Cycling, Property and the Digital Layer

Over and over again I’ve been banging on* about how important it is for the property industry to embrace modern technology. In particular I’ve talked about social media, location services, big data, the cloud and the internet of things. Often this has led to a degree of bafflement as in the abstract these things can be hard to get to grips with. Well, here’s a real world example to ponder.

And it involves the humble bicycle, much loved by property folk. Which is appropriate, as with the bicycle we can see how the physical and digital worlds are colliding. To everyone’s benefit.

How so?

Well first off you have your bike. And once you get started you find yourself drifting into ‘Planet Cyclist’ and before you know it you join a cycling club. And then your competitive edge kicks in and you sign up for an online club like Strava. And this allows you to track all your rides through GPS, and plot them all on real time maps (location services). And then you start to share and compare these with other Strava members (social media). And you do all this via an app on your phone (pulling data from the Cloud).

Without thinking much about it you’ve plugged yourself into an extraordinary digital network meshing together vast pools of information (big data) and massive computational grunt. You are now a digital human. And all you did was buy a bicycle.

In London you also use a Boris bike. And this tracks you via RFID (Internet of things) in order to keep track of the four thousand or so bikes whizzing hither and thither.

If you were visiting the Intel campus in Oregon you might even have seen the prototype Internet of Things enabled bikes they are developing.

So far this is all about you, your bike and your social network. But** with all this technology going on something else is possible, with much wider ramifications. By pooling all the data generated by the whole Strava community they now have access to exceptional insight into how cyclists move around various world cities, something which was never before possible. So they are now selling this data to City Planners, whose job is making a city more manageable and who need all the data they can get their hands on.

Starting off in Portland Oregon, London, Glasgow and Orlando have also signed up. The image at the top of the page is taken from the heatmap of their dataset which includes 77,688,848 rides and 19,660,163 runs representing about 220 billion total data points.

So there you have it. Social media, location services, big data, the Cloud and the internet of things working in real life. The Digital Layer in action.

And the big takeaway from this? The Digital Layer is rich, and thick, and with us now. It can transform everything from the daily life of an individual right up to the workings of our smart cities.

What can it do for your property? How can it excite, inspire and inform occupiers of your space or visitors to your estate?


* A phrase first used by the way in an advertisement in Punch in April 1936

** I often wonder whether it is acceptable to start a sentence with a conjunction. Seems it is.