ESI Team

The Future of Commercial Real Estate at CBRE

May 3, 2023
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On the 22nd episode of Enterprise Software Innovators, hosts Evan Reiser (Abnormal Security)and Saam Motamedi (Greylock Partners) talk with Sandeep Davé, CDTO at CBRE. CBRE is a Fortune 500 commercial real estate company with $27B of revenue and more than 100,000 employees operating in over 100 countries globally. In this conversation, Sandeep shares fascinating insights into CBRE's innovative uses of technology, including augmented reality solutions for technicians, their venture into consumer-facing applications, and AI capabilities that reinvent the commercial real estate experience.

As the world's largest commercial estate company, CBRE relies heavily on advanced technologies to fortify and optimize its operations. Sandeep describes how, with many of their more technical and complex assets like scientific research labs and hospitals, a talent gap is emerging between more experienced technicians and the next crop of newly minted workers. To solve this, CBRE has deployed augmented reality solutions that enable more seamless collaboration between managers and workers in the field: "We [use] augmented reality technology to apply four eyes in the field. You have a more junior technician in the field, but a more experienced technician behind the scenes seeing what the person is seeing, guiding them through what the diagnostic is, and what they should be doing as a result." While consumer-facing applications fuel much of AR/VR's intrigue, CBRE's use of the technology is having a measurable business impact on their technicians as the company combats a growing talent gap. To that end, Sandeep tells us that this initiative is live with 20 clients and will likely expand to others. 

When Sandeep joined CBRE in 2020, building customer-facing digital applications was probably missing from his immediate list of priorities. Still, he shares how the company's digital transformation and the transformations of its customers paved the way for CBRE Host. This platform connects workplace spaces, services, amenities, and building systems through an integrated mobile interface. Sandeep explains how the project came to be: "One of our clients released an RFP saying 'we are going to rethink the experience in the workplace, create something next-generation..' CBRE had just started our own digital transformation and [told the client] you can define next-generation the old way, which is a range of documentation through an RFP process, or we can all get into a room through a design-thinking session for two days, and we did exactly that. We got everybody together, and after two days, we walked away with a clickable prototype, and the client was just wowed." Fast forward to today, CBRE Host is an integral component of over 700 buildings with some of the largest companies in the world in over 25 countries. It's a testament to the company's commitment to transformation and ability to pivot toward new paradigms in real-time to address critical customer needs. 

Looking towards the future, Sandeep is incredibly excited about the potential of AI solutions to reimagine the commercial real estate experience from the ground up. While CBRE is already deploying AI/ML for predictive analytics and anomaly detection, he describes how the next phase of generative AI tools will reshape commercial real estate building and planning. He's particularly interested in how AI will enable more immersive, digital environments during the property selection phase of the planning process: "Imagine designing a building through construction and saying well, 'I want to have this ESG footprint' and running multiple models through generative-AI technologies, then creating a visual digital twin of it to see how it would look. And then being [virtually] inside the building and seeing it not just on your browser, but in an immersive manner." As AI capabilities increase, forward-thinking companies like CBRE will eagerly deploy them to transform their businesses. 

Another area where Sandeep is hopeful AI can pay significant dividends is through the next phase of CBRE Host. As a flexible and ever-evolving platform, the app is being used internally at CBRE as a return-to-work tool now that the pandemic has receded from view. As employees have begun returning to offices in a hybrid remote environment, a common pain point is an employee who decides to come into the office only to find that essential stakeholders they are hoping to collaborate with are working from home, thereby defeating the purpose of the employee coming into the office. Sandeep explains that this presents another opportunity for AI to shine: "We are trying to apply AI in this employee experience product. I would get a prompt saying, 'Okay, well, Sandeep, you're planning to be in the workplace on Thursday, and that's a good day because, based on the network that you interact with, you are likely to have a productive working day in the office.' And then subtle prompts around, 'Hey, 2:00 PM Thursdays, you typically have a conversation with Evan and Saam. Would you like to schedule a meeting?'" While the excitement around AI can sometimes be more bluster than reality, smaller use cases like optimizing collaboration schedules can have an outsized impact. For practitioners and proponents of nascent tools like AI, it's critical to recognize that the step changes we all dream about are only possible after continuous improvements and more specific use cases gain traction.

Listen to Sandeep's episode here and read the transcript here.