Look forward to breakthrough of PropTech - EJ Insight



Look forward to breakthrough of PropTech

The Government will select 10 public housing estates as pilot projects for smart estate management next year to try a variety of innovative technologies. The Secretary for Housing, Winnie Ho, pointed out that after the testing of these technology products, "it is expected to be rolled out to Southeast Asia, the Belt and Road and other countries."

In fact, property technology (PropTech) has become increasingly popular in recent years to improve efficiency, save energy and reduce emissions. If Hong Kong can actively export its experience, I believe there is a lot of business opportunities such as a local company's introducing green construction and infrastructure technology to the Middle East this year. The company combines expertise in both information technology and building services knowledge into commercial practices to optimise electricity and improve power efficiency while maintaining performance, and provides a comprehensive solution of cloud platform, hardware and engineering consulting.

A study by the Center for Real Estate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States cites the case of Stanford University, which developed an energy system innovation program in 2009. Their Enterprise Optimization Solution (EOS) uses more than 1,220 variables, such as building occupancy, weather, energy prices, and system conditions, to develop predictive models of hourly campus heating and cooling requirements seven days in advance. The EOS is expected to save the university US$420 million over the next 35 years.

PropTech has a lot of potential, but it can also be challenging to implement.

In Sep 2022, consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) jointly published the GBA PropTech White Paper (white paper) on the topic of technological innovation and digital transformation in the real estate industry in the Greater Bay Area, analysing the current situation and opportunities in the region.

Under the dual pressure of tightening housing policies and rising operating costs in the mainland, real estate companies must strive to "break new ground for growth, entailing new approaches in management and operation", the white paper points out. At the same time, the demands from epidemic control, remote working, and data integration trends have also catalysed the growth of the digital transformation of enterprises which PropTech is fueled.

According to the white paper, the urbanisation rate in the GBA has reached 70% (65% for the whole China as of end of 2022), and more construction projects are ready to be launched. In September 2020, China clearly put forward the goals of carbon peak in 2030 and carbon neutrality in 2060. Under this "dual carbon" policy, it is imperative to reduce the carbon emissions generated by buildings in the future.

However, while as many as 88% of the executives surveyed consider PropTech to be critical, there are less than four in ten construction and construction management companies surveyed using these innovative technologies. What is holding them back? This is because PropTech is not easy to implement in a real-world environment as evidenced by 71% of respondents who cited compatibility with new technologies as a challenge.

There is a saying that it takes an average of 41.6 years for a technology to move from inception in the lab to become a part of our daily lives. I hope that local startups can break the trend and accelerate the transformation of the real estate industry in Hong Kong and beyond.


Dr. Winnie Tang
Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong