How JLL is preparing itself for real estate IoT data explosion

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JLL London Office designed by Tetris © JLL

The giant real estate services firm JLL is continuing its push into IoT and a data driven approach for clients looking to make better use of their commercial real estate portfolio

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Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) - one of the largest real estate management firms in the world with revenues of nearly $6 billion in 2015 - is setting itself up for the explosion of data that will come from its corporate clients embracing the internet of things (IoT) across their massive commercial real estate footprints.

JLL's IoT use cases are clear but also complex, centring around the installation and management of sensors across massive corporate real estate portfolios. It is the sort of thing that keeps Edward Wagoner, global CIO for corporate solutions at the American firm, up at night. "I had an all day meeting yesterday and have another today on IoT," Wagoner told Computerworld UK. "It is going to explode the data sets we have."

JLL will look to utilise sensors and IoT for three main use cases: managing infrastructure, utilisation of space and total employee experience. This could range from smart management of office energy consumption, to meeting room utilisation metrics. The latter is the most ambitious, with the eventual aim being a "data driven office" environment where employees that are increasingly used to co-working spaces have more control over what assets they use in real time.

While all of these use cases will bring greater efficiency - and significant cost savings - to client, Wagoner is aware that the investment required in the underlying systems is significant.

For example, Wagoner recently ran a proof of concept on a small 10,000 sq ft space to prove out what sort of infrastructure will be required for these IoT use cases. "The amount of data from the sensors filled up a laptop a day," he said. 

Wagoner explained that he uses the laptop comparison "because executives can't wrap their head around terabytes but they understand laptops and now you have put that into a cost perspectives of buying laptops they can see that it's a lot of data".

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For the time being Wagoner is concentrating on putting JLL in the best possible position to manage this explosion of data, "so we are looking at data lake and unstructured data".

JLL is also embracing the cloud, while maintaining some on-premise storage for its more heavily regulated clients. Wagoner admits that the "preference would be to go all cloud for this because of the volume of the data, rather than building out servers".

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Then, to put these new advanced metrics into the hands of its corporate clients JLL will turn to Tableau for data visualisation, a vendor it has become very familiar with over the past few years.

Data visualisation

Wagoner recognises that the end users in corporate real estate aren't traditionally tech savvy, so the data visualisation capabilities of analytics software vendor Tableau has been coming in handy for its account managers for several years now. Tableau visualisation even forms a key component of the company's RED analytics suite, which was made available to clients in June 2015.

Typically within large organisations heads of corporate real estate will meet with heads of divisions to hash out issues like changing space requirements against budgetary constraints. The idea is to shift these conversations from a reliance on PowerPoint, Excel, and marketing department-created reports to a more self-service, dynamic reporting style using JLL's platform.

Wagoner's corporate solutions department at JLL provides clients with a technology platform to perform services like location consulting, occupier solutions, integrated lease administration and estate and facilities management systems. Property and facility management accounted for $338 million in revenues for JLL in 2015.

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As Wagoner said: "We aren't Apple or Intel or Google. We tend to follow from a technology perspective, and what pressed me was the potential for visualisations for people in real estate who are not as experienced with predictive or analytic models and were used to manual reports."

Teething problems

As with any new technology in the enterprise there was resistance to the new style of analytics at first, especially among executives who were used to a monthly reporting cycle and tended to know their portfolio back to front.

"In our world they are used to historic reporting," he said, "so financial reports to review from last month or work order reports. Now predictive or real time is a different way of thinking and analysing information, so people have to think and operate differently."

To break through to these users Wagoner recognised that the tool needed to deliver a level of insight that opened the eyes of clients without making them feel obsolete.

"The reality is it can be generational and people are afraid of it," he explained, "but once they start hands on using it, that changes. What I tell baby boomers one-on-one is that this new way of working with data is not replacing you. We need your expertise interpreting it based on experience, so when given three potential outcomes you can help us decide. Then they start to grasp it and make it their own."

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Wagoner gave the example of one client - who he said "had probably never looked at a report in his life, he had people for that" - who was so impressed with the interface that he asked for access to the dynamic reports after a meeting. "These are executives in their late fifties to early sixties wanting to use technology. You take someone who knows more in their role than anyone else and get them seeing new things, that was pretty powerful," he said.

Another client managed to save $5 million on its energy consumption by using JLL's brand of analytics to spot the least efficient of its 8,000 locations. "Using regression analysis we found outliers to point to a couple of locations that if you looked at tabular data you would have missed. We didn't turn the lights off, we just figured out locations that weren't as efficient compared to others," said Wagoner.

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