Ahead of his keynote speech at MIPIM UK, WIRED editor Greg Williams caught up with the team to discuss advances in UK tech – one of the most exciting trends influencing the UK real estate market today. Here’s what he had to say…
What technological innovations are interesting you right now?
Greg Williams: It’s not a particularly exciting answer, but the cloud is the fundamental basis for all modern digital products and services, offering scale and security. Its disruptive effects are largely derived from the fact that it has completely changed the economics of computing. There might be sexier things to talk about, but the cloud is necessary for everything else.
Is the UK a follower or a leader when it comes to tech?
Greg Williams: The UK has deep expertise in science and engineering with many business leaders in their field. Cambridge-based firm ARM makes chips that are in hundreds of millions of smartphones, DeepMind is one of the world’s leading research labs for artificial intelligence and our universities are among the best in the world. Every major city in the UK has startups with global ambitions. Technology is an ecosystem that depends on talent, but also investment. The more companies that have successful exits, the more money will be ploughed back into new startups. More than any other industry, technology doesn’t define itself through borders, but through passion and talent.
Do you think real estate is lagging behind other sectors when it comes to adapting to technological change?
Greg Williams: The first wave of the internet was about developing social and innovation models online. The stage we’re in at the moment is about this being applied to the real world. We’re at the beginning of a new era of technology applications in the real world, in the form of sensors and enormous data sets. This will necessarily be applied to all physical things, including property. On-demand services are changing the way that commercial property is rented, Property Partner helps individuals to invest in the market and BuildPath helps people work with architects. Developments in materials science, biology and sensor technology, not to mention autonomous vehicles, will have a deep impact on our built environment.
Which areas of the real estate sector do you think are most ripe for disruption?
Greg Williams: Wherever there is inefficiency or things that can be done better, entrepreneurs will find opportunity. Property is a vast market, so incumbents should disrupt themselves before they’re disrupted. Based on my own experience, whoever finds a way to automate conveyancing through Ethereum will find a receptive marketplace.
What are the most exciting trends and start-ups that you are seeing emerge in proptech?
Greg Williams: As previously mentioned, I find the advance in on-demand services particularly intriguing. But the MX3D project in Amsterdam, where a fully functional, intricate bridge is being 3D printed by robots is really exciting. Ditto, the work at the MIT Media lab at which Skylar Tibbits is working with materials that re-form over time.
Greg will present an Innovation Keynote speech on the first day of MIPIM UK 2017 – 18 October. Within his talk, he will be discussing the digital trends transforming your world.