Big Data = Big Opportunities

Steve Zylstra
President and CEO, Arizona Technology Council


Traditionally, doing a deal in real estate has meant the parties and their agents succumbed to signing a sea of documents that left everyone practically drowning in paper that was collated, bundled and stored as proof something traded hands. The practice left everyone saying at least once: “There has to be a better way.”

Big data brings that opportunity. For example, people who have bought more than one house have witnessed the process move from paper to texts to emails with e-signatures. At minimum, no more writer’s cramp.

Compared to years and years of signing this and initialing that by hand, you wouldn’t be too far off to feel we reached this new way of doing business digitally almost overnight. Over the course of just the past decade, essentially everything has been done in a digital methodology or electronic process that creates data.

That data then gets stored.  But, unlike the banker’s box of old, that data can be quickly retrieved. If you’re operating in a network, odds are your own data is sitting in “the cloud,” meaning it’s in a data center. For us in Arizona, that cloud actually is not much farther than our own desktops as the state has become a mecca for data centers. Companies that deal in big data love Arizona since we don’t have any natural disasters that could easily reduce data centers to rubble. When it comes to companies needing places for data storage, our state is the epitome of prime location!

Every day we store more and more terabytes of information in data centers. How we manipulate all of that data to make it far more useful — and valuable — is where the possibilities for real estate and other industries arise. Every day opportunity truly knocks on a different door.

But not everyone knows how to answer it. We just saw an example of what not to do at Facebook, which stores data about each of its users in its own data centers around the world. That information was culled then used in a negative way to influence an election.

Most of the major technology companies are using data to understand human behavior and identify the habits of people. Artificial intelligence and other automation techniques are used to ensure what is learned about people can be used to convince them of something, which makes the stronger case for buying.

OK, I’m not an expert in real estate but it seems that if all the data you constantly gather can be collected, manipulated and utilized in the proper way, it can help your sales teams. At minimum, it can help keep track of what real estate is accessible and available. Apparently, I’m onto something. JLL has been centralizing data for its brokers so they don’t need to find it themselves. Time is money after all. Also, Coldwell Banker has an app for its sales force that shows who is buying, what they want and even the right sales approaches to use. Business intelligence tools are as close as the internet to help non-techies gain key insights using their own data.

As important as making the sale is making sure it is done in a secure manner. That’s where blockchain comes in. What is blockchain? Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of Blockchain Revolution, describe it as “an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” A plus is digital information can be distributed but not copied in blockchain technology. Bye-bye, banker’s box.

Blockchain fundamentally will disrupt the real estate industry. Where there have been a number of intermediaries necessary in the process, a lot of that activity can become automated. There’s no passing the buck when something slows down since the whole process becomes transparent. For example, as soon as payments are in an account, everyone will know that critical trigger for processing deeds is complete. Transparency could mean fewer opportunities for fraud as well.

If you’re interested in learning more about what data can do for your business, the Arizona Technology Council has a Business Intelligence & Data Analytics Committee that was created to help companies execute their business strategies and effectively compete via data-driven decision-making. If companies and even governments are using big data to analyze their industry, evaluate trends, and help make business decisions, why shouldn’t you?