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Back to the Present

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The character Marty McFly would probably be less overwhelmed by the real October 21, 2015 than the fictional one he encountered in the film Back to the Future II.

Shortly after arriving into his future at the main square of his hometown, McFly was attacked by a shark hologram jumping out of a cinema playing Jaws 19, put on a pair of power-lacing Nikes and rode on a toy hoverboard with a steady stream of hovercars passing by.

McFly’s hometown in the real present day would no doubt be full of less dramatic surprises in comparison.

But beneath the surface, there has been one technological revolution that appears to have gone well beyond the imagination of the Back to the Future II makers – the Internet of Things.

25 years since the film was released (co-incidently a year after the worldwide web was developed), it is now not just computers that are connected by the Internet.

Now public spaces, vehicles, buildings, everyday physical objects and people are being connected in ways unimaginable back then. Also as dramatic has been the advent of social media which is starting to dominate not only interpersonal connections but also how people receive news and interact with the wider world.

Within the next five years, the technology firm Cisco estimates 50 billion devices around the world – such as smartphones, wearable devices, and sensors on vehicles, rubbish bins and air-conditioning units – will be connected to the Internet. This compares to the 200 million computers that were connected in 2000.

This network is allowing physical objects to exchange data between themselves, that can also be analysed like never before.

And it is already starting to have a profound impact on the physical world – and that includes the shopping centres, logistics facilities and office buildings managed by property companies such as GPT.

GPT is already seeing the immense potential of the Internet of Things (or in our case the Building Internet of Things), in how it improves the management of assets, enhances the experience of visitors to its shopping centres and acts as a technology enabler for its tenants. There are countless options in how GPT can use the IoT to improve the customer experience, automate our activities and provide new capabilities to our customers and business.

One major benefit has already come with better connected and interconnected Building Management Systems.

The use of analytics in assessing the data provided by systems has already helped improve the performance of our assets – particularly in the area of energy efficiency. The connection of multiple systems (such as heating, CCTV, elevators and security) and analysing their data together is transforming how we manage our properties.

There is a very long list of potential benefits from the IoT that can save energy usage and costs, maintenance bills and improve the functioning of a shopping centre or office tower.

Then with customers has come the merging of online and physical shopping experiences. Whether it could be trying different coloured shirts without changing clothes in front of a virtual change room mirror, click and collecting an item ordered online in a shopping centre to checking if a store has stock before you enter it.

The definition of the landlord has changed and will likely continue to change. No longer are companies like GPT just leasing retail or office space. GPT in some cases is seen as a technology enabler, where it is providing technological guidance or capability to tenants. In the case of food and beverage providers, for example, this could include the provision of GPT’s food ordering platform Pronto.

Or for other retailers, there is the potential for us to gather analytics to help them assess how they could improve their sales.

The real key is the opportunity the Building Internet of Things can create for our customers and the industry as a whole.

As with many of these developments some may still end up on the cutting-room floor where they don’t deliver real business value.

But it is set to be more profound for property companies such as GPT than the everyday use of hoverboards.