Get smarter

Now is the time for real estate firms in the region to incorporate the right technology elements in their building frameworks.

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By  Sathya Ashok Published  May 28, 2008

There has been a lot happening over the last few days. For one, the second annual MECOM show opened its doors in Abu Dhabi earlier this week. The show brought together communication and networking providers in the UAE and outside to showcase their latest offerings and to present a format of what is to come in the region.

There was also the second annual International CES/Hometech show that took place in Dubai. This exhibition, which focused on the latest developments in solutions that are geared for the consumer at home, was all about getting smarter.

‘Smart' or connected homes are all the rage in the Middle East. The boom in the construction industry, together with an increasingly aware and discerning consumer, has resulted in real estate firms turning to technology to offer more value to customers.

But what exactly does ‘smart' or connected mean? Depending on who you speak to, this could mean anything from automation of lighting and curtain controls, to providing high-tech options such as IPTV to the consumer premises. Again, depending on who you speak to, buildings that are coming up in the region are almost always uber-smart or they are just dumb buildings which are pretending to be smart.

While definitions of ‘smart' and market conditions vary, one look around will show you that most deployments that are taking place in construction sites today are geared more towards automating functions inside the home than anything else. Most industry stakeholders believe that this will soon lead to more network-dependent, bandwidth-hungry applications being delivered to consumer homes.

There are several drivers to this, which some believe is an inevitable trend. For one, there is the construction firm's need to differentiate itself from competition. More techie-gadgets at home is a good way to attract potential customers. Second, is the fact that technology has matured enough to make such differentiation possible. Though applications like IPTV are yet to take off in the Middle East market, all the components necessary to enable the delivery of IPTV (including hardware and software for strong, scalable networks) are already available in the market. This means that for real estate companies that are planning for the future, it is very easy to pick the latest in technology, implement it and fool-proof their investment when additional applications for the smarter home come along.

But the key driver might be the end-user himself - the consumer at home. As everybody in the Middle East become more gadget friendly, and take on the double-role of professionals and consumers, there is an increasing need to not only stay connected wherever you are, but to enjoy the benefits of technology sitting right at home. These consumers will ultimately drive the demand for high-bandwidth oriented applications and will force slow-moving real estate firms to provide them with what they need or lose out to market forces.

As one IT manager, who is himself spearheading the deployment of technology in one of the bigger knowledge hubs of the region and who was present at the CES/Hometech show remarked, the network is reaching out, and (like the iPod or any other consumer gadget) the home users in the region will increasingly demand applications that need a robust backbone to be effectively delivered.

This is the time for real estate firms to look beyond simple automation and controls, and build ‘smarter' by incorporating the right technology elements in their building frameworks. If they do not, they might find it difficult to play the field for long.

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