10 Technologies Transforming Real Estate, According to MIT and JLL

  • Tech startups beg real-estate firms to adopt their products for homes, offices, or construction.
  • Real estate tech — an industry colloquially known as proptech — is booming with record investment. 
  • A new tracker ranks innovations from virtual reality to new building materials. Here are the top 10.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Proptech companies — which create products that transform or streamline the traditionally slow-moving real estate and construction industries — are booming.

Funding proptech firms raised soared to a record high of $9.7 billion in the first half of 2021, according to JLL research. The pandemic is proving that even traditional property owners, managers, and builders must embrace features, from virtual reality to new materials, to stay profitable and relevant.

But which ones? A landlord dipping a toe into the proptech craze might have to decide between carbon nanotubes or graphene — two materials that both add extra strength — to shore up the concrete for a new building. A real estate brokerage could embrace either virtual reality or augmented reality for remote listing tours. 

Help is on the way: There’s a new tool that helps real-estate firms make decisions about which new technologies to adopt. Commercial real estate services firm JLL and MIT’s Real Estate Innovation Lab unveiled a “tech tracker” on Sept. 8.

“The challenge that our clients have as big occupiers and investors in real estate is that they’re drinking from the firehose of proptech, while not being able to understand the underlying technologies that are driving these companies and these products,” Benjamin Breslau, JLL’s chief research officer, told Insider.

The cofounder and director of the lab, Andrea Chegut, said the tracker can inform industry players’ long-term plans. She pointed to virtual reality as an example of a technology whose development was heralded with lots of fanfare but that hasn’t yet made a huge difference in our day-to-day lives.

“We think proptech is incredibly important, but we need to add the longer-term view,” Chegut told Insider. “We’re a 100-year industry — but commercial products in tech can rise and fall in five to seven years.”

The new tracker distills the most important data points to know about technologies in the pipeline or those that are already in use. Take the Internet of Things, a network of connected objects able to collect and exchange data using embedded sensors that can help power smart homes and buildings. There is also intel on science-fiction-esque innovations, like materials that change shape when exposed to heat or light, which could be used to make automated blinds that open and close to keep a building at a constant temperature.

The tool contains searchable, sortable information on dozens of technologies sourced from journal articles, social media discussions, and venture fundraising numbers to calculate how far along a feature is toward full adoption. The site also allows users to sort by the stage of development, the time it will take to hit the market, and other specific factors. According to the research from JLL and MIT, any technology takes an average of 41.6 years to go through a full life cycle and become a part of day-to-day existence. 

“Nothing necessarily goes exactly to plan,” Chegut said. “Let’s take away this hype and turn it into data so we can have legitimate insight.”

Below, we’ve outlined the top 10 technologies the tracker lists. You can check out the full tracker here.