Raymond Fang of Goodwin joined us on the podcast to discuss the rise of smart cities.
Raymond Fang is a senior associate in Goodwin’s Real Estate Industry group. Mr. Fang is a corporate/transactional lawyer with a focus on UK and Pan European real estate M&A, investments, and joint ventures, acting for international and domestic private equity, institutional, listed and private clients. Mr. Fang is experienced executing UK and cross-border private M&A transactions, from corporate structures owning a trophy single RE asset to large multi-jurisdiction portfolios, and including operational assets/businesses across the Real Estate spectrum.
Smart Cities – The Opportunities and Risks by Raymond Fang
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All opinions expressed by Adam, Tyler, and podcast guests are solely their own opinions, and do not reflect the opinion of real crowd. This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. To gain a better understanding of the risks associated with commercial real estate investing please consult your advisors.
Adam Hooper (00:48):
(silence). Welcome listeners to our fifth episode of the Goodwin PropTech podcast series. Today, Ray Fang an associate in Goodwin’s Real Estate industry group joins us from his London office to discuss the concepts of smart cities, cities that are becoming increasingly interconnected and technology dependent. We discussed leading examples of smart cities around the globe, how information and data are driving the development of smart cities, and how to think about privacy and ownership of information in an increasingly data centric era. For more information, and to stay up to date on future episodes, go to realcrowd.com/PropTech. If you have any comments, feedback, or questions, please send us a note to email@example.com and enjoy the episode. (silence). Well, Ray, thank you so much for joining us here. This is our first international episode, so we appreciate you coming on this morning and sharing your thoughts from over in the UK.
Ray Fang (02:07):
Cool. Thanks Adam. Thanks Tyler. I’m excited to be here.
Adam Hooper (02:10):
Well, why don’t you tell us a little bit before we get started kind of your roles within Goodwin, what your practice area is, and then we’ll get into the topic of the day, which is the smart city concept here.
Ray Fang (02:22):
Sure. I mean, firstly, I just want to say thank you for the invitation to speak today. It’s always good to hear when people are interested in anything to do with real estate. So thank you for inviting me on your show to chat.
Adam Hooper (02:36):
Ray Fang (02:38):
As an introduction, I work at Goodwin, which for those who don’t know is a law firm headquartered in Boston. We have around 1200 lawyers worldwide across 13 offices, including five European cities. So I work in London, which is the biggest of the European offices sitting in the real estate industry team. I’m a M&A lawyer, but now service mostly real estate clients. So I’d say I’m a specialized real estate M&A lawyer. I also sit within the recently created PropTech group. So some of your listeners might have heard it’s a relatively new group set up at Goodwin to support clients as they explore the intersection between real estate and technology, which obviously rural crowd seems very interested in. In terms of client base most of the clients we act for in London, private equity or institutional investors looking to invest in or exit their investments in UK or Pan-European real estate. So obviously these clients are curious about technology but they’re not experts.
Ray Fang (03:46):
So our PropTech group kinds of feeds that curiosity and provides a little bit of thought leadership. And we also hope to create connections between our real estate clients on the other side our technology clients. So that’s a little bit of an intro about me. It’s worth mentioning I’ve got an Australian accent, because I was born and raised in Sydney, and moved across the London only five years ago. So I hadn’t managed to get rid of the Aussie accent.
Adam Hooper (04:20):
I think we can get you loud and clear.
Ray Fang (04:22):
Adam Hooper (04:22):
So I’m curious before we jump into smart cities today, how has your experience on the M&A side coming more from private equity? What is different about that now in the real estate space? Or what did you learn maybe in the private equity space that’s informed kind of how you look at real estate or technology?
Ray Fang (04:41):
Yeah, sure. I mean I’m more of a generalist private equity lawyer, but I think to be a real estate M&A lawyer you need to know the markets to need to understand market norms. Obviously the risk profile for a real estate investor is very different to be pure private equity investor as would be the case with infrastructure investor. But what I’m seeing now is there’s a lot of blurring between the lines.
Ray Fang (05:10):
So you have real estate investors obviously being interested in alternative real estate, which more operational real estate, so willing to take a little bit more risk to receive a little bit more reward. And in the context of tech they are looking to invest more in tech, because traditionally you have private equity investors not looking to really kind of put money into technology, which might take a while to actually receive a return when it comes to real estate. But now they’re willing to invest in that upfront, because tenants and ultimately investors are seeing value in that within the real estate itself. So there is an interest in understanding what technology works and can actually improve the long-term value of real estate, which is interesting.
Adam Hooper (06:06):
Yeah. And it’s finally, we’ve talked about this a lot on the show of this notion that technology is gaining more and more interest and more and more application in the real estate space for the longest time the real estate mindset has been if it ain’t broke, don’t break it. But it seems like this adoption of technology and this desire to figure out how technology can both impact operations and as an investible area to augment some of those traditional real estate activities. It’s definitely becoming a much more of a presence in our industry, which I think is a really good thing for both real estate and the technology providers that are in that space.
Ray Fang (06:46):
Yeah, absolutely. And it just to give a practical example in the UK over here we have a client which is a listed REIT and over the last three or four years they have been selling off their entire portfolio of Pan-European real estate it’s an office space, and they’re looking to buy essentially multi-industrial assets, I mean it doesn’t sound very attractive, but they’re overlaying that with a huge investment in technology. And they’re looking to become the WeWork of multilayer industrial. So what they’re doing is they’ve recognized that, “Look, there’s lots of entrepreneurs out there who not only need office space, but they need logistics space or they need storage space.” They’re not looking to kind of enter into these long-term leases. And so there is an opportunity to, “Look if we can be more agile be more attractive to this category of tenants there’s an opportunity to increase your returns.”
Ray Fang (07:56):
And so instead of having a long lease where you need lawyers to look over it and it can be costly. They’re looking to introduce leases where you can sign up using an app. You get a code via an app. You have a camera where you can view your storage space in real time and you can give access to your personnel. And all of that is that they can charge a little bit more per square meter, but it appeals more to entrepreneurs who don’t want to be locked into these long-term leases, and don’t have the time to spend money on lawyers, et cetera.
Adam Hooper (08:30):
It’ll be interesting to see how the capital markets respond to that of will that be continued to be seen as a real estate company, or will there be more of the kind of technology. And I think obviously WeWork strategy was positioning as a technology company rather than a kind of a real estate space arbitrage play. Interesting that you have an existing real estate company that’s now switching and bringing this technology layer, how will the capital markets reflect that? Will that shoot their valuation way up? Will they see more value in that? Or would they still be valued just as a real estate provider? I think that’ll be interesting to see.
Ray Fang (09:07):
Yeah, absolutely. And so I think they started selling up a few years ago and there was a real push from a marketing perspective to sell the fact that they’re looking to become the WeWork of this space. But obviously in recent times-
Adam Hooper (09:25):
Are they’re still using that?
Ray Fang (09:27):
I don’t think so, because there’s obviously not as strong and positive implication of being a WeWork of anything at this stage, but yeah I’m sure your listeners will understand the connection there.
Adam Hooper (09:40):
Of course. So I think the first difference that we’ve already heard multi-let, we would call that multi-tenant here in the States square meters we talk in square feet. But other than that, I think we’re on the same page here, which is good.
Ray Fang (09:51):
Adam Hooper (09:53):
So you’ve done some work recently around smart cities within the PropTech practice at Goodwin. It’s something that we’ve talked about for years. I think the term has generally been discussed here in the US I guess, Alphabet parent company now they’ve got their sidewalk labs, they’re doing some stuff up in Canada. We’ve seen differing stages of that here in the US. Why don’t you take us very partner to partner ground level here and explain what is a smart city, what are some of the interesting areas that you’re seeing there, and then we can kind of dig in on some of the specifics.
Ray Fang (10:29):
Yeah. I mean, it’s a good question as to what is a smart city? I guess there’s no one clear definition of a smart city, but if you want me to try it I would say a smart city is essentially a city which uses information and communications technology, so ICT to enhance the performance of urban services. And ultimately it’s this enhancement that increases the quality of life for its people. So one central idea is that you’ve got all this new technology and in particular connected devices. So things like smartphones, cars are starting to become connected cars, you have connected infrastructure, and all of this can improve the quality of life for people living and working in these urban environments. And a key to this is really the sharing of data. So data is key and the sharing of information more easily.
Ray Fang (11:25):
So it’s not enough just to have technology available. You also need to have people who are willing to share information, share data that’s collected by technology. So I guess another central idea for smart cities is that people who use this new technology need to trust that technology and actually be willing and ready to share information, really adopt it. And really I guess it’s this trust and collaboration between users that enhances the quality of information. And over time you have residents, you have visitors, you’ve got workers who generate enough reliable data, which can then be translated and used, I guess collectively to help the same people make more informed decisions about day-to-day life. So if you can kind of say two key ingredients it’s really technology and people.
Adam Hooper (12:17):
And so what you’d mentioned there this trust in the data and these devices there has been such an amazing amount of data in our space. Again, real estate has always been very opaque at best when it comes to data. So the ability to now bring in all these different data sources, we have these GPS trackers in pretty much everybody’s pocket, every move we make. Whether we want to admit it or not, I think they know where we’re at most of the day. What are some of the interesting parts that you’re seeing and synthesizing that data to gain an insight? I mean, now that we have the data, what does somebody do with it? Or what does one of these municipality or someone that’s trying to create a smarter city to enhance the quality of life of their residents? What does that actually look like?
Ray Fang (13:11):
I mean, just to start with you have so many aspects of the smart city, you have smart buildings, you have smart transportation, you have smart utilities, and so obviously the data that’s being collected in each of those forms would be different and be used for different purposes. But if you’re looking at, for example, smart buildings, a lot of that data might be of the people who spend so much of their time in that building. So what you’re seeing these days is that the whole greater connectivity between buildings can actually help create a sense of community between office occupants. And so people are starting to build things like apps, which have the ability to collect data on an occupant. So an end user, which would be an office worker, what they’re looking to eat at lunch, what their spending habits are. So pushing entertainment notices, retail notices to these customers or these office workers.
Ray Fang (14:19):
So in that way you can track consumer behavior. You can track office workers transport movements. So a lot of this can be, because a lot of these apps will try to tailor itself to particular office workers. So we’ll provide information on traffic transport, weather, consumer behavior, and all of this data can be used, and you’re right it can be sold and it’s valuable to different entities. So there is a whole element of how you consent to the use of that data and whether or not the end user actually knows what the data is being used for.
Adam Hooper (14:57):
And I think that was a lot of the premise of WeWork, was that they were building this almost insight layer of what a typical office user is. Every door you go into, every time you go to a break room, every come in and out of your suite, being able to track that usage pattern and be able to apply some as predictive analytics to it, to help tailor the programming of the office space. I think that was a lot of the initial attraction. And interesting now you’re seeing that also happened with the company referenced earlier in the industrial space. I think that’s super interesting. We’re seeing it somewhat in the residential space here in the US with kind of co-living. I think maybe we’re behind the ball compared to some other countries on that kind of co-living concept, but very interesting uses of data to make better predictive decisions about how to design a space or how to program a space for those tenants.
Ray Fang (15:48):
Yeah, absolutely. But when you think about smart buildings it’s not just about data which might be valuable. You have smart buildings now with the capacity to reduce costs for landlords and tenants. So for example solar panels on buildings, that is one way to make a building smarter, because you’re producing clean electricity, which is also quite useful as a marketing tool, because you have tenants that are becoming more environmentally conscious. You have automated sensor windows, which can adjust heat in a hot environment. So in that way, that can reduce air conditioning costs, because everything is automated. In terms of security and access, smart buildings is starting to introduce facial recognition technology. So in that way it’s making entry and exit a lot more personalized and streamlined. So a lot of that data is not necessarily valuable data, but it is still part of this whole concept of the smart building, smart city, making life a little bit easier, a little bit more efficient.
Adam Hooper (16:55):
And are you seeing this at a global scale or are there some areas, countries, cities that are leading the way in some of these changes?
Ray Fang (17:05):
Yeah. That’s a good question. So I mean as you’d expect it’s really the big global cities would be population basis that are the ones that are leading the way when it comes to spending on smart cities. So if you look at the statistics, the top cities by smart city expenditure, at least forecast expenditure for 2020 Singapore, you’ve got New York, you have Tokyo and London, you’ve got Beijing and Shanghai. So really big modern cities with big populations, typically you have a lot of Asian megacities in there, because they have young populations who are digitally savvy. That adds to the people element, the social capital element, which is that you need people to actually adopt these technologies.
Ray Fang (17:57):
But if you look at a regional basis it’s really all the talk on smart cities it’s happening in the US so you have cities like New York, obviously, but on the West Coast, they have smaller cities like San Fran, you’ve got Western Europe, and you have China, and it’s really those three regions that make up over 70% of all smart city spending globally, which is quite a significant amount.
Adam Hooper (18:22):
And now I’m curious to dig a little bit on this. So again, we mentioned before Alphabet the Google parent company with their sidewalk labs, what they’re doing in Toronto, and some other initiatives that are basically trying to conceptualize the city from urban planning up, taking a whole new look at developing an entirely new city from the ground up with some of these practices in place, versus something like a London or New York or San Francisco or Beijing, they’ve got established infrastructure. They have transportation already established. They have the built environment is already pretty well in place. So it’s more of a retrofit. How do you see those two playing out? Is there going to be more innovation, more adoption I guess of these technologies from conceptualization up, or is it going to be more kind of a retrofit of existing built environment for a lot of these innovations?
Ray Fang (19:18):
Yeah, it’s a good question. There’s not many cities that are being built from bottom up. I can think of one example in India. So a city called Amravati which is a city… I mean, they’re trying to build from bottom up. It’s not a big city, but they’ve effectively India I think it’s in the state of I’m not going to pretend to pronounce it, but the city is called Amravati, and effectively in India, they had this thing called a smart cities mission, which is an effort to modernize 100 cities. And so in India, the federal government almost ran a kind of a competition where local municipalities would enter their city in and try to kind of be nominated as one of these 100 cities.
Ray Fang (20:15):
Amravati was a tiny city in Indian terms a city of a few 100,000 people. And they were nominated as one of these 100 cities. They received a lot of federal funding and effectively they’ve started clearing a lot of farmland and looking to build from bottom up. But what they’re running into is a lot of problems in terms of funding, because that costs a lot of money, and a lot of the funding they thought they’d received. So funding from the World Bank, from international investors that just hasn’t come to fruition. So that’s the only city I can think of that’s being built from bottom up. So looking at other examples, which would be retrofitting existing cities that’s the more common example of where we’re heading in terms of smart cities.
Ray Fang (21:08):
If I take London as an example obviously a city that’s close to home. So the mayor of London Sadiq Khan he has appointed the first chief digital officer who has created a whole smart London board. And it’s drafted 1000 page roadmap to how London will become the world’s smartest city as it kind of sells itself. And that covers everything from transport, to environment, to health, to housing, to climate. So it’s very kind of all encompassing which is something I think London can do. Whereas somewhere like San Francisco it’s a smaller city. They’re focusing on very specific aspects of the city. So in particular transport, rather than in everything from housing to health as a pathway to becoming a smart city in part.
Ray Fang (22:09):
But to give some examples, so using London as an example if you look at transport there’s already a plan in that roadmap to effectively plan for a world where you have less cars and more self-driving cars well into the future, but they’re starting to plan for it already. They’re planning for a lot more shared vehicles, which means, for example, you have less parking space and more drop-off zones. So a lot of the kind of town planning and new development areas are looking at precisely that so more drop-off zones and less parking space, and there’s already an active trial to start trialing self-driving cars in central London as soon as possible. So we’ve a view of trying to take as many cars off the road as possible and try to make the city more livable.
Adam Hooper (23:02):
You brought up an interesting point with the Amravati in India of funding. So it’s not cheap to retrofit an existing city at the scale of a major city, London, San Francisco, New York, et cetera, who’s paying for all this stuff? Is it going to be a public funding source? Is there going to be some privatization of transportation issues, utility issues? How does that look from an actual implementation perspective going forward?
Ray Fang (23:32):
Absolutely. So the answer is it’s a mix and it depends on which city you’re looking at. Taking an extreme example of China, for example there’s a lot of private money being poured into making cities smart, but at the same time a lot of the initiatives are led by government. So China will be installing 400 million smart cameras in the country, which is astonishing, and that’s literally a camera for every three people almost. And a lot of his cameras will have facial recognition technology. Obviously that is a government initiative and the funding will be driven by government. Whereas on the other side you have places like London where there’s a lot of private money. There are funds being set up, so specific smart city infrastructure funds, which are targeting investment in smart cities and opportunities in that area, because there’s a kind of general acceptance that cities are starting to spend money. And there’s a definitely a kind of opportunity for private money in that space.
Ray Fang (24:49):
If you look at Singapore, Singapore you flip back to government funding, a lot of the initiatives even applications, so special apps on your phone. A lot of those are actually funded by the government. So to give a few examples, the Singapore government as part of it’s virtual Singapore project they’ve developed a walking app, which it’s a little bit big brother, so tracks the user exercise data. So if you consent to downloading this app, and the app will track user exercise data and kind of offer the best walking routes in the city. And that’s already had 2 million users sign up, which is incredible for a city. Other funky things that Singapore’s kind of implementing include a platform for registering births online. That is kind of a smart city initiative. There’s a smart phone app for emergencies. So if you need to find a registered first data, there’s an app for that. And that’s a government led initiative, which apparently saved 13 heart attack victims last year. So we’re not getting that level of government intervention in places like London or San Fran, so there is a lot of private money flowing into Western cities.
Adam Hooper (26:13):
And then I guess taking that a little bit of a step further from a land use planning or regulatory kind of building code perspective from again governmental agencies, which do you see the primary driver of this? Is it going to be municipalities and regional local federal mandates that these things start taking place? Or is it going to be more driven by the consumer demand and private side that says, “I really want my building to do this. So I’m to build it, whether there’s regulations in place to enact those kinds of changes.”
Ray Fang (26:50):
Yeah. I mean, again, there’s so many aspects of the smart city. So if you’re looking at the planning side of things, certainly you now have urban planners, so municipalities which are starting to think about how you reshape a city to allow developers to plan for a world where, like I said there’s less cars and less parking spaces. So if you look in Amsterdam for example, it’s led at municipality level, they’re getting rid of, I think over 10,000 curbside parking spaces and redesigning that into car drop off zones and biplanes and parks. But if you’re looking at office buildings, a lot of that smart technology, that PropTech technology it’s really driven by the end user.
Ray Fang (27:43):
If you’re looking at the most extreme examples of smart office buildings, you see developers are starting to look at strategic partnerships with tech firms. So an example I heard is Skyports, which is a company that’s involved in drone deliveries, and they are working with developers around the world. So LA, Singapore, and London, and they’re looking at how to incorporate drone delivery technology in commercial and residential buildings. So new buildings coming up. How do you incorporate that on the roof of a building to allow that? And so if you think about that in the future, if your building is one of the first to have access to air taxis and drones that’s a huge draw card for occupiers. So in that sense it’s driven by potential private demand. And then you have a lot of things like smart utilities, which you’re back to government, it’s governments driving smart utilities. So could be as simple as lights that switch on and off to save electricity and it’s activated by movement that would be a government initiative.
Adam Hooper (29:04):
And now, I guess on the utility side, you mentioned a lot of the smart windows and some of these connected more intelligent devices, whatever that might be. A general shift in the real estate space towards thinking about things in a more kind of ESG focused basis. How do you see that I guess playing out in this smart building, smart technology space within real estate? It feels like there’s a huge opportunity for going beyond just a lead certification in a building to actually implementing these technologies.
Ray Fang (29:39):
Yeah, absolutely. If you can show to a tenant, if you can demonstrate to an ultimate investor, which might be an institutional investor that your buildings are environmentally sound that’s a big draw card. So I might’ve mentioned already you have windows which have shades that can adjust based on the level of sunlight that ultimately saves electricity. That’s a good thing. Solar panels save electricity. If you dig deeper you have things that can save money. So it’s not just an ESG perspective, but you’re saving resources. So you have government starting to introduce things like smart and waste receptacles that are being adopted by office buildings as well. So these are receptacles big rubbish bins, which have sensors that are built in. So they know when the rubbish bin is full or you might even have the new ones in the US actually have odor sensors. So they can actually sense a bad odor. So even if it’s not full, it needs emptying. All of that makes the building services more efficient. It ties into to kind of the broader infrastructure piece. And it’s just an extra selling point to tenants and investors.
Adam Hooper (31:09):
I didn’t know we had smart trash cans. That’s a…
Ray Fang (31:16):
Smart trash cans are interesting. They even have movement sensors, which can differentiate between an animal living around and a human which might be sleeping the waste receptacle, which if you’re looking at some cities that homeless people might just be sleeping in bins in winter, it’s quite sad, but that’s a safety device they’re incorporating.
Adam Hooper (31:44):
Interesting. And I think it all gets back to this data angle. You have to have the sensors, you have to have the computational power to determine whether an odor is unpleasant or not. Who owns this data? And this is maybe my cynical view on this, but at some point we have to just almost all give into the fact that there’s so much data on us that we will never know is being collected. We will never have control of. Do we just at some point just give up and just all this data is just out there and we just go along in this new world with zero privacy, or how does that look at an implementation level of consumer… I mean, again, you have this walking app that you said 2 million people have already signed out to be tracked wherever they walk. That’s a pretty high amount of this big brotherly trust in whatever entity is collecting this data. How do we reconcile that going forward?
Ray Fang (32:47):
Yeah. So, I mean, clearly data is a key to success in the smart cities. As you said you’ve got all this data flying around. And it’s a whole range of situations from traffic to crime monitoring, to social behavior, to personal movements like you say, GPS movements. And a lot of this will be quite personal and sensitive data, but a lot of it will also be anonymized data. So it’s really that kind of personal sensitive data that you care about, data that can tie into an individual person. I think that is the type of data that really requires governments to step in and look at regulation, because if you think about it data’s being collected and being stored and transmitted and being shared, and it’s been done so along so many different devices, along so many different connecting points.
Ray Fang (33:48):
And security aside it only takes a hack, it only takes a leak to undermine the entire system. So it’s really there for obviously need to define what happens in that situation, but governments do need to step in and regulate what are the minimum levels of security that needs to be in place, and also what rules need to come in place to regulate data that’s collected that can tie into an individual. So, yeah, so for smart cities, there’s a lot of pressure for regulators to stay on top of that. I mean it’s not a black and white situation, because obviously in Europe.
Adam Hooper (34:29):
Yeah. Have you seen some differences in how that’s being handled in Europe versus US versus again, Beijing or Singapore, these other countries, how are you seeing that being handled differently within those respective areas?
Ray Fang (34:42):
Yeah, I mean in Europe we have quite sophisticated privacy and data protection laws. A lot of that needs to catch up to all the new technology, but the kind of infrastructure in terms of the legislation regulation is there. And it really attaches the personal information that is being regulated. But in countries like China, for example, I mean there’s not that infrastructure in terms of regulations and legislation. So naturally you’ve got their citizens who may not necessarily trust in the government and what their motives are. And there’s not much you can do in a country like China.
Adam Hooper (35:25):
Well, I think that’s interesting, this notion of, is this an opt-in thing or is this just a pervasive data collection issue, right?
Ray Fang (35:36):
Yeah, that’s a good point. And you’d think so as a very kind of basic premise in Europe, if you have personal information you need to consent before anyone can use that information. That consent should be expressed, and you need to have an ability to take control of that data sometime in the future, if that’s what your preference is, but obviously in a smart city, it’s quite a gray area. And there’s a lot of tension between what is personal data, what isn’t and who is collecting the data, because obviously everyone wants to retain that ownership over that data. And you have developers of software who are collecting data, you have infrastructure owners, you have government who might argue that, “Look, that data’s public data.” And then you come back to the individual who obviously wants to have control over that data. So yeah, I think there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of legal and regulatory framework actually catching up and keeping pace with this new technology. So it’s quite a developing space, but I think the infrastructure in Europe at least it’s definitely there to start to adapt to this.
Adam Hooper (36:53):
And I’m curious you mentioned hacking or leaks, or what have you. Are there fail safes in place for some of those technologies such that if the system is compromised, I can still get into my building for instance? Like if some of these systems do get compromised or go down with a physical lock and a key, I can always get into my building or I can always get into my house, but if I’m relying on a system that I don’t necessarily have that physical control over are you seeing any concerns or any ways that technology providers are thinking about what that kind of failure state is in some of these different technologies?
Ray Fang (37:32):
Yeah, I’m certainly not in IT or security expert so I couldn’t tell you what those fail safes are. But you’re absolutely right that if you becoming more dependent on this technology, we all become more vulnerable. If there is a software malfunction or malicious hack that your life will be disturbed in some way in the least it will be an inconvenience. But if you look at some of these smart cities they’re becoming more and more complex, and there’s a whole interdependence between networks, devices, systems, users, platforms. And so if you have a security breach you’re right, that can actually be quite devastating to the people who live in a smart city who depend on that technology. So if you have a hacker he could potentially shut down utilities for an entire community, or disrupt emergency services. So you’d hope that as smart cities develop the kind of Armageddon situation is protected against, but not being an IT or security expert, I couldn’t really comment on that in my data.
Adam Hooper (38:45):
Sure. Not trying to fear monger or anything. I think it’s just again, thinking through some of these implications down the road. And so maybe to end on a higher note, what are some of the areas that are most exciting to you that you’re seeing maybe early stages of now, or where do you think the most kind of transformational promise of this technology, or kind of connectivity goes?
Ray Fang (39:09):
I would say obviously there’s a lot of risk in smart cities that we’ve just discussed, but there’s a lot of opportunities. So it’s kind of like FinTech, years and years ago people are talking about it. And then those who’ve managed to adopt technology early on financial services they ripped their rewards early, and those who kind of were a bit late on they really struggled. I think the real estate industry has always been quite simple. But now it’s starting to embrace complexity in the context of tech. So those I think who at least keep technology connectivity and they keep data front in mind it will hopefully reap rewards in the future, because they will be able to spot opportunities. And they might be able to plan for future eventualities that maybe others don’t.
Ray Fang (40:07):
So the questions would be if you’re a car park operator for example are there always going to be cars in the future? What do I do with that car park space? Can it be repositioned for other uses? You should start to start thinking about it has the value of real estate by introducing technologies that can collect data and monetize that. But at the same time, think about what are the risks of that? Am I legally compliant with latest privacy and data protection laws? So there is a lot of opportunities, but there’s a lot of risks that need to be thought of as well.
Adam Hooper (40:50):
Yeah. And you mentioned kind of early days of FinTech, now we look at most operating companies outside of the real estate space, and this concept of what is a technology company has sort of… Every company’s like technical technology company nowadays, right?
Ray Fang (41:07):
Adam Hooper (41:07):
There’s such dependency and reliance on technology and innovation and just kind of operational reliance on technology. Whereas if I’m a real estate developer or a building owner, I just need email and some spreadsheets. You can still operate real estate in a very analog way. You don’t need this technology. So I think your comment of like FinTech in the early days, how technology it’s pervasive in every aspect of these operating businesses, we’re starting to see people think about what does that look like in a real estate operating company, whether you’re a developer, an owner, a service provider. I think that’s really, really interesting to see what that’s going to look like in five, 10 years when every real estate company is operating as a technology company, they’re just in the real estate industry. I think that’s super interesting to see where this all goes.
Ray Fang (41:58):
Absolutely. And as I said I think those who think about it now, and I kind of first in would be best placed to adapt and improve in the future when everyone’s doing it. Yeah. I mean, use the example of drone technology and having been the first building that is suited for air taxis and drones. I mean, that’s a huge draw card for tenants.
Adam Hooper (42:22):
Yeah. Sounds like I need to go back and maybe watch a couple episodes of the Jetsons and see if we can get some stuff. So for listeners out there that are either investors in real estate or managers, operators themselves you will have links to the show notes here for what you guys are doing at Goodwin and the PropTech initiative, which is just fantastic stuff. Are there any other resources out there for people that are trying to learn about more of these kind of smart cities, connected devices and developments any resources that you can help point listeners to to learn more about this?
Ray Fang (42:55):
Yeah, I mean the first kind of port of call I’ll give a plug to Goodwin’s PropTech websites. If you go to www.Goodwinlaw.com/PropTech there we have a lot of resources including an article on smart cities, if any of your listeners want to have a deeper read, but otherwise if anyone wants to contact me I’m on firstname.lastname@example.org. I can answer any questions and kind of point you in the direction of any resources.
Adam Hooper (43:28):
Perfect. Again, we’ll have that in the show notes. We’ll have links there. Again very happy to be working with you guys at Goodwin and sharing this work that you’re doing at PropTech initiative. So a lot of really, really interesting stuff Ray, and appreciate your time here on the show.
Ray Fang (43:44):
Thank you for having me.
Adam Hooper (43:45):
All right. Thanks and listeners as we said, check show notes for those links. Send us an email to email@example.com with any questions. And with that, we’ll catch you in the next one. (silence).