The buildings data and solutions sector continues its tear, as news arrived this week that Lightbox, an Irvine, California-based real estate data and solutions company has acquired BuildingFootprintUSA, a building data company. According to a press release, Lightbox "will immediately make building footprints available to its customers." Acquisitions like this one, along with deals like Autodesk's $240 million purchase of Spacemaker.ai and Costar Group's $250 million acquisition of Homesnap in the fourth quarter of last year, illustrate the hunger tech companies now have for the race, not only to own the workflows associated with caring for the world's buildings, but also the relevant data sets about the buildings, themselves. Bringing more of the data companies needed to plan and executive on all the activities relevant to our buildings into one, easily accessible place marks yet another way that emerging technology stands to drive efficiency in the way the industry approaches the needs of the built environment.
"Freeing the Data" To Unlocks More Use Cases
The idea of uniting all the relevant information about a property required for leasing and sale transactions, development and redevelopment activities and also for the ongoing operations and maintenance of the properties is not a new idea. The industry has been working this direction for years. However, until recently, the data on buildings has largely remained fragmented between systems that were created to facilitate transactions, design, construction, or maintenance. Clearly, as the pace of technology development and also acquisitions in this sector quickens, that is all starting to change.
“This acquisition demonstrates our ongoing commitment to innovation that serves the commercial real estate ecosystem. We’re looking to replace existing information silos with industry standard linked datasets. Our parcels and property data will now be integrated with rooftop-level geocodes, addresses, and boundaries,” said LightBox CEO, Eric Frank. “We strongly believe the future is one of connected datasets and we want to drive this change for the commercial real estate industry in the US and Canada.”
The release further illustrates some of the additional data Lightbox provides, including "building geometry, height, and ground elevation data to assist in determining potential flood risks, expanding broadband connectivity, policy planning for safety and security, and broader geospatial analytics."
Data in Multi-Dimensions, The Power of the Digital Twin
Among the stakeholders Lightbox seeks to serve with its solutions are commercial real estate companies, property insurers, telecommunications companies, and logistics companies, and it would appear that there is significant room to expand those use cases as Lightbox links more building data within its solution. Here are a few examples of categories of solutions in development. Where visualization of digital models is also enabled, there are inevitably comparisons to Google Earth. So, we have cast three areas of data capture and presentation in that way below :
"Google Earth" for:
- The Insides of Buildings - Public safety, maintenance, renovation work, way finding, and other solutions have emerged, as companies like Helix.re, Openspace, and Nemetschek develop applications that aggregate data about building interiors.
- The Ground Under Buildings - Companies like 4M Analytics and Oropala provide utilities, contractors and others with data about what is below ground.
- The Land the Buildings Sit On - Companies like Autodesk's recently acquired Spacemaker.ai and Bay area startup ALICE Technologies hold the promise of quickly grabbing and synthesizing data about property and buildings to help planners much more efficiently find optimum uses for parcels.
Beyond aggregating the data, the ability to render the data in multi-dimensional models offers the possibility of even further enhancing the data's utility for building stakeholders, and there we are seeing some of the aforementioned technology companies as well as a host of AR/VR-enabled solutions emerge to help planners, safety professionals, craftspeople, maintenance people, and even end users find uses for building digital twins. It is a critical evolving sector, as more API's link more pools of data, more sensors gather more data, and more solutions aid in the presentation of the data. Whether all of this data and functionality can be brought together in onto one platform and how many different players will arise with competing platforms is just one area of questions to consider as the sector continues to evolve.
This week, BuiltWorlds will be hosting two calls exploring how building data can be used to inform the design of buildings and also how it can be used to inform the process of construction. More information on those events can be found by clicking the event images below.
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