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Q&A: Importance of data privacy in the age of PropTech (Includes interview)

The costs to real estate companies for ignoring data privacy issues can be high. For instance, bow that California’s CCPA has come into effect, the new legislation is predicted to have a big impact on companies if they fail to be compliant, according to Multi-Housing News.

With many aspects of the law remaining unclear to those in the industry, multifamily operators need to be on top of what data they should have access to and how they’re collecting and using it, Felicite Moorman, CEO and Co-founder of STRATIS IoT tells Digital Journal.

Digital Journal: How much is digital technology influencing the real estate business?

Felicite Moorman: I think there’s a lot of circular influence occurring. At least I hope that’s the case. Largely, I see entrepreneurs working closely with real estate owners and operators to co-develop technologies to deliver efficiencies and opportunities for increased net operating income. I know for certain that my real estate partners are far more creative in their space than I could be without their broad and deep experience. I happily respond to demand and serve and enable with tech.

DJ: Which types of technology are driving PropTech?

Moorman: Nearly a decade ago, Marc Andreessen wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal in which he said, “Software is eating the world.” Software as a Service and tangential platforms, like IoT, are exploding into the real estate market, with a new pop-up startup every day. Probably several actually. We are seeing a convergence of software sophistication and hardware economies of scale that is enabling the disruption of legacy systems and innovation in new systems in the conservative, risk-averse, real estate industry. The convergence is finally creating a low-risk, high-reward opportunity for increased net operating income, at least for companies capable of honest and complete technology due diligence.

DJ: What are the data privacy implications of this technological wave?

Moorman: Cybersecurity is the first step to data security and thereby data privacy. We’ve seen global legislation coming down for some time and the best companies in PropTech took note and shifted and adjusted development to meet those requirements. GDPR is a good example, as is CCPA more recently. In CA, we’re also seeing possible legislation around connected devices. Technology is moving fast enough that it is difficult for an average consumer to be fully educated as to the nuances of cybersecurity and data privacy. Minimum standards are an absolute necessity for and benefit to consumers. If a company can’t afford to develop securely, it certainly can’t afford the impending breach.

DJ: What do real estate firms need to be mindful of?

Moorman: I’ve only worked with three real estate companies that were capable of doing their own technological due diligence. Three. I work with hundreds. Be mindful not to allow your technology ignorance to compel your negligence. It’s not worth it. And unless (and sometimes even if) you have a dedicated Information Security Officer or Innovation Team with broad and deep technology experience, what should be low risk/high reward is high risk/questionable reward. Minimally, ask for transcripts of SOC2 audits. Ask for the results of penetration testing.

DJ: What are the cybersecurity issues of concern?

Moorman: According to IBM, human error is actually responsible for 95% of all cyber security breaches. Knowing this, as technologists, we should design against that and protect consumers, not throw our hands up as if we are not responsible. Minimally, two-factor authentication, password reset requirements, and device locking for mobile applications can eliminate so many opportunities. And as stated, ask for transcripts of SOC2 audits. Ask for the results of penetration testing. The real estate industry has waited so long for this revolution and we deserve solid technology.

DJ: What is the STRATIS IoT solution?

Moorman: STRATIS creates smart apartments and intelligent buildings and is the only platform of its kind built for the complexities of multifamily and student housing. STRATIS provides management and control modules for access, energy, water, and unit automation. STRATIS has installed in over 350,000 apartments across the U.S. and has launched in Japan, the UK, EU, and later in 2020, China. STRATIS now serves hospitality, retail, and small to mid-size commercial, as well as innovative agriculture. STRATIS is a Top 15% Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Company in America” and a Top Ten Entrepreneur 360 “Best Company in America.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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