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(iStock)

Startups are bringing IoT and AI to real-estate

You can now create a virtual wishlist of houses, sell and buy property, manage loans online.
By Lavina Mulchandani & Prakruti Maniar | Hindustan Times
PUBLISHED ON APR 28, 2018 05:59 PM IST

Imagine a home that sends you a text message if the gas pipe is leaking or when your fridge is out of milk. Imagine waking up to your go-to playlist streaming on your home music system automatically.

Imagine zeroing in on a neighbourhood to buy a home and being able to look at price trends and your payment plans for them on your phone. As real-estate starts to incorporate Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots and blockchain, the buying, selling and actually living in homes promises to be more efficient, safer and better controlled.

New tech start-ups are aiming to reduce tedious and time-consuming tasks that buyers and brokers did. Instead of manually shortlisting homes, you can create a virtual wishlist of homes in your budget. It’s now possible to liquidate your assets in real time. Even the running of the home can be smoother.

Ramamurthy (goes by one name), 50, a mechanical engineer from Bengaluru has lived in a smart home for a few months. He says the use of water and electricity has reduced by at least 40%. “I can turn off a running tap by pressing keys on my smartphone,” he says. “I can also check how my real-estate assets across the country are performing on a mobile app.”

Future-ready

As Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) start to have domestic uses, household devices such as water heaters, entertainment systems and ventilation are being designed to work with each other. Siddharth Banerjee, co-director of CosineLabs, a Bengaluru-based startup that launched AIME, an AI-powered home automation system a year ago.

“You can regulate temperature in the room, the humidity level and the light (both natural and electrical) inside the house,” he says. “We are also working on introducing face and voice recognition, to increase security.”

Another system that works on IoT is WeGot. “It stands for water, electricity and gas of things,” says Abilash Haridass, co-director of the Bengaluru-based utility solutions company. “We install a smart sensor on water and gas pipes that lead to your house, they help record the use of water per household.”

It goes a step further than the municipal water bill. You know how many litres you use to flush in the toilet and how much is wasted unnecessarily in for the laundry. WeGot also checks for the water and cooking gas leaks. “You get an SMS alert when there is a leak, so does the society secretary and the maintenance committee of the building, so somebody can fix it soon,” says Haridass.

The startup is launching Erika, a software that keeps a check on the electricity use in the house. “It will tell you the health of electronic appliances in your house and if they are using more electrical power than usual. It will help bring down maintenance costs at household and society level.”

Tech isn’t running the home, it is selling houses, managing loans, making payments on your behalf. “PropsAMC, a startup launched in January helps you manage all your real-estate assets and understand the property trends in the locality,” says Anand Moorthy, founder and CEO.

“On our mobile app and the website, you can check the legal status of the property you wish to buy, save all the documents on a cloud so you can use them whenever you want to make a transaction and calculate how much loan you are eligible for.”

Nirupa Shankar, director of Brigade Real-estate Accelerator Programme (REAP), which helps realty startups with their product and business models, says tech inputs were fueled by policy changes.

“Post-RERA, GST and other reforms in the real-estate sector, the focus shifted to using proptech (technology in property industry) to help reduce work-time, cost of operations and help save records for future use,” she says. “These technologies are already common in Western markets. Using them in India is helping us position ourselves better, globally.”

The downside

As with tech in other industries, there are challenges and criticisms as well. “A chatbot can answer around 700 queries simultaneously for multiple projects and instantly, it is not possible for a human being to do that,” says Kanwaljeet Singla, founder and CEO of Kenyt.ai that makes chatbots for real-estate developers.

But would you let a chatbot help you buy a home? Not everyone would. Chatbots are designed for users who can read and write in English, which means Indian home buyers, used to smooth-talking multilingual salesmen, might be put off. “Currently, only developers in metros are using chatbots, so there is no demand for regional languages.”

Data collection also brings privacy risks as personal information and documents become available to third-parties, says Pankaj Kapoor, CEO, Liases Foras, a real-estate consultancy. “Technology will bring convenience to consumers but at the cost of their privacy. There could be is a chance of security breach and misuse of your personal details.”

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