Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) is the industry's premier business networking organization with a commitment to strengthening and expanding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) throughout their global organization. I was honored to be a part of a panel on the impact of AI in corporate real estate

This event, put on by CREW St. Louis, hosted by WWT and sponsored by Steelcase, proved to be thought-provoking and informative across multiple areas of the corporate real estate business. CREW St. Louis is an organization of women who support women, so participating in this panel was a career highlight for me. I can't thank CREW St. Louis enough for including WWT and me in this event.

My fellow panelists spoke to the impact of AI on many areas of the business for CRE. Allison Gray, from Steadfast, discussed leveraging AI in development, market analysis and project planning. Danielle Grubbs, from Cushman and Wakefield, reviewed how AI is impacting marketing and speed to market. Pete Schwartz, from Vessel Architects, shared his thoughts on how AI can help understand a client's vision more effectively. Pete Salsich, from Capes Sokol, took on the difficult topic of data, privacy and compliance monitoring in the world of AI.

As for my role in the panel, I discussed the impact that AI will have on technology now and in the future. An overview of my thoughts is laid out below. Thank you, again, to CREW St. Louis for including me in such an incredible event.

I have been working in emerging technologies for quite some time, I often reflect on the remarkable speed at which certain innovations gain traction. Take, for instance, the journey to 100 million monthly users: Facebook took 4.5 years, Twitter over 5 years, and remarkably, ChatGPT achieved it in just 2 months. This underscores the transformative power of AI, with ChatGPT serving as a catalyst for rapid adoption and integration.

One fundamental concept I addressed during this panel is the misconception that AI itself is a strategy. In reality, AI should be viewed as a tool - one that can be onboarded much like an employee. This involves defining specific roles, clear job descriptions and outlining how AI-enabled capabilities can drive tangible ROI. When considering your hybrid work,  cyberand cloud strategy it's crucial to explore how AI can enhance efficiency and effectiveness in achieving these objectives. When onboarding AI solutions, be sure to enable it by giving it access to the data it needs access to and not giving it access to the data it does not need access to.

As Cisco CEO, Chuck Robbins, aptly put it, "The office should be the magnet, not the mandate." We should be looking to create an enticing experience to draw the employees back to an office that is designed for their specific needs. This highlights the importance of creating a frictionless employee experience within office spaces. Understanding employees' needs and preferences is key to optimizing office environments, which can be informed by data-driven decision-making. 

Space studies are not just limited to office spaces either, as far as real estate goes; for example, one of our largest healthcare customers is engaged in a space study about how their hospitals are used by patients. The goal of this space study is to pull together as much data as possible, including weather, public transit schedules, generation and demographic of patient, and reveal insights into the necessity of patient and family waiting rooms. Not only will this help them understand the waiting room areas that are needed, but also if they should adjust how appointments are scheduled, potentially to align better with public transit. 

We have several customers engaged in similar space utilization studies to gather data on retrofitting their office spaces, as well. Most of this is not necessarily new, as we have always tried to adapt the office space to fit the wants and needs of the next generation of workers. But, up until now, we've had limited data to do this and have had to make many assumptions along the way. For example, if we only use room booking data to determine how many conference rooms of specific size are needed, we are probably using bad data. We all know ghost meetings and zombie meetings exist and can skew data as a result. Many devices that we already have in conference rooms today include AI technology that allows us to gather data on how many people actually showed up for that meeting, resulting in better data-drive decision-making.

Enhancing the employee experience goes beyond space utilization to include the integration of sensor technologies for automated facilities management. From automated blinds to smart air filtering systems, these technologies contribute to a more comfortable and productive work environment. Moreover, data collected from sensors can enable predictive maintenance, minimizing downtime and optimizing resource allocation.

Predictive maintenance becomes increasingly important as the number of AI-enabled devices grows. Automation driven by AI can streamline ticket management processes, ensuring efficient resolution of issues across facilities and IT domains. Furthermore, AI-powered knowledge bases empower organizations to leverage insights, from past ticket resolutions, enabling self-healing systems and improving overall operational efficiency.

In the context of sustainability, it's essential to consider the environmental impact of AI solutions. While AI holds tremendous potential for efficiency gains, it also demands significant hardware and power resources. Organizations must balance the benefits of AI with their sustainability commitments, leveraging AI to achieve environmental goals more efficiently.

Looking ahead, AI will continue to shape the future of corporate real estate from a tech perspective in profound ways. The impact of AI will be unparalleled, surpassing even the transformative effects of previous technologies, such as social media. Immersive experiences enabled by AR/VR technologies will redefine how we interact with physical and virtual spaces, revolutionizing industries from gaming to remote collaboration. 

However, as AI becomes increasingly integrated into our lives, it's important to address potential challenges and concerns. There is still a lot of fear around AI and the potential for AI to replace workers. Having a prescriptive role for AI to play can help to alleviate some of these fears, AI is likely to create more jobs, and those jobs will be filled by individuals that know how to responsibly and effectively work with AI.

Another area to be aware of is bias in AI algorithms. AI is built on neural networks and those networks intended to replicate how humans think and learn, and humans tend to have bias. Humans also have generalized preferences, and ingesting diversity in AI solutions can help to overcome negative outcomes resulting from bias.

Additionally, organizations must avoid moving too slowly in adopting AI technologies, recognizing the competitive advantages they offer in today's rapidly evolving landscape. There are a lot of moving pieces with AI and the reality is that not all of it has been figured out yet. Those that are willing to move fast and with purpose are likely to create an incredible, competitive advantage. Don't wait!

In conclusion, AI represents a paradigm shift in corporate real estate and in many other areas, offering unprecedented opportunities for innovation and optimization. By embracing AI as a strategic tool and addressing its associated challenges thoughtfully, organizations can unlock new levels of efficiency, sustainability and employee satisfaction in the workplace.