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Harnessing the Power of AI in Commercial Real Estate

May 22, 2024 6 mins

Keynote Speakers Anat Baron, Futurist and Daniel Fenton, JLL at LightBox Prism24

Two Experts Weigh in on the Opportunities of Generative AI

No matter where you look or what news you follow, you are almost guaranteed to come across an article or news piece about artificial intelligence (AI), heralded by many as the fourth Industrial Revolution. The release of advanced Large Language Models (LLM) like ChatGPT in November 2022 brought AI technologies into the mainstream spotlight. Two experts that focus on technological advancements say that while these innovations can be intimidating, the key is to jump in and learn to leverage these tools to avoid getting left behind. This was a central theme at the recent LightBox PRISM User Conference, where Anat Baron, Futurist Keynote Speaker, and Daniel Fenton, Head of Product, AI Platform at JLL, highlighted the transformative power of generative AI and shared advice on how commercial real estate (CRE) professionals should think about embracing the technology going forward.

Meet the AI Revolution

According to Anat Baron, along with its infiltration in the news and conversations amongst millennials, AI has also made significant inroads into corporate America. She suggests that we should forget the Industrial Revolution and instead, meet the AI revolution. While this might scare some, Baron believes that it shouldn’t. She emphasizes that there are incredible ways to leverage this technology to enhance your work and potentially free up valuable time.

In her PRISM keynote entitled “The Next Great Transformation,” Anat shared that “The AI revolution is giving us the biggest shift in how we work in over 100 years. It is a disruptive technology, but that doesn’t need to be a bad thing. Disruption means the future will be completely different from the past, and we now have something powerful at our fingertips that can help us all do our jobs better.”

Sourced from Anat Baron’s presentation.

Riding the AI Wave

Adding to this, Daniel Fenton of JLL in his PRISM track titled “The Implications and Opportunity of AI/ChatGPT in CRE,” encouraged the audience to “ride the wave and use it to learn everything you can to become an expert. Find out how to work alongside it and enhance your career.” This sentiment underscores the importance of embracing AI as a tool for professional growth rather than a threat to job security. Moreover, Fenton said leveraging AI strategically provides a tool for delivering hyper personalized customer experiences. “Everything is about data and new processes. Being able to deeply understand the customer, what motivates them and how we can serve them best is one of the most exciting developments AI can bring today’s companies,” Fenton enthusiastically noted.

Sourced from Anat Baron’s presentation.

The Human Element is Important

Baron likened the entry of AI into our business lives much like a baby—it is still too early to know where it may take us.   For those who are still trepid, Baron advised that we are the bosses, but the onus is on us to guide and teach AI systems to give us the output we desire.  “The human element is more important than ever. And working with AI is about asking the right questions and getting those questions right.”

“The best advice I can give to someone starting to work with AI is to slow down and talk to it like an intern who is still learning,” she said.  As for what the future of the workforce looks like, Baron painted a surreal picture. The future of work will see a synergy of humans and AI, with some of us even having AI coworkers. The net result of this future work model?  As much as 40% of the workforce will need to be reskilled in the next three years due to AI, according to IBM, she said.

Boosting Productivity and Creativity

According to Fenton, one of the most compelling reasons to pay attention to AI is its ability to significantly improve productivity by handling routine tasks faster, such as drafting reports or speeding up the onboarding process for junior employees. We will be able to work faster than ever before, he said. Additionally, he noted, if you embrace AI to free up your staff from mundane tasks and focus on higher-level work, you stand out as a tech leader, thus attracting top talent. “Every firm should be seeking out young talent with knowledge of AI and tools like ChatGPT,” Fenton advised.

Fenton whose own firm JLL is leveraging AI for a number of initiatives, said AI has the potential to enhance creativity, both for employees and clients. Moreover, companies that effectively integrate AI systems into their processes and platforms become more attractive in the competitive talent market. Research from the academic community suggests that rather than eliminating jobs, AI raises the floor for junior workers and accelerates the capabilities of knowledge workers.

Head of Product, AI Platform at JLL, Daniel Fenton encourages the PRISM attendees to embrace AI to increase productivity on the job.

The Future Workforce

The opportunity lies not in fearing job loss but in using human intelligence to integrate AI into our lives and work. To thrive in this new era, Baron believes that every company should cultivate the “5 Cs”: Curiosity, Creativity, Collaboration, Connection, and Community of human intelligence and is what differentiates human abilities from computer abilities.  In addition, these human skills will complement AI’s capabilities, creating a powerful combination for the future workforce.

AI to Fuel Infrastructure Growth and Unlock New Data

Looking to the future, Fenton stressed the critical need for physical infrastructure to support the expansive campuses required by LLMs. “The search is on for land that can house these vast data centers and electricity that can power them,” he explained. AI will unlock vast amounts of data and will give commercial real estate professionals numerous ways to leverage them. “The new frontier is about extracting data from a drone capture and turning the footage into a property tour or video inspection. Before AI, this was impractical but now it is scalable, and it will change how CRE professionals work for a lot of different use cases.”

The changing workforce will also see a shift in the types of tasks assigned to virtual employees or agents. Employees who may struggle with communication can now have AI assistance, and the focus will shift to training employees to unlock new skills and explore new opportunities. The new frontier is about building systems together and addressing industry challenges in a collaborative manner.

The Advice: “Jump in”

It is hard to overstate the impact that AI and machine learning are having on all aspects of commercial real estate and the working world in general. While the rapid pace of AI development can be daunting, it also presents immense opportunities. Both Baron and Fenton shared their best piece of advice for those apprehensive about the technology: “Get over yourself and jump in!” By embracing AI and learning to work alongside it, business leaders have a powerful opportunity to advance the careers of their staff, unearth opportunities to improve efficiency and productivity, deliver enhanced services and carve out a critical competitive edge.

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