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Will Google run real estate?

Ever wondered why Google is bothering with driverless cars, Google Homes and glasses that show you data as you walk around? And what on earth can any of it have to do with real estate?

I have. A lot. And while I understood at a theoretical level
that it was “all about the data” it wasn’t until this holidays that the penny
finally dropped.

The cause was a book that I read a few years ago that jumped back off the shelf at me recently. It was one of those lazy summer days when I’d had enough beach time to feel completely relaxed but was over the chick lit and mysteries. I needed something to give the brain cells just a bit of a buzz.

You absorb holiday reading differently

The book was The
Inevitable by Kevin Kelly
. If you’re ever looking to read something that
will help you understand the extraordinary innovation we’re currently experiencing
and get an idea on how to navigate it, Kelly is the bomb. He is the founding
editor of Wired Magazine, and a recognised futurist and amazing trend spotter.

The
Inevitable – Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our
future
came out in late 2016. It is a definitive text that looks at how connectivity
is becoming as essential as air, electricity and water; how data is fundamentally
changing our lives; and the real impact of AI – not just on our jobs and what
we do, but how we think, learn and collaborate.

Kelly has a small section on real estate and how it will be
impacted by the technological trends. He called it “cognified real estate”
where artificial intelligence matches the needs of buyers and sellers replacing
agents. Back in December 2016 when I first read it, it was a bit of a “oh yeah,
right” moment. Big data, robots, yada yada.

The network effect could impact real estate

But as I reread the section this holidays something else jumped
out that made me double take. In describing ‘the network effect’ of technology
and AI platforms, Kelly writes:

“The bigger the network, the more attractive it is to new
users which makes it even bigger and thus more attractive. The more people who
use it, the smarter it gets.”

Okay. So far so good. He also writes that “AI doesn’t think
like humans,” because it is nerdy, narrow and offers supersmart specialisation,
often to such a narrow and nerdy degree that it would bore humans rigid to try
and think like that.

Google is using search to make its AI better

And then he drops the clanger based on a conversation he had
with Google founder Larry Page many years ago. Page told Kelly that rather than use AI to make Google’s search
better, Google is using search to make its AI better.

“With another 10 years of steady improvement to its AI
algorithms, plus a thousand-fold more data and a hundred times more computing resources,
Google will have an unrivalled AI,” Kelly writes.

Every trip we take in our driverless cars, or every journey
we go on using Google Maps as our guides provides the Google AI with data and
insights into our movements, our preferences, the kind of day we had, the
things we did, the places we couldn’t get out of fast enough and where we loitered.

Google has a personalised profile on what I do and where I like to go

Think of the personalised profile that is building up on me
as an individual on where I would best like to live. Combine it with my
financial information, and it will show where I can afford to live that facilitates
those journeys the easiest.

Match the reviews of the cafes and places I enjoy visiting with
the features and menus that they offer, and Google AI will be able to show me other
restaurants in other locations that are very similar and may be more in my
price bracket.

Devices like Google Home have until now, been the missing link. Because my Google Home is not just telling me Dad jokes and what the weather is like.

It is also collecting reams of data on how I live, the devices I use, how my home performs in terms of lighting, heating and cooling. Very soon it will be the hub that connects all the smart devices in my home. This is likely to include my fridge (diet information), my wardrobe (spending habits), my bookshelf (education and spending habits!) and even my toilet (health information. Ew!)

Voice activation brings it all together

And with all of this extraordinary data, and algorithms and
profiling being built up not just day by day but minute by minute, the Google
AI with just a quick simple question will also be able to connect me with
sellers in those areas.

“Hey Google, find me four homes that would be suitable for me to buy/rent.”

If you’re like me, you’ve thought of real estate
applications on Google Home as things that real estate agents, or smart
industry developers will get to soon because, yeah, it would be cool to be able
to ask Google what house prices are in my suburb. It would be a great way for
agents to get brand notoriety, right?

But what we’re talking about isn’t something done by an
agent. It’s not a separate search the industry builds that requires a customer
to visit, or a different mindset to be adopted.

Finding a home won’t be a special search, it will be like any search

Rather, it is a piece of functionality that is deeply embedded
in the processes that all information is starting to come to us now. It is voice
activation connected to ridiculously large big data sets being processed in
nanoseconds and providing an answer to any question I think of, whenever I think
of it.

In 2017, I wrote an article Why
the Portals are Worried About Facebook
. But it’s becoming increasingly
obvious that Facebook is just a marketing, media and entertainment platform (a
helluva one, but bear with me). The purpose of the data its collecting is
really just to market more stuff to you.

What Kelly has revealed about Google is mind blowing.
Because in 2019, with millions of Google Homes now in the market, you can see
where this is really going. This is big data with a purpose. The purpose being
to make all aspects of life easier because answers are simply a question away.
And once the questions are answered, the action becomes easy.

“In a super-connected world, thinking different is the source
of innovation and wealth,” Kelly writes. “Just being smart isn’t enough.”

There are a bunch of super smart real estate agents – and industry developers – out there. But the company with the biggest AI wins and we need to be innovating faster.

My money is on Google causing a revolution in real estate. Even if it’s just an accidental by-product of the other things they’re doing.