A couple weeks ago, I wrote an uncharacteristically snarky post about two start-ups offering high-tech data services to the commercial real estate industry. Both of these start-ups promised their technology would allow property owners and operators more accurate data than would otherwise be available, thereby helping their CRE clients make the most informed, effective decisions for their businesses. In both cases, I was very skeptical.
I didn’t doubt that these two very different data providers offered useful information. Rather, I was skeptical of their mutual premise that a hyper-detailed, real-time analysis of a property was more beneficial than the estimates and averages CRE professionals have relied upon for years. Further, I was uncertain such sophisticated analytics were worth the extra cost.
Since then, one of the companies I discussed–Motionloft–reached out to me, addressing my skepticism and offering some clarification about their services. Needless to say, I felt a little bad about my snarkiness toward their product. People don’t usually call me out on that.
Here’s how Motionloft explains its product:
Using our nationwide sensor network, we provide our clients with real-time information about how people move around cities. Our sensors are the first to transmit data about pedestrian and vehicle activity in real-time, providing metrics such as time density, pedestrians per block/hour and up to the minute specifics on activity in your selected region.
As I noted in my previous post discussing Motionloft, I haven’t been convinced that this high level of detail is especially necessary to the average CRE client. To say “From 10-11 AM, 45 pedestrians pass this business, while from 12-1 PM, 205 pass…” seems like an extremely calculated way of saying, “more people go outside around lunchtime.”
However, Motionloft’s Justin Miller offers another perspective, which I would like to include in the interest of fairness. This comes from an email he sent me, reprinted with permission:
We at Motionloft love data, and since we are around it all day, we don’t think twice about using it. We realize that, historically, the CRE community hasn’t had access to detailed pedestrian and vehicle data, and we present it in such detail because we can. (We could actually go even more granular!) In addition to hourly numbers, we provide daily totals and reporting options for monthly and weekly figures. We also provide statistics such as busiest day of the week, busiest hour of the day, etc. If we used estimates, we just couldn’t do that. For many people, estimates have historically been adequate, but an estimate is just that, and once you have access to actuals it is tough to go back to guessing. Estimates can never provide a real picture of a location’s unique characteristics. Additionally, an incorrect estimate extrapolated over time can be materially different than actual.
As brick and mortar becomes a tougher industry to stay afloat in, slight variances can make or break a location. We know that once people begin to use these numbers regularly, it will open eyes to the value of understanding variances in data from block to neighborhood to city.
So, are ballpark figures about surrounding neighborhood activity good enough? Is Motionloft’s super-detailed number-crunching more appropriate to your decisions?
That call, of course, is up to the individual firm. In Motionloft’s defense, a number of major brands have already signed up for their services, including major brokerages like Collier’s and Cushman & Wakefield, as well as retailers like CVS Pharmacy and Saks Fifth Avenue. Smaller business owners report success through their analytics, as well, such as Bruce McDonald.
And giving the firm extra clout–more clout than my snarky blog post could ever dispel–the Motionloft company is backed by none other than billionaire investor Mark Cuban. Pretty impressive.