Real estate is no stranger to the proliferation of “–techs” that have entered the economy amid the rapid acceleration of digital technology and its commercial uses. A recent report from the British Property Federation (BPF) has sought to better define the sprawling landscape of innovations that are coming into play, and to look at how the UK can become a global leader in this fast-growing industry.

The British Property Federation’s (BPF) LIQUID Report: Leading the digital transformation of global Real Estate, describes Proptech as "the fusion of 'property' and 'technology'" and as a catch-all label for digital transformation in the real estate sector.

The Report identifies the breadth of data and technology use that is already evident in the UK real estate market, including matters as diverse as automated valuation, drones, off-site manufacture and professional advisory services. Other market-led technology initiatives that are underway are also considered.

While recognising the potential for digital transformation, the report highlights the importance of greater joined-up thinking, to ensure maximum impact at a national level. UK artificial intelligence is also regarded as a key opportunity for the UK and something that will affect most parts of the real estate and wider built environment. From a global perspective, it is also suggested that enhancing the UK's digital environment will create competitive advantages in attracting inward investment.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations for action designed to maintain the UK in a leading position in global digital real estate transformation, focussing on three areas: establishing the right foundations for the increased utilisation of technology; ensuring a joined-up approach by the Government; and facilitating innovation, with data and technology issues forming part of decision-making and valuation processes.

The headline recommendation is for the creation of a government-backed digital real estate forum to connect Proptech initiatives. The BPF also points to a number of strategic advantages for the UK in taking a leading position in the global market for property technology, including its capacity for innovation, data infrastructure, market transparency and quality of education.

The real estate sector has traditionally been seen as generally resistant to change. However, with some 93% of senior leaders seeing digital transformation as essential for the future of the sector, the onward march of proptech is likely to have a continued and increasing impact both now and in the near future.

"…it is essential that digital transformation and technology is a fundamental part of any Real Estate company's strategy and decision-making process. It can no longer be a choice between today's business and tomorrow's business; it must be both…"