The real estate sector got a push out of its tech lethargy on 16 November when former WeWork China head of innovation and technology, Dominic Penaloza, unveiled technology development studio REinvent, an incubator catering to the needs of the real estate industry.
REinvent was founded by 45 property and technology professionals with track records in creating and commercialising proptech products — veterans from Alibaba Cloud, CapitaLand, Autodesk and Google, among others — and is backed by co-working operator JustCo.
“REinvent has two key ingredients: an in-house world class technology organisation with a proven track record in inventing and commercialising proptech products, and close relationships with major property companies,” said Penaloza, who leads the company as CEO. “These two ingredients minimise the various risks of the startups that we invent, including team risk, execution risk, product market fit risk, and go-to-market risk.”
From offices in Singapore, Taipei and Shanghai, REinvent aims to enhance the real estate and construction industries through digital transformation, including a wholesale change in perception of tech-driven innovation in data assembly, transactions and urban design. The firm aims for all studio-created startups to grow into stand-alone proptech businesses.
At the same time that the company made its public debut, REinvent launched its first two proptech products: workspace on-demand platform Switch and SixSense, which features software for spatial analytics and social distance detection.
Finding a Space
First out of the gate is Switch, which REinvent calls the world’s first workspace-on-demand platform. Bringing 25 Singapore locations with 2,000 desks together under one app, Switch lets members work from anywhere on an on-demand, pay-per-minute basis.
Switch’s partners include JustCo and The Executive Centre as co-working centre and serviced office brand headliners, as well as major JustCo backer Frasers Property. The platform offers hot desks, meeting rooms, private offices and smart work booths.
“We believe the future of real estate is when people will consume it as a service,” said REinvent’s Penaloza. As he sees it, Switch will recalibrate the relationship between landlord, tenant and non-tenant, transforming workspace into a consumer product.
One of the app’s most notable features is the Switch Booth, which sources smart work booths deployed in nine of Frasers’ shopping centres (including Causeway Point in northern Woodlands and Century Square at eastern Tampines) for mobile convenience. In the first phase of 60 Switch Booths, the spaces hold one or four people and will eventually cover hundreds of suburban and CBD locations.
“Reflecting a convergence of technology and real estate through today’s sharing economy, the Switch Booths in our retail malls along MRT lines are ideal choices to work near home, freeing up time to travel back to the office as employees gradually return to the workplace, while offering undisturbed productivity on the go,” said Uten Lohachitpitaks, group chief investment officer of Frasers Property.
Social Distancing Made Easy
Proptech has played a prominent role in 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many property operators compelled to adopt more technology to respond to the crisis and creating requirements that REinvent hopes SixSense will fulfil.
The spatial analytics and social distance detection service based on AIoT — a hybrid of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things — is rolling out in 10 JustCo locations in Singapore to help property owners and operators understand how their spaces are being utilised and by how many people. The software is hardware-agnostic, ensuring that it functions with as many sensor systems as possible.
“Artificial intelligence is being used to create the brains of a smart building, while integrating various smart hardware systems [is] like connecting the limbs of a building,” Penaloza said. “SixSense … [helps] this brain to ‘see’ exactly what is happening in every square metre of the building.”
SixSense was designed to be affordable and easy to use, and to indicate how much square footage is in use in real time. The resulting application of the data can include optimising building, interior, floor and common area design, and the data will also complement other systems for more efficient property management.