Asia has a commanding role in the emerging sector of property technology or “proptech”, the application of technology to solve challenges in the real estate sector, according to a survey. Within Asia-Pacific, start-ups with a proptech tie in have outpaced their counterparts in Europe and the United States, having raised US$4.8 billion in funding among 179 companies since 2013, according to research by international property consultant JLL Greater China. This represents more than 60 per cent of US$7.8 billion in global investment in proptech during the period, according to the report “Clicks and Mortar: The Growing Influence of Proptech”. Mainland China and Hong Kong have raised US$3.03 billion, accounting for 41 per cent of global proptech investment during the period. “Technology and real estate are converging in exciting ways. We’re already seeing the potential of data analytics, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, virtual reality and blockchain to transform how we invest in and occupy real estate in the future,” said Anthony Couse, chief executive officer at JLL Asia Pacific. The consultant forecast proptech investment in Asia-Pacific will reach US$4.5 billion a year by 2020. “The findings of the report show that there is a great deal of potential for proptech in Asia-Pacific. With its young population, rapid urbanisation and ‘mobile first’ mindset, all the conditions are in place for this new sector to accelerate, bringing increased efficiencies and better experiences for the end-user,” the report said. Proptech in Asia Pacific has evolved significantly since it first emerged in 2007 with residential property listing start-ups. In its current iteration it is beginning to serve larger enterprise needs and the commercial real estate sector. Proptech start-ups are mainly focused in brokerage and leasing, investment and financing, project development, and property management. Slightly more than half of the start-ups that have raised funding since 2013 are in brokerage and leasing, where they serve as a platform for brokers, property owners and purchasers. “What’s really interesting for a company like JLL is that more start-ups are beginning to emerge that bring solutions that are scalable for big corporate needs,” Couse said. “Once we start to see the application of technologies such as 3D printing, robotics and drones alongside the rise of smart cities in Asia, it could lead to a transformation of the real estate industry.” Greater China and India are the top two markets for proptech start-ups in Asia-Pacific, based on funding value and total number of deals, according to the report. “The high cost of living in Hong Kong and the city’s history as a traditional financial centre have arguably held back innovation and the development of the tech industry in Hong Kong,” said Christopher Clausen, associate director of Asia Pacific research at JLL. But the city’s tech industry is steadily gaining momentum the report said, noting that there are an increasing number of unicorns that got their start in Hong Kong. “The Hong Kong government’s recent launch of the HK$2 billion Innovation and Technology Venture Fund should help spur further growth of the tech, and with it proptech, sector in Hong Kong,” the report said. The government can support the development of the tech sector, including proptech, through tax holidays and business incubators for qualifying companies, the report said. “But ultimately it will be market forces that determine whether Hong Kong’s tech industry continues to grow. Hong Kong work visas for expatriates with tech skill sets in demand would also support the growth of the industry,” Clausen said.