. Post adoption, their utilization was at a staggering 92% and they also saw the benefits of a fourfold increase in employment applications and a 10% reduction in voluntary turnover.

A real buzz for the day was the Virtual Reality demonstration by Guy Messick of Interior Architects. VR was a theme close to many of the audience, who were looking to see what technologies could provide a practical application and benefit in the short to medium term.

The IoT panel provided some great insights into everything from the impact of IBM Watson to the practicalities of implementing an IoT solution with a stop off in privacy concerns along the way. Perhaps the most succinct recommended approach to IoT within FM and RE came from Buckley, “Think Big. Start Small. Move Fast.”