More cell phones than toothbrushes: Technology & Trends

That's right. Worldwide, it's more likely that the person you just passed on the street will use a cell phone than a toothbrush. Okay, well maybe that's twisting context a bit, but the fact is that there are 6.5 BILLION cell phones and only 5.2 BILLION toothbrushes in the world. Has any product swept over our world so quickly and comprehensively ever before? What's next? With the pace of our world, I would only venture to tell you that, if you take 5 minutes to read this post, this is what will happen next: 1,215 babies will be born, 173,611 apps will be downloaded and 694,444,444 emails will be sent.

On Tuesday this week, I attended the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver's "The Big Event". The featured speaker, Stefan Swanepoel, has been researching real estate trends for 30 years. While none of us have a crystal ball for the industry, he's doing all he can to analyze the past and the present in order to see into the future. And while he often says, "What does this have to do with real estate? How will it affect our industry? I have NO idea.", who can blame him? For who amongst us would have been able to predict exactly how we use our cell phones or social media? Even after having these technologies deeply ingrained in our daily lives for the past decade (likely less - the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and Facebook in 2004!), who can predict what more will come out of them or where we will be 10 years from now?
As someone fascinated with information, passionate about education and committed to embracing the changes that technology has brought and will continue to bring to my industry, I thoroughly enjoyed his talk, "Technology & Trends". Here's what he shared.
First, we are living in an age of CONVERGENCE.
  • Local coverging with global. Migrating populations redefine local neighbourhoods and cities. This is a global trend, but Vancouver is a particularly prime example.
  • Baby Boomer beliefs converging with Millenial thinking. GenY (ages 14-32) is joining GenX (ages 33-49) in the top leadership positions. For years, these two 'Gen' groups have been the 'kids', the 'yongsters', but the vast majority of them are not this anymore. They are in their prime work years and are committed to do things the "new" way. They are not digital immigrants (I love this descriptor!); technology is native to them. They THINK technology. Technology IS the solution. Whether those who are older or those who haven't kept up with technology agree doesn't matter as much any more because GenX & GenY believe it and they are the current leading decision-makers.
  • Residential real estate brokerages are converging with main stream. Big businesses have fallen in love with the brokerage home buying process, supporting the legitimacy of the model. Warren Buffet and Rupert Murdoch have both bought in recently, recognizing the value in our industry. Who says real estate agents are going away?! Changing - yes. Going away - no.
  • Traditional offline business converging with new online e-commerce. The physical world and the digital world are integrating. Belly to belly business is giving way to automation. It doesn't lessen what agents do, just HOW we do it
Globalization is popular.
Automation is aggressive.
Disruption is constant.
Reengineering is inevitable.
Real estate has traditionally been an industry resistant to, and therefore slow to, change. Why?
  • Real estate - the purest meaning here: land / property - is, by nature, unique, so automation is very difficult. No two properties are exactly the same.
  • Real estate agents are, by nature, fiercely independent, making it difficult to automate or standardize. We battle to build our client bases, stand out, be the 'one' that does it better than anyone else, so introduction of tools or technology that can be adapted by the masses is feared by many. (Editorial - as someone who believes that my strength is who I am, the relationships I nuture, and the transparency I provide, I choose to welcome any tools that help the process and trust that my value is not diminished - it just changes.)
The crux of Stefan's talk was listing what he believe are the TOP 10 TRENDS. Again, these may not be the trends that are impacting real estate now, but he believes they need to be on the radar.
10. Personal Devices.
  • In the most recent generation, 1990 to 2014, we have gone from 12,000,000 (million) to 6,500,000,000 (BILLION) cell phones. In 100 countires, the number of cell phones exceed the population. And would you be surprised to learn that the U.S. and China are NOT two of these 100 countries?
  • The average person checks their phone 150+ times/day. At least we're all addicted together...
  • 77% of adults use their tablets every day for an average of 90 minutes. What else do you do for 90 minutes every day?
9. Data
  • In one average day in 2014
    • Babies born: 350,000
    • Droid phones activated: 1,500,000 (millon)
    • Apps downloaded: 50,000,000 (million)
    • Active Facebook users: 750,000,000 (million)
    • Texts sent: 50,000,000,000 (BILLION)
    • Emails sent: 200,000,000,000 (BILLION)
  • We want answers from data and online resources WILL provide these answers. Who are we to argue with the answers the omnipotent 'they' - Google, Siri, etc. - provide? As real estate agents, we all fight for market share, so we must play the game of adhering to their search algorithm rules if we want a chance of being found, of being their answer.
8. Video
  • 100 hours uploaded every minute.
  • YouTube: 6,000,000,000 hours watched every month.
7. Wearables
  • Google Glass
  • Wrist products (Apple Watch, Galaxy Gear, etc.)
6. Nano technology
  • Ever smaller & smaller & smaller, down to uses at the buckyball level. How small is a buckyball?
    • 6' tall person (2,000,000,000 nanometres -nm)
    • Ant (5,000,000 nm)
    • Thickness of human hair (75,000 nm)
    • Smallest the human eye can see (10,000 nm)
    • Bacteria (2,000 nm)
    • DNA (2 nm)
    • Buckyball (1 nm) - !!!
  • Drones for commercial use - coming in 2015
5. Augmented Reality
  • Overlaying data to add value.
    • As a very simple example, think of looking up a location and seeing overlays of the local school districts, the nearby shops, etc. and the ability to request things like walkability information (WalkScore®).
    • More dramatically, think of the futuristic cars we see where loads of data is projected onto the windshield - mapping function, the nearest Starbucks, etc. Think we're already distracted drivers?
  • This is also about making information accessible anywhere and in a more realistic way than on our devices. Korea's second largest grocery retailer offers consumers the convenience of shopping at large screens at transit stops or nearly any spare wall where shoppers can look at life size virtual shelves and scan the products they want delivered.
4. Artificial Intelligence
  • The very mention of this freaks a lot of people out, but isn't this what a search engine is? It's analytics - A.I. handling more information than we humans can efficiently process.
  • In the process of quenching our thirst for information, companies have realized that the MOST valuable thing is not the answer they provide, but the information they collect about us - Where you are? When you are there? What are you doing there? How frequently you are there? What will cause you to do it again?
3. 3D Printing
  • Many of us think this is in its infancy, but it's already a $3.1 BILLION industry. That's a big baby!
  • And yes, homes have already been built with 3D printing.
2. Wipower - wireless power
  • Witricity - by creation of a magnetic field, no wires required!
1. Mobile Pay (wallet)
  • There are more cell phones in the world than credit cards.
  • There are promises it will be considerably more secure than credit cards.
  • We've seen some big players launch their efforts, but none have taken off as they wanted. Until now?
  • When ApplePay launched just this past week, within 24 hours 83% of all major US bank signed up and 220,000 businesses signed up.
  • Within 36 months, it's expected to be a $100 BILLION industry.
There is nothing to make us believe that anything is going to slow down. In fact, change comes quicker and quicker not only because the technology itself is faster, but because the new applications are being layered upon a generation that has already said 'yes' to the foundation. Are you saying yes?

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