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More than 1600 delegates convened at the 2012 Every Building Conference & Expo two weeks ago in Seattle, hosted by Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International. The conference gathered some of the industry’s best minds and biggest investors for three packed days of learning opportunities aimed at professionals representing all types of buildings.

As a BOMA Cornerstone Partner, Cisco participated in three sessions during the conference, each of which focused on the role of technology innovation in shaping the future of the real estate industry.  There’s good news coming out of Seattle: Connectivity is, thankfully, no longer building specific; it’s now all about the connectivity of neighborhoods and cities.Some themes emerged throughout all these three sessions, and these themes seemed to dominate the conversation – generating some buzz amongst those who attended our sessions during the conference:

Doing More with Less

Building owners, managers and tenants all wanted to better understand how their existing networks and infrastructure can be better utilized. The conference was primarily focused on commercial buildings and today every modern office building has a wireless network of some kind. How can we use these existing networks better or smarter to achieve better results?

So…the owners and managers are all looking for new ways to harness technology that is already embedded in their buildings, but they are stumped at how to identify cutting edge innovations that will increase efficiencies in their buildings with their existing networks, while still remaining attractive to current and prospective tenants. There is a big knowledge base gap among this audience on how to truly do more with less.  I applaud BOMA for fueling this conversation during the conference.

BOMA sees its role in educating the industry on how to connect the dots between existing network solutions and creating smarter environments by helping get owners and managers more comfortable with the technology in their buildings. Through initiatives such as BOMA 360, they are taking the necessary steps to elevate the importance of excellence in building operations and management. This approach, along with inviting Cisco to present on technology innovation at the conference, is a huge indicator that BOMA is serious about playing a vital role in filling that knowledge gap.

BOMA  -- and other key organizations guiding the industry’s future — are starting to embrace the technology agenda and make it central to their initiatives. However, the market is still highly fragmented. There are literally hundreds of thousands of managers and building owners, a fact which adds many layers of complexity to the challenge ahead. We have to be smart about how we approach this!

Future of work space

Smart and connected workspaces, whether located in the home or office or a third space, are essential for more than just the boss (who’s hungry for greater worker productivity). It’s also essential for the owner or manager offering competitive building environments to tenants. No longer are they competing with the building next door for tenants; they’re focused on new kinds of buildings that are being conceived and developed to compete with the existing buildings. And these new arrivals may cause existing buildings, if it isn’t smart and connected, to be become archaic and non-competitive

This topic is being driven by the need to make an attractive work space that fuels collaboration and hyper-productivity for the ever-growing millennial working population. Office space is shrinking, so how can building owners, managers and tenants reorganize the space they offer to be smart, while remaining competitive and fun?

During one of our three sessions the discussion quickly focused on future work spaces, among other items that were on my mind, I did share some of the results from a survey Cisco conducted. Office space decision-makers are increasingly aware of a growing impatience with office-space-business-as-usual. And they’re sensing the need to quickly adapt their work environments to suit connected workers living hyper-connected lives. A smart, agile environment that also fuels remote collaboration can’t be ignored.

Overall, audience reaction during these “Every Building Conference & Expo” sessions was enthusiastic. Some participants told us that they were especially excited that solutions are available today – ready to deploy today, ready to help organizations better utilize their network infrastructure. Bottom line: we are not future forecasting here; we’re discussing how to be smarter in ways that are not just about the future…the technology and the need are here today, and ready now.

The broader conversation of smart cities, not just smart buildings, will continue during the upcoming October Meeting of the Minds event. Cisco will be gathering with other global leaders focused on urban futures, and we’ll be sure to discuss innovations — in built environment, infrastructure, transport, architecture, planning, and finance – which can be used to grow connected and sustainable cities.

As we prep for the meeting, I‘ll keep you updated through the Meeting of the Minds Twitter feed @meetoftheminds.

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