PropTech Roundup – July 2021

Here are the top news stories from the UK PropTech space in June 2021…

Proptech Firm Uses AI To Find Development Land

Urban Intelligence, a UK-based start-up, has been awarded a contract by Birmingham City Council to carry out a survey of land across the city using state-of-the-art digital methods.

As the council is considering a new development plan for 2022-2042, and given their new housing targets, finding sufficient land is likely to be increasingly challenging. 

Urban Intelligence’s custom-made geospatial analysis software will significantly increase the speed and range of the council’s review, enabling 330,000 sites to be assessed, 284 times more than the 1,160 assessed by the council in 2017. 

The company’s modus operandi is using machine learning to evaluate every parcel of land across the city, optimising the chances of finding more sites that could address the urgent need for homes.

Daniel Mohamed, founder and CEO of Urban Intelligence, is excited about the project’s potential, saying that as the largest local authority in Europe, the city will present a tremendous opportunity to explore the use of geospatial methods for data-driven urban development at significant scale.

The firm’s technology has already had an enormous impact in the London Borough of Hounslow where the number of sites typically evaluated has been multiplied 191 times. The team’s work has discovered 4,200 suitable sites, many of which are council-owned.

Moorfield Group Invests In Proptech Start-Ups Via Pi Labs Fund

Real estate fund manager Moorfield Group and Irish multi-family firm Elkstone Partners are the latest investors to join proptech venture capital firm Pi Labs Fund 3 as limited partners.

Pi Labs, without disclosing the amount raised, said these latest investments in the fund show the growing desire for exposure to the proptech sector among both UK and international investors.

Pi Labs is Europe’s most active VC proptech with over 55 investments in its portfolio, having already invested in 17 companies in the new fund since the beginning of the pandemic.

The strategic investment will allow the new partners to trial, pilot and implement the latest technologies across their portfolio of properties.

Faisal Butt, founder and CEO at Pi Labs, said Moorfield and Elkstone’s real estate portfolios and experience as developers, investors and real estate managers will add strategic value for Pi Labs and their growing portfolio of companies. Expanding their proptech ecosystem across Europe and internationally is central to their success, he said.

Charles Ferguson-Davie, CIO at Moorfield Group, said they are keen to keep pace with the evolving proptech industry, as technology will continue to disrupt the way people live and work. 

Alan Merriman, founder of Elkstone, said that having deliberately built up a very select portfolio of international venture fund investments, they expect to support it from strategic and learning perspectives. Real estate is an area they know well and he regards working with Pi Labs as a natural fit.

Proptech Start-Up Makes A ‘Moove’ Into Student Housing Market

The Cardiff-based student start-up Moove, which launched last month already has 200 properties reviewed on the site and aims to become the TripAdvisor of student rentals. Moove plans to launch in Bristol, Bath, Exeter and Swansea in September.

Co-founders CEO Sebastian Walker and COO Robert Stevens believe students would value detailed information on rental properties together with comments from previous users. 

Mr Walker said they found when they researched the competition and spoke to students looking for properties that none offered any more value than more generic house-finding platforms such as Rightmove or Zoopla.

He added that adding a ‘student-centred’ interface to a Zoopla-like platform wasn’t enough of an improvement. There was also a lack of choice and availability as those sites were limited by the ‘chicken and egg’ problem of whether to place users or properties first.

A platform such as theirs gives the end user extra choice, insight and a comprehensive range of properties for which there is data available all year round that include user ratings, Mr Walker said. 

Essentially, say Walker and Stevens, Moove is a unique platform which offers realistic images of homes along with detailed information.

Proptech Utopi Targets Europe To Consolidate UK Sales Success

Utopi is sizing up for growth in Europe after landing initial orders for more than 2,000 of its unique sensor devices from the UK’s build-to-rent and student accommodation sectors.

The company, established in October 2019 and employing 15 staff, has designed a multi-sensor device that captures real-time data from buildings, rooms and shared spaces. The data can be accumulated to show a complete ‘service history’ for property portfolios, enhancing their value for investors and asset managers, and increasing sustainability.

The device records a range of data, such as temperature, humidity, ambient light, noise and CO2 levels, which are transferred over an IoT network to the building’s operators or Utopi team for analysis and evaluation.

Suitable for use in rental apartments, student accommodation and care homes, the sensor enables property professionals to manage buildings more effectively and efficiently by examining data on the dashboard. 

The device can also record the usage of electricity and water in combination with property size and occupancy data to calculate consumption rates and support tenants in reducing their use of resources and saving money on their bills.

Utopi’s multi-sensor, explicitly designed to be exportable, can be used in Europe without modifications. After Europe, and with a change of chipset and recertification, the company’s next phase of expansion will be the North American market.

Falk Bleyl, co-founder and chief technology officer, said initially the company decided to target managed residential property, although their device is also applicable to the commercial office market. The UK is a growing market, he says, but Europe, where renting is more common, is a great opportunity.

He added there are ambitious plans for the sensor and the business, as environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria become an increasingly important focus for the property industry.

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