Digital is altering physical space

US Smartphone ownership (percentage of all mobile phones)

2009: 17 percent1

2019: 81 percent 2

Tech. Pervasive? Omnipresent? No. Tech is ubiquitous. Tech is everywhere.

Consider: In 2012, less than half of all U.S. teenagers had access to a smartphone. By 2018, this inflated to 89 percent. Factor in tablet computers, and the number reaches 95 percent. Bottom line- The current population of teenagers is the most mobile and connected in our history.

For now, at least. The generation currently in middle and elementary schools will be universally connected and fully mobile long before they begin to enter the workforce within next decade.

What does this mean for your business?

Everything. It means that you had better have a fully developed workable strategy around mobility and technology; that is, if you plan to recruit and retain talent among this fully digital, hyper-connected workforce. Experiential, connected workplaces is where talent wants to be. If you cannot adapt, then your competitors will. 

5G and more…

Such a strategy is more than simply preparing for the launch of 5G networks, the first of which should be available in 2020. Tenants and landlords need to take a critical look at their buildings to make sure the digital and physical spaces can act in unison.   

The irony of tech being all around us is that, until now, commercial workspaces have only ever dipped their toe into the rapidly flowing waters of technology. Over the next few years, proptech experts such as JLL Spark’s Mihir Shah expect to see a far more rapid adoption of technology to enhance the workplace experience.

Much of this technology will leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to generate value out of the overwhelming swaths of data available in commercial buildings to increase productivity. Want to know when a conference or huddle room is available? There’s an app for that…and more than likely a digital concierge to help you line it up. 


Technology in the workplace can also reduce operational costs (who doesn’t want to save a little?) while enhancing employee wellness. Major corporate occupiers and developers alike are broadening their use of electrochromic windows, sensor-laden glass that can automatically tint to maximize natural daylight. These protect workers from harmful ultra-violet rays, control glare and reduce eyestrain, thereby saving energy. These advanced windows also save your landlord money on window treatments and blinds, which means more money in your pocket and you’re saving the environment. This dynamic glass can be controlled through a building automation system, a cool web interface, through old-fashioned wall switches, or even though (you guessed it) a mobile app.

Commercial real estate still has leaps and bounds to go towards the true adoption of technology, but baby steps are slowly turning into strides. Yes, ‘Smart Buildings’ may already exist, but they will only be getting more intelligent as technology adapts. How smart will tenants and landlords be in embracing that change?

While commercial real estate is beginning to embrace technology, both in physical spaces and the way companies engage with assets, we still have a long way to go before full integration. Over the past 2 years, the JLL Spark team has sought to bridge the gap between tech entrepreneurs and investors with a $100 million global venture fund. They’ve already invested in a myriad of technology-based products that will become transformational to real estate. The most exciting part of this new convergence of technology and real estate? It will remarkably alter the way we work, forever.




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