- By Nell Gable
- March 16, 2017
Ever find yourself involved in a conversation comprised almost entirely of acronyms?
In the tech community — where entrepreneurs speak a language all their own — it happens all the time.
With tools and processes evolving at a breakneck pace, it’s difficult to keep up — let alone find reliable educational resources. Yet neglecting to learn the most commonly used tech buzzwords and concepts may put you at a disadvantage when it comes to selecting a technology solution for your real estate business.
That’s why we’ve created a guide of the most frequently used buzzwords to help get you talk the talk.
An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a set of commands that allow individual software programs to communicate with one another. APIs can be put to use in many ways. Often, companies will sell their API to customers, or lend their APIs to other websites. For example, you might visit a ski resort’s site to check the snow report and see a weather forecast from Weather Underground somewhere on the page. Or, you might make an appointment on your Dentist’s website and see that Google allows you to automatically add this appointment to your Gmail calendar. In both scenarios, Weather Underground and Google have built APIs which allow other sites to utilize their tools and data without starting from scratch.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is the umbrella term for creating programs and computers capable of performing intelligent actions — such as visual perception, speech recognition and decision making — autonomously of humans. Put simply, it allows machines to act like humans. The proliferation of artificial intelligence has broad implications for the world of tech and humanity as a whole. Many jobs are being replaced by AI in factories and office buildings alike.
Augmented reality, or AR, layers computer-generated enhancements atop an existing reality, allowing the user to experience and interact with a supplemented real-world environment via their iPhone, table and other wearable technologies. In commercial real estate, companies like Floored use augmented reality as a way to allow landlords to help potential tenants visualize what their future space could look like – from different space layouts to furniture choices – without making a single change to the existing raw space.
Automation refers to any tool or software that allows you to automatically perform actions that would otherwise be done manually. When automation is used for sales or marketing purposes, professionals are able to make a greater impact on their goals with less work, in less time, allowing for the allocation of resources to other projects. Chances are you see automation at work all the time. For example, when you sign up for a new blog subscription, you might immediately receive a message from the blog author personally welcoming you to the site. As you probably guessed, they didn’t send this email in real time. Rather, they programmed their email service to fire off this email as soon as it is triggered by a new signup. For brokers and landlords, automating routine actions, such as setting up reminder alerts for key lease expiration dates within a technology tool, can save time and energy, allowing you to provide better service to your clients.
Big data generally refers to data sets that are so large, they overwhelm traditional computing methods. However, “Big Data” is also somewhat of an umbrella concept referring to the prevalence of new and more powerful sources of information available to businesses and individuals interested in studying patterns and trends. We have more data available from more sources than ever before. For most, the thought of truly harnessing the big data out there today is overwhelming. Tools such as asset management and leasing platforms allow commercial real estate professionals to break off manageable chunks of data and use them for specific purposes.
This is an umbrella term referring to the data, tools, and processes that allow professionals to gather and assess current, past and future information about business trends. Business intelligence allows us to make data-based decisions on strategy and operations functions, rather than repeating past mistakes or simply guessing at what will and won’t work. For example, you might utilize business intelligence to determine how many leads to bring into your pipeline in order to reach a sales goal. Or maybe analyzing historic business intelligence helps you decide how many staff you need to bring in to run the office efficiently.
An Interactive Dashboard allows you to visualize, analyze and manipulate all of the relevant information you provide it from your accounting system, excel spreadsheets and modeling tools etc. in one place. An interactive dashboard differs from a static dashboard in that you can modify it to show you only the data you deem relevant at a given time. For example, you might want to look at trends from a particular week, rather than all time, or understand data across your entire portfolio, as opposed to one building by itself.
Machine learning is a subfield of Artificial Intelligence in which computers are programmed to teach themselves new commands and insights by analyzing data, without being programmed by a human. Rather than teaching the computer everything it needs to know, machine learning allows the computer to teach itself, and to continue to learn beyond what the human has programmed. Machine learning is at work all around you. For example, when your smartphone starts to correctly fix a word that you often misspell, it has learned your habits and adjusted accordingly.
Predictive analytics can't tell you what will happen in the future, but they will allow you to make an educated guess. The concept involves extracting inferences from current and past data sets and making decisions based on trends and patterns. Predictive analytics are vital to making educated business decisions surrounding both strategy and operations. One might utilize predictive analytics when deciding if and how to launch an office in a new market, or how to staff a project based on seasonal patterns in purchasing. Understanding how to leverage predictive analytics is essential for brokerages and landlords looking to allocate resources effectively and edge out their competition.
A tech stack is the set of softwares that allow a platform to run. The program could be an app, website or computer. Often, when real estate organizations refer to their “stack” they are referencing the tools or services that allow them to grow their businesses — email server, CRM, HR platform etc.
Virtual reality, or VR, is a computer-generated recreation of what feels like a real-life experience. The user, by way of a headset, has their vision and hearing stimulated, and is made to feel like they are experiencing the simulated reality first hand. As noted in a previous blog, VR has taken off in commercial real estate, usually to assist in the planning, management, construction and marketing of projects. Mortenson Construction, for one, uses VR for complex medical projects, enabling surgeons to view future operating rooms from a VR device and give feedback on planned design and construction.