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Ownership of Big Data in the property industry

Published on Facility Perspectives // VOL 14 No. 4 (December 2020)

By Liam Murray, CEO at Build-Apps

As big data of real estate is increasingly harness for profitable investments, we firmly believe that curated building performance data accessibility and ownership is essential.

Big data is consumed and created during the management of a real estate portfolio has exponentially increased delivering new types and better quality of real-time building performance data. Data integration with other digital platforms and data independence are essential aspects of data ownership. As technologies are seamlessly embedded into smart buildings for efficient and sustainable operation, we advise that companies centralize their built-environment data in a way that is organized and accessible on their own servers to retain ownership of their digital information. The alternative is to rely on fragmented and accessible third-party platforms.

What is big data and what the benefits?

Big data is essentially a collection of datasets that are too complex to be dealt with by traditional data-processing application software. Big data analysis allows property owners and decision-makers to view a live macro-holistic picture of whole-of-portfolio data and scrutinize it at a micro level to strengthen portfolio performance, increase asset valuations and improve operational efficiency, enabling building performance analytics and insights into a property portfolio.

When the data lifecycle is understood- data collection, big data, data analytics and business intelligence- then big data can be used to inform decisions, including capital and operational expenditure, and sustainability forecasting.

Importance of data ownership

By owning your data, you have complete unconstrained access, with no dependence on a third party and no risk of loosing data integrity due to faults or clauses in service agreement dictated by others.

Data is a valuable entity that drives profitable activity within the real estate sector and includes knowing the complete and detailed history of all assets in your building and maintaining complete data records. By owning your data, you have complete and unconstrained access, with no dependence on a third party and no risk of losing data integrity due to faults or clauses in service agreements dictated by others.

Data ownership reduces reliance on third parties and avoids the pitfalls of the property technology (PropTech) sector, which has seen a rise in cloud-based startups according to leading industry magazine, Unissu, more than 7000 individual software as a service (SaaS) provider have emerged over the past five years.

Optimal building performance within a property portfolio relies heavily on asset management. With rapid digitalization of the property industry, emphasis can too often be placed on ‘making it happen’ rather than a considered approach incorporating the goals and outcomes required from the data.

When your data is owned and managed by a handful of contractors and platform providers, the power of big data is diluted. Lack of data ownership can also leave the property portfolio vulnerable to more sinister types of activity around third-party data management.

Data hoarding: There is a historical trend for external management and maintenance companies to claim ownership of the client’s systems and the data within them. IT would be naïve to think that this culture/mentality will change as we start to integrate more building data to cloud SaaS tools.

Data ransom: Ensure clarification around exiting the service. Exiting can be costly and cause major data loss. There are no published standards that apply in this new PropTech sector. Property owners and their consultants need to be vigilant about who has access to, and who owns, their data.

Lack of documentation and/or application programming interface Integration of building or company specific data with some cloud systems and portfolio-specific data may be compromised by making it fit into the templating requirement of a particular SaaS provider.

Making sense of big data

When the process of fata collection, data structuring and analytics are integrated and planned, big data can create a powerful single source of truth for the property portfolio. Data collection be conducted by a range of service providers. The essential element is the format that the data is processed into and the place where it is then stored. If the property owners can specify the format and the house for the data, then every piece of collected data can be an asset for the property portfolio owner.

Structured data may reside in a master database in an adaptable format. This can take the form of a layer of interconnected apps, which you can imagine as a series of interconnected cogs, to collect, store and connect data. External service providers can securely connect via an application programming interface (API) to consume and update data. This creates a platform as a service (PaaS, which is able to be owned and operated by the property owner, unlike conventional software platforms. Interconnected analytics tools give the senior leadership team a single source of truth for every aspect of the property portfolio.


The plethora of available data allows decision-makers to have oversight of their portfolios at the macro and micro levels to make informed decisions, as well as enabling significant sustainability improvement planning, based on real-time data rather than modelled data. The loss of ownership and access to big data has the potential to be very costly into the future. It is therefore essential to tackle the ownership of big data in a considered way that incorporates the goal and outcomes required from the data.

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