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REITM Focus: Embracing technology and digitalisation at Jones Lang Lasalle

“Technology has to be invented or adopted.” ~ Pulitzer Prize winning author Jared Diamond

Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) has fully embraced this saying and done both – investing in developing property technology (proptech), and encouraging the adoption of technology in-house to enhance their service offerings to their clients.

Spurring on proptech

JLL believes that proptech – the combination of real estate and technology – will create more connected, sustainable, and efficient cities, bringing tangible benefits to citizens, investors, and corporate occupiers alike. It has a US$100 million global proptech venture fund to invest in technology start-ups, and its newly formed JLL Technologies division aims to further expand digital initiatives and accelerate innovation for its clients.

In Asia Pacific, JLL has built an active community that brings together established real estate players alongside exciting young start-ups and entrepreneurs. For instance, the company has invested in and partnered with Indian start-up Foyr, tapping on their technology to create 3D experiences as well as virtual fit-out and visualisation of commercial interiors at the touch of a button.

Last year, JLL partnered with Lendlease to run Southeast Asia’s first proptech accelerator, Propell Asia – an industry-first collaboration that provides proptech startups with the opportunity to work with businesses to validate their products and test for market fit. Five start-ups were successfully incubated to look into areas such as property and construction management, real estate transactions, as well as data collection, science, and analytics.

JLL and Lendlease CEOs with the Propell Asia startups (Image: JLL)

JLL also launched the Liquid Lab in Singapore last year to enable companies to develop and test products to solve work space issues that many organisations face – be it managing occupancy levels or providing comfortable furniture.

This year, JLL has partnered with Ping An Urban Tech and Swire to create the first corporate proptech accelerator in China. Over in India, another accelerator - JLL IDEAS - was launched with Invest India, an agency under the central Indian government’s Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade.

Besides partnerships, JLL has developed products in-house, including MapIt, a Geographic Information System mapping tool. Using MapIt, JLL’s clients are able to see all available spaces in cities in real time to make smart location and investment decisions. The company’s Command Centre helps building owners and occupiers run their buildings and facilities more efficiently through the use of machine learning, Internet of Things sensors, and remote monitoring.

In the field of valuation, JLL has developed an Automated Valuation Model (AVM). With artificial intelligence (AI) as its backbone, the AVM combines the company’s valuation professional’s expertise, data, and analytics to provide fast and accurate estimates of an asset’s market value, to enable property valuers to complete their task in hours instead of days.

The company is currently using AVM in Australia, and plans to roll out an app in Singapore and 20 other cities that would allow for the valuation of a building to be done through AI, simply by taking a photo of the building.

In the US, JLL created JLL Spark – a division headquartered in San Francisco that offers a global venture fund to invest in proptech to transform commercial real estate. It will focus on seed and Series A investments to help JLL businesses deliver innovation to improve their operations and service offerings.

Driving adoption from the inside out

To demystify technology for its staff, JLL implemented several initiatives to help its team develop a pro-technology mindset.

The company placed the heads of the businesses in charge of proptech, so that the teams would implement technology as part of their everyday work. This also helped to ensure that the technology would be designed for function, purpose, and usability.

Recognising that data could provide value for its clients, the company hired a data team five years ago to provide in-house expertise in analytics and data mining.

While JLL has adopted blockchain and smart contracts for its internal processes, it shared that it has yet to launch these applications to its clients because the company believes that such technology requires a level of trust that has yet to be built up in the market.

JLL’s internal hackathons (Image: JLL)

For some initiatives, JLL took a firm stance to ensure compliance and adoption of certain systems and technologies, as the company understood that behavioural and attitudinal changes take time.

“It is important for us to bring our people along with us on our proptech journey,” said Albert Ovidi, Chief Operating Officer of JLL Asia Pacific. “We want everyone at JLL to embrace a digital mindset and take advantage of the technologies we have built to serve our clients better and make us more productive.”

One key thing that JLL has done to alleviate resistance from its staff on the adoption of technology is to continue expanding. Despite becoming more invested and conversant in technology, JLL created 4,000 new jobs in Asia Pacific last year. This demonstrated to its staff that their jobs were not only not in danger of being made obsolete by technology, but could also be enhanced.

“To date, thousands of our employees have attended our internal hackathons, techathons, and design thinking workshops. We continue to challenge ourselves by proactively pushing the boundaries in real estate technologies … as we find new, innovative ways to serve our clients, our employees, and our communities,” said Mr Ovidi.