UK: SXSW & Real Estate In London: What's The Connection?

Last Updated: 1 May 2014
Article by Chris Lewis

The impact of generation C (or "the connected generation" - those aged between 18 and 34, who are defined by their digital connectivity) on the way we use space is going to be epic and our industry needs to face it head on. 

South by South West (SXSW) was held in Austin, Texas last month.  The event is fast becoming known as the world's number one music, film and interactive festival, attracting over 20,000 people from around the world. 

Ten days of breaking news, product launches, film premiers and guerrilla announcements. The eyes of the world fall upon this place and it is, for a short time, the centre of the tech and creative world. But what does it mean for real estate and why would a real estate advisor like me travel thousands of miles to take part? Well the answer is simple (and it's not just because Deloitte were the main technology sponsor!).

SXSW offers an insight into what is coming, not just from a technology perspective but also talent.

At a visit to the Capital Factory, Austin's #1 incubator and accelerator space the challenge to the norm is clear for all to see. In fact, the term 'agile workforce' was demonstrated by a guy who whilst standing working at his laptop was also walking on a treadmill (AKA treadmill desk).  My view is that spaces like Capital Factory offer a sneak preview in to how many occupiers will look to use their space in the not too distant future.  However, from my perspective there were two very clear threads that ran throughout the event and I think they are really important observations.

1. Wearable's are here to stay

The rise of wearable technology has been clear to see. I found engaging in conversations with delegate after delegate who were wearing Google Glass (look it up on Google..!) almost became normal for me.  Of course in the States this 'product' is licenced and on general trial – for us in the UK we have a little longer to wait. The technology is clearly being lapped up by consumers of all ages in the US and that's important. The way we use technology and transfer desk-based activities to wearable technologies will ultimately impact on the way office space is used. (Note: I'm not predicting everyone will be wearing all their normal kit in some kind of elaborate back pack, but there are some sectors where increasingly more agile use of space through more portable and personal technology solutions will be the ultimate ambition.) This correlates to our TMT Prediction in which we predict that global revenue for wearable devices should exceed £2 billion in 2014.  After seeing them all at SXSW, this really does seem possible.

2. The Makers have it

The overwhelming theme running throughout SXSW has to be the impact of makers – those who are creating 'things'. It doesn't matter what the niche, there is someone at SXSW making something for it. And what strikes me about this phenomenon is how it creates amazing collaborative behaviours. A spirit of friendliness and cooperation that creates a need for a different type of space solution. Flexible in layout, price and term, this community is the pollen around which the big corporate honey bees swarm. All the more exciting that London has secured its place at the forefront of this most modern movement. In fact, it is the London Borough of Hackney that need to be applauded. They sent a delegation to Austin, for the second year, and showcased the best of the maker movement within 'Hackney House'. Even more exciting was the announcement that in the summer of 2015 Maker Faire will be coming to London for the first time, working with London's home for making, Here East (advised by Deloitte). This new digital creative campus on the Olympic Park wants to help create a global event in our capital – stand by for something special!

So there is much for us to consider, as advisors. Addressing the needs of an increasingly important sector whilst at the same time understanding and adapting to the technologies and working practices that they represent. Creating genuinely smart buildings, cities and districts that enable people to do business in whatever way they see fit. That must be our collective priority and focus.  It is certainly something on which Deloitte has a point of view.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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