While a lot of new technologies made an appearance at Realcomm Commercial Real Estate Technology eConference this year, the buzz mainly centered around the increasing potential of an older tool: wireless technology.
"We have all the tools right now to be able to effectively get people on the Internet and communicating computer to computer in large and small business environments without the need to run category five cable," observes Howard Berger, director of Technology Showcases for Realcomm.
Sure cell phones have become commonplace — but the next phase will deliver the Internet for the tenant and fire and security services for the owners via wireless technology. "Basically, this technology takes a signal that is available on the street corner and brings it into the core of the building," explains Philip Marmina, managing director with Azonic Networks Inc., a Toronto-based provider of in-building wireless networks for multi-tenant office buildings.
"It’s been reported that we spend 40% of our time away from our desks," says Marmina. "Which means we are away from where we are connected. Wireless enhances productivity because you can be connected anywhere and anytime."
Less than 1% of office space in North America is ready to use wireless technology. But Azonic has wired its first nine office buildings in the United States and Canada in less than two years and has seven more under contract. "People in large office complexes are making decisions on how to get everyone on the Internet," says Berger. "What is the most efficient way to do it? They have to evaluate wireless as an option."
Also making headway in the market is 3e Technologies International Inc., a Rockville, Md., firm that has been creating wireless communication and monitoring systems for the Department of Defense for six years. It is now taking its technology to the commercial real estate market, mostly to be used by building owners for security and fire, motion and temperature sensors.
"What you do is put in a ‘gateway’ and from there you mount wireless sensors all around so the overall install time is one-third less and expenses are 50% cheaper," says Fred Calascione, vice president of global sales for 3e. "Right now just small percentage of buildings use wireless, but the technology and products are improving and it is growing faster than people think," Calascione adds.
Another company bringing wireless technology in-building and servicing that technology is Richardson, Texas-based Innerwireless. The company was founded four years ago, but became a turnkey provider of wireless technology in 2000. It recently wired its first office buildings including The Crescent in Dallas.
"For Class-A office space, we are at the early stages of installing wireless inside those buildings," says Chris McCoy, senior vice president for corporate development. "Right now wireless carrier interest is in public venues such as malls, airports, arenas and convention centers, but within a year or two that interest will shift to large office buildings."