PROEarlier this year, The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) launched the REBNYTech Committee, whose stated mission is to ensure that New York City remains the leading edge of the global PropTech ecosystem. To further that goal, the organization just hosted their first PropTech hackathon, bringing together more than 100 of the brightest minds in the property and technology industries to hack cutting edge solutions to real-world challenges faced by the world’s leading real estate companies.
The hackathon, part of NYC Real Estate Tech Week, took place at Grand Central Tech — an incubator that provides office space and other resources to startups. Hackathon participants were allowed to compete individually or as part of a team of up to five people and were provided access to APIs and datasets from REBNY and other sources. The teams worked across six challenge categories—AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction), Brokerage, Cybersecurity, Geospatial Intelligence, Sustainable Maintenance and Operations, and Open Hack—to compete for a total of $75,000 in cash and prizes.
What resulted was an outpouring of innovation incorporating cutting edge technologies like drones, virtual reality, sensors and machine learning. The event began on Friday and by Sunday evening participants were presenting products ranging from broker marketing solutions, to interior scanning software, and even an emergency response tool.
The panel of judges included real estate experts Sandy Jacolow, Valerie Rosenberg, Duke Long, Leila Collins and Damon Hernandez. Entries were judged based on originality, creativity, innovation, analytical skills, strategic thinking, and practical implementation. The entry that earned the highest overall score in each of the six categories won the REBNYTech Hackathon challenge for that category, receiving a $2,500 prize, and qualifying for the three month “Gauntlet Challenge”.
Connell McGill, Co-Founder and CEO of energy management startup Enertiv, led a team to victory in the Sustainable Maintenance and Operations category. “The event was a big win for the real estate industry,” said McGill. “I think a lot of people were surprised by the number of engineers and product teams who showed up eager to develop PropTech applications and compete.”
McGill’s team built an app to automate the process of data collection as it relates to submetering through the use of computer vision technology. They leveraged open source machine learning and computer vision libraries to train algorithms to interpret images and create digital outputs, all wrapped within the convenience of a mobile app.
“We wanted to get started on a project that could be of immediate value to our expanding customer base,” explained McGill. “Winning the competition was not the main objective, but it certainly sweetened the experience.”
A team made up of Prescriptive Data engineers, Augmented Estates, also won in the Sustainable Maintenance and Operations category. Their product allows for augmented-reality-enabled IT, operations, and facilities management. Basically it allows a smartphone to operate as a scanner for a room, letting users see a building’s sensor and factual data in real time while walking around the space. The app uses a powerful search engine (Algolia) to localize relevant data points and a stand alone wireless sensor network (Wireless Tags) for spatial data acquisition. Sensor data is posted to the cloud and sent to Algolia from where it is served to users.
In the Geospatial category, RE:SCUE — another team from Prescriptive Data — was the winner with their floor-specific EMS location services. Using a smartphone’s geolocation abilities, coupled with open source building data, users can quickly report emergencies to dispatchers and first responders.
Prescriptive Data CEO Sonu Panda told propmodo.com that his company is already planning on productizing the two working prototypes that resulted from the weekend using their NANTUM Building Operating System platform. “We’re excited to see widespread recognition of the benefits of building on top of a true building operating system like NANTUM. For innovators, we’re accelerating the adoption of their technology by the corporate real estate industry. And for building owners, operators, and managers that are implementing new technologies, the platform is saving money, shrinking payback periods, and boosting ROI.”
The winner in the AEC category, Avvir, uses an autonomous UAV (drone) and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) to scan an indoor space and compare it to an existing BIM (building information modeling) blueprint to discover construction deviations.
The Cybersecurity category winner was Mapd which identifies unauthorized processes and applications running in the background of your computer systems and shuts them down before they can do any harm.
Cherre was the Openhack winner. The software attempts to “unpack” the price when it comes to the sales of condo units to get a true price reflection for recording purposes. The tool attempts to identify the actual closing price net of taxes using information from New York City’s Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS).
Ryan J. S. Baxter, a Vice President at REBNY and one of the hackathon’s organizers, said the event succeeded as a proof of concept. “Between the REBNYTech Committee, event partners, sponsors, and speakers, over 60 organizations contributed to the hackathon, and we received 17 innovative demos from a diverse group of teams.” Baxter said the winners worked hard to iterate on problems they felt they could solve using existing skills. “Each thought through specific use cases apart from our challenge prompts. They kept their composure, communicated well, had their leaders in the room, and put in the hours.”
During the next three months, the six winners will be given free office space and allowed to refine their existing entries to meet at least one of the provided real-world challenges faced by real estate companies and compete for the $35,000 Gauntlet Challenge prize to implement their solution.