We’re all hearing about how hybrid work is transforming the workplace. And the discussion isn’t limited to IT managers and tech professionals. Today, even building developers and architectural firms are engaged in the conversation about the future of work—and workspaces. In commercial real estate, property-specific innovation is referred to as “Proptech,” and it’s changing the way people experience properties.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see what’s happening in person at the joint Realcomm/IBcon conference in Las Vegas. Realcomm brings together commercial real estate technology professionals to talk about technology and its place in real estate. IBcon focuses more on intelligent buildings. It’s attended by CIOs, facilities and corporate real estate teams, architecture and engineering firms, and real estate technology advisors.

Showcasing the potential of smart buildings

You’d be right to ask, “why would someone from Cisco attend this type of event?”—and plenty of people I spoke to did.

I was there to represent Cisco’s PENN1 space during the IBcon Smart Building Best Practice / Realcomm Process Automation showcase. Penn1 is Cisco’s new smart building workplace design in New York City. Reimagining the office workspace, PENN1 simplifies building management, cuts operational costs, and empowers employees with a flexible hybrid work environment that has succeeded beyond expectations. Along with about 25 other building representatives, I had a chance to talk with real estate and facilities professionals who were exploring ideas on how to attract people to the office.

The first thing most people said was that they didn’t realize Cisco offered these game-changing capabilities, like sustainable, low-voltage power and smart space utilization. Many thought Cisco focused mainly on collaboration, and they were surprised to learn that we can offer so much more. People were curious about how Cisco built the space, and wanted details about energy savings. Several asked how they could get a tour of PENN1, and I’m working on that.


What matters most for commercial real estate?

The Realcomm/IBcon showcase was an awesome opportunity to connect with Proptech professionals. My registration also included a full conference pass, and I didn’t hesitate to grab that opportunity and run with it. So, what did I learn?

Cybersecurity is top of mind for everyone

Protecting people and properties isn’t easy, because building systems are often out of date, scattered in silos, and inherently not secure. That makes them vulnerable. In some cases, nation state cyber attackers are renting physical spaces right next door to their targets to find a way in.

Traditionally, IT hasn’t had visibility into building systems like thermostats, lighting systems, fire suppression, and HVAC—nor do they want it.  At the same time, the operations teams like facilities who run these systems aren’t experts in the latest IT cybersecurity best practices.

But smart building initiatives set up a great opportunity to bring the IT and operational technology (OT) worlds together. IT can team up with facilities to educate them on concepts like Zero Trust, bring all of a site’s hardware back into compliance, and shore up vulnerabilities in these systems.


Experiences pull people in

Everyone is struggling to get people back to offices, and Realcomm participants know that better experiences for tenants are key. The theme of our showcase display was “The New Office: A Magnet, not a Mandate,” and it resonated.

Landlords, owners, and business leaders are looking at what services and amenities they can offer to attract people back. They’re considering the kinds of tenants they want to attract, and what services would be most appealing to them. An apartment property manager might focus on guest services like easy, self-service wireless access or reservation portals for gyms, rent payment, and other services. In an enterprise office building, the focus might be on things like smart lighting that adjusts automatically, or flexible spaces for different work styles. Expectations are high, because most people’s technology is better at home than in the office. Everyone agreed that improving the experience is key to bringing employees back.


Sustainability is a boardroom concern

Finally, sustainability, especially energy utilization, was discussed in most every session. Energy is a major expense for property owners, and as its cost continues to rise, they’re looking for better ways to boost efficiency. People at the panels were eager to hear more about how voltage power and Independent Data Layers (IDLs) to aggregate data from building systems and sensors to manage power. There were also lively, forward-thinking discussions around AI and how it can help sustainability. There weren’t a lot of solid answers in this space, but I expect to see great progress in the coming months and year.


Solutions for smart buildings and much more

The great news is that Cisco can help on all these fronts. We offer everything from safety and cybersecurity solutions to sustainable, efficient designs and automated systems for environmental monitoring and space utilization.

You can find out about these and lots more on our Hybrid Work site on Cisco.com. Explore our solutions or request a consultation. You can also connect with your Cisco account team and request a tour of Cisco’s PENN1 facility in New York, or the Atlanta facility on the Georgia Tech campus.

Want to learn more about our smart building technology?

Join us at WORKTECH:

WORKTECH Chicago – July 19, 2023


Use discount code WT23-CHI-VIP to receive a 20% discount.

WORKTECH New York – September 26, 2023


Use discount code WT23-NY-VIP to receive a 20% discount.

WORKTECH Toronto – October 24, 2023


Use discount code WT23-TOR-VIP to receive a 20% discount.


Janet Monk

Senior Advisor

Hybrid Work and Modern Work Experiences