Some may think that managing real estate has remained the same since the first cave-dweller came to a brilliant idea to raise a shelter in the open. And perhaps this was so until five years ago. But now, proptech is a buzzword that moves even the most conservative of human activities. Three Estonian companies are noteworthy for setting trends and quality standards.
What characterizes all of the three companies is that they are based on IT solutions alone: R8Tech, Fyma, and Bidrento. They aim to adapt to existing hardware, thus minimizing the production of new tech waste and maximising the simplicity of application. However, in terms of functionality, they are unrivalled, and all provide remarkable efficiency, client-friendliness, and security.
AI-operated infrastructure provides efficiency
“Just five years ago, not too many thought about efficiency in the realm of business real estate,” Imre-Gustav Vellamaa, Board Member of R8Tech, proclaims. “The property was still viewed as “the big thing that sits on the foundation.” And the tenants paid for all the expenses. But the green transition amplified by the covid-19 pandemic has given real motivation to change this attitude. Since rents are the last thing that owners wish to lower, the trend is to aim higher efficiency in its management.”
R8Tech is providing a top-of-the-line AI-based indoor climate operating system for large buildings. To understand their scale, Mr. Vellamaa talks about their client in Finland, a shopping mall that has 1,5 million data points for their HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system. R8Tech system automatically controls the system setpoints for indoor climate and energy efficiency in the shopping mall every 15 minutes and adjusts settings if needed.
“It is easy to lower the costs. You just turn the systems down,” Mr. Vellamaa muses. “But the negative side effect is, obviously, that all the people will freeze, sweat, or gasp for fresh air. Our system is based on optimization according to set parameters. For example, during the covid-19 pandemic, proper ventilation became paramount. Because of real-time adjustments, we provide up to 30% higher energy efficiency while improving the indoor climate comfort at the same time.”
Property management: large-scale yet client-oriented
How do proptech companies respond to the needs of the final judge – the tenant?
“Indeed, the realm of real estate is conservative because unlike many other realms it is incredibly complex”, Taavo Annus, CEO and co-founder of Bidrento, explains. “Think, for example, how many different actions are involved in the process of renting a property from advertising and organizing visits to processing maintenance requests. Therefore, the entry barrier is quite high.”
It seems, though, that Bidrento that provides real-estate management software has jumped high over that barrier. It was declared winner of Arctic15 2020, a pitching competition, and was the only Baltic company to reach the EU Startup Summit 2021 finals.
Mr. Annus, however, cherishes most of the positive feedback they have gotten from their clients: both corporate and private. They concur that their product easily allows the management of 100 or 5000 rental flats.
“But efficiency is just one end of the story. What sets us apart is Bidrento`s comprehensive automation tools for landlords and property managers and our attention to their customers, i.e., tenants’ experience. Basically, in addition to rental property management software, we are also providing our landlords and property managers with an automated self-service environment for their tenants,” Mr. Annus explains.
“We envision that in the future, thanks to Bidrento, renting an apartment will become much more like online shopping. In this way, we can provide value for landlords and property managers as well as their end-users and make their life, well, better.”
Leading in security and transparency
With so much essential information online, digital security is increasingly important. Although this applies equally to the services mentioned above, this is especially so in surveillance. A third example of Estonian high-flying startups, Fyma, is helping real-estate owners and public space planners to make most of their existing technologies to understand how people make use of their property. Their software adapts to all surveillance cameras once they have an IP address.
“We aim to provide the maximum amount of security and transparency while not compromising on quality,” Karen Burns, CEO & co-founder of Fyma, states. “As the technology is rapidly evolving, so is its regulation which reflects the human concern about AI, about data privacy, and so on. We are very pleased to have worked with the Estonian Data Protection Inspectorate and upped the ante on how digital security is handled in the EU.”
Ms. Burns, who has a legal background, explains that while in the EU there is no central agency to provide certification of compliance with GDPR, they work one-on-one with their clients to ensure compliance with privacy and security risk assessments and requirements are met by Fyma.
“Most importantly, though, our technology does not collect any biometric data, this means no face detection, no gait identification, and no device-to-device tracking of people,” Ms. Burns assures. “And we will be moving towards open-sourcing some of our codebase to clear even the most stubborn doubts.”
Responding to high expectations
While these three companies are pushing the limits in their respective fields, they all represent the Estonian quality of IT development. When I asked them what it means to be an Estonian developer, they all answered: “Expectations are high!” However, there is no doubt that by leading in the conservative proptech sector, they have all responded well to these expectations.
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social scientist at the university of helsinki and the estonian university of life sciences