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How Technology is Revolutionizing Property Assessments


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New technologies are being released at breakneck speed. Ones that were once so innovative and exciting at launch are now passé. Technological advances are having a deep impact on the speed, quality …

New technologies are being released at breakneck speed. Ones that were once so innovative and exciting at launch are now passé. Technological advances are having a deep impact on the speed, quality and effectiveness of property assessments, giving environmental professionals who use them a competitive advantage. At this webinar, you will learn more about advancements in digital content, mobile, information access, applications, workflow and communications that environmental professionals are using to improve efficiency and respond to pressure for fast turnaround time.

Benefits for attendees:

• Trends from the tech world that are shifting the landscape of how EPs conduct property assessments—and keep clients happy

• Technologies and apps with applicability for streamlining field work

• An inside look at how technologies are quickly changing how EPs do their jobs

• A look ahead to how future technologies will change the workplace for property assessment professionals


• Paul Schiffer, VP, Product Development, EDR

• Duncan Anderson, Business Development Officer, Odic Environmental & Energy

Published in: Technology, Business

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  • Thank you Dianne. And good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us. A couple of things to relate before we begin. During the presentation we will have a few interactive polling questions – and I’ll let you know when to look for that. Also, we will have a few streaming videos. If the sound on the streaming video is too low, you can adjust the volume control on your computer. So, it is a very interesting time to be following technology change. I don’t think I’ve seen as much fundamental change since perhaps the late 1990’s during the era. Today, we are seeing dramatic change in telecommunications and personal devices that impacts every one of us. At EDR, we have a pretty substantial investment in computer technology, so we like to keep track of the changing landscapein order toposition ourselves correctly for the future.Today, I am going to take a top down approach to the subject. First by looking at some of the macro technology changes going on, and then delving into how this is impacting you on the call today, and how we think it may impact you in the future.
  • What is driving all this change? Big business is driving change. I pulled out some factoids here to demonstrate the massive investments going on in telecommunications, particularly mobile:In June, Verizon finished upgrading its entire 3G footprint with next generation 4G coverage. Now, you might, as I did, ask your local Verizon store why I should care about 4G. There certainly has been enough advertising about it. The answer isn’t to get faster email delivery…..its to handle large file sizes, like video and documents, more quickly. Google recognizes the importance of mobile hardware, and they spent 12 billion to acquire Motorola. Mobile is a huge component of their information strategy.Facebook, recognizing the importance of photos and mobile, recently spent 1 Billion for Instagram, a tiny company with one app. Microsoft, always both early and late to the game, spent over 15 billion in the last 2 years to purchase Skype and Nokia, huge acquisitions.
  • So, in a nutshell, big business is responding to – and encouraging – widespread adoption of mobile computer technology, ubiquitous “always on” connections, seamless connections between mobile devices and back-end servers, with more data streaming between them, and an increasingly blurred line between phones and computers.
  • Government is Driving ChangeThe Federal government is -- if you had to pick a single entity – the largest component of the economy. So, its hard to pick only a few items to highlight. One notable change is that the President signed an Executive Order in 2011 committing all Federal agencies reporting up through the Executive Branch to move immediately to a digital government. Agencies must plan for how to archive digital materials for later storage at the National Archives. This includes all sorts of things, like paper documents, online media, emails, blogs, etc. It’s a huge amount of information. And agencieshave to think about how they are going to store it – not for a few years – but for hundreds of years. I was down at the Library of Congress a couple of years ago, and they said one of the biggest problems they have is reading old document formats – floppy drives, files, even LP records with data stored on it. This is going to be a long term problem for the National Archives in the digital age.Collecting and archiving data on this scale may lead to private investment in tools and technology to better convert, store and save information.
  • Another interesting development: The President signed a law in February 2012 directing the Federal Aviation Administration to come up with rules which can open up National Air Space to mobile drones for civilian, commercial and law enforcementapplications.Unmanned drone technology is rapidly advancing and may provide benefits on large sites. But the FAA needs to account for safety issues. And privacy issues have come to the forefrontas well. We will be talking a little bit more about this later in the presentation.
  • The biggest driving force for change is consumers like you and mebuying smartphones and tablets.I collected some factoids to demonstrate the scale of the impact. In the first quarter of 2012, Iphone revenue was larger than all of Microsoft. That is a big change in only a few years. Forrester – an industry research company – predicts tablets will become the primary computing device we use by 2016IDC – another industry research company – forecasts PC sales will decrease by 7.8% in 2013.
  • So, we decided to take a look at the screen size of smartphones and tablets, over time. On the left, smartphone screen sizes over time. On the right, tablets.As you can see, available smartphone screens are getting larger and larger – Samsung just released something called the Mega. If you have time, go down to your ATT store and check it out. On the other side, you see available tablets are getting smaller. This is leading to a convergence between phones and tablets. A term has been coined – one that I don’t particularly like -- called the “phablet”, a phone plus a tablet.
  • While the most popular phones are getting larger, at the same time, you can purchase pretty much any screen size you want. It’s a pretty continuous ramp from small to large. And I would not be surprised if the market started to fill in on both the smaller and large end of the spectrum.
  • So, while the average phone is getting bigger, because the available screens follow a continuum from small to large, the big thing in software design (as well as content creation) is to figure out how to fit software to any screen size. “Device Independent Software Design”is a dominant topic at software development conferencestoday.
  • Another thing that is pretty obvious-- is that people check their phones a lot. Some data indicates smartphone owners check their phones 150 times per day, typically. Personally, I think this might be on the low side.
  • And it’s starting to add up. Users checking their devices frequently, plus miniaturization of device components, plus ubiquitous wireless connections, its adding up to a wearable device. Some recent announcements you may already know about:Samsung announced a wearable watch with touch screen and apps called the Galaxy Gear.Google glass has been widely promoted in the pressApple “IOS in the car” was recently announced – but the details have not been released. It could very well be a way to somehow better connect your phone to your car.
  • Many of these changes are following a “disruptive” model of technology change. In that model, a product with limited features and lower costs fills a niche in the market, but gradually improves to the point that incumbent products can no longer compete with it.Think about your phone: It started out with a weak camera, it has poor speakers, a terrible keyboard, a small screen, and it runs out of power once a day. But it does one thing really well – it combines a bunch of features into a single device you can easily carry. Gradually it has gotten better, and today, it has many features of a full-fledged computer.
  • Let’s take a closer look and compare the smartphone camera today to one in 2009.
  • The impact on camera sales is noticeable. Here is a chart showing shipments of “Point and Click” cameras to the United States.Generally, every year, there is a big uptick in shipments to the United States around October and November, for the holiday season. Last year, there was only a small uptick. The trend line is pointing dow. And camera manufacturers are reporting dropping sales. They have also reduced the number of products in their lineups. The significant drop in sales does not seem like a coincidence. Cell phone cameras are disrupting the camera market.
  • Ok, so with all this change, we decided to take a look at how environmental consultants are using smartphones and tablets. Here is some data we collected from 2010, 2012, and 2013 from a survey of environmental consultants nationwide.POLL
  • We have also collecteddetailed information about how at how EPs are actually using smartphones. A couple of interesting things that stand out: notice how much document review is occurring on smartphones. It’s a good example of what is driving larger phone screens. Also, note the increasing use of the camera for site photos and document capture.POLL
  • Now, I’d like to take a look at how new technology can impact Site Assessments. We have organized the presentation into sections following the major sections of the ASTM Standard: Site Visits, Records Review and Reporting. Weleft out “Interviews”, because I think its pretty clear how one might use a “smartphone” in an interview – as a recording device.
  • Any discussion about “Site Visits” and technology ought to recognize the profound impact of online maps. The intense competition between the major information companies is often referred to as “Map Wars”. This competition has been tremendously beneficial to all of us and it will continue to benefit us. Lets take a quick look at how quickly these mapping systems have improved over time.
  • Future “Map Wars” will continue to drive innovation. And the big companies are often pretty open about what they plan to do. The plan to focus on augmented reality – the overlay of virtual information on a picture of the real world. On integrating social information – such as Google’s acquisition of Zagats restaurant reviews. On continuous streaming information, based on your current location. On mapping building interiors (such as Google integration of Big Box store interior maps) and creating a 3D model of the world.In a nutshell, they want to recreate the real world in a virtual map environment, much like a game.
  • So, lets take a look at how smartphones are integrating geospatial technology that can be applied to Site Visits. Anyone with a smartphone today has a GPS that can be integrated into all sorts of apps.Google “My Tracks” is an app that captures your path, allows you to mark points of interest, and then uploads and saves your path. It can be used – as shown here – to outline the path you take while you are investigating a property. You can save an image of the path you take.
  • “Glympse” is a smartphone app that allows you to share with someone else – for a limited time – your location and track. For instance, if you tell your spouse you are headed home, you can share your exact path to verify you are in fact headed home. Eventually, this, or apps like it, may play a part in fleet management applications, such as when you might want to check the location of various colleagues out in the field.
  • “Skitch” is an app that shows the power of software drawing and editing tools on smartphone devices. I would not necessarily advise doing a formal Site Plan on the phone, but in this example, I was able to pull up a map, quickly draw a diagram, and then share that with a colleague.
  • “Smart Measure” takes advantage of certain hardware features of the phone – such as camera focal length – to create an innovative application that can perform measurements of distance and height. By supplying the height of a known object – in this example, that window on the far wall is 6 feet high – the app can estimate the distance to the wall, without using any other measurement tool.
  • “Theodolite” is another even more advanced smartphone app that is notable for combining many separate hardware and data features into a single application: GPS, Gyroscope, Camera, Aerial Photography, and Video. The app offers team collaboration with measurement tools for height, distance, triangulation, and % grade.
  • With the growth of high speed 4G networks, its becoming easier and easier to imagine collaborating online through mobile video connections. We’ve put together a short video, using off-the-shelf smartphone technology, to show you how can have a multi-person virtual “Site Visit”.
  • As I mentioned earlier, the FAA has been tasked with coming up with rules that would permit unmanned aerial vehicles in US airspace. These rules may – and I say may – substantially change what is available for both civilian and law enforcement applications.Here is a quick video example of what unmanned quad-copters can do today.
  • The growth of this aerial technology, combined with news reports of drones being used overseas, is creating a significant debate here in the United States. A couple of years ago, when I first started looking into this, there was hardly any legislation on the topic. People would ask me – “Aren’t there rules about privacy related to unmanned vehicles?” And the honest answer back then was: unless someone is persistently harassing you , there are no rules. Well, over the last couple of years , a tremendous amount of state legislation has been introduced to protect privacy. I don’t yet know how that legislation will interact with what the FAA is working on, but its something to watch. Some numbers:
  • When it comes to records review, “Genius Scan” is an excellent app for capturing images of documents located in state and local agency offices. You simply take a photo, and the application automatically crops, resizes and converts the image into a document. You can build multipage documents and send them via email.
  • As tablets become more and more popular, tablet technology will have a greater and greater hold on business applications. Here is an experimental video showing how records review can be converted into a tablet experience.
  • Looking forward, I realize we are all somewhat bound by reporting conventions and legal requirements. Still, with advances in technology, I think there will be some very interesting applications available for reporting in the future. Here is an example where photos tagged with a lat/lon coordinate could be positioned on an online map, making it easier for you or your customers to review issues. As photos and mapping become more easily integrated, this would be a very interesting development.
  • As it becomes easier and easier to stream data between devices – using systems like Microsoft 365, Google Drive, and Dropbox-- and as the types of devices we use proliferate, more and more we will be looking at “device independent software” and “device independent documents”. For anyone who has used Google Drive, you know its an weird feeling when the exact same document on your desktop appears on your smartphone. The document becomes sortof unchained from its location, that is to say, devise independent. Its even more amazing when two people can be editing the document at exactly the same time, both from different types of devices.
  • As documents more easily stream between devices with different screen sizes, it becomes more and more sensible to imagine a “print independent” document that can be easily read on any sized device.As you know, today’s documents are rarely printed, but they are still optimized for print. 8 ½ by 11 is – in a way – a somewhat arbitrary size given to us by a series of historical events. The Federal government (under Ronald Reagan), actually approved the 8 ½ x 11 paper format as their standard sizein the 1980s.But, as I noted earlier, the Federal Government has also been directed by this President to move towards a digital government.What will be the fate of 8 ½ x 11, if the viewing size of electronic devices varies?
  • So, as you know, ASTM Standards require highly structured reporting formats. Documents have sections and subsections. Sections are numbered and they correspond to a Table of Contents. What is interesting is that the ASTM document format corresponds exactly to how smartphones and tablets organize their own information. In smartphones, there are section headers, then you click to go to a subsection, and click back to go to a table of contents.So, unlike a normal book, Site Assessment documents are potentially well organized for reading on smartphones and tablets in a hierarchical format, rather than a continuous stream of 8 ½ x 11 pages. Now changing all our documents to a hierarchical format might not be a simple change, but as I said earlierin the presentation “Device Independent Software Applications” are a huge theme in software development today. Companies like Microsoft and Adobe might actually be working on this problem as we speak.
  • Finally, to wrap up. With all this change, what firms will have an advantage?In my opinion, firms that can save themselves time by using mobile technology will have an advantage. And those that can save time for their customers and optimize information for the devices that customers use will also have an advantage. Does it make sense to optimize for print when devises we use in the future will be so different than what we use today?
  • That wraps up our formal slide presentation. Now, we are pleased to have Duncan Anderson with us, from Odic Environmental. Duncan is a Project Manager will lots of hands-on experience using mobile devices in the field. Following our discussion with Duncan, if we have time, we will address any questions from the audience. Welcome Duncan:
  • Transcript

    • 1. © 2013 Environmental Data Resources, Inc. September 10, 2013 Tomorrow's Technology and Site Assessments Paul Schiffer Vice President, Product Development, EDR Duncan Anderson Project Manager, Odic Environmental & Energy
    • 2. • Major U.S. business investments in technology and telecommunications: • Verizon 4G for its entire 3G footprint, June 2013 • High speed connection at the “last mile” for large files • Google buys Motorola for $12.5 billion • Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion • Microsoft buys Skype $8.5 billion, Nokia $7.2 billion Big Business Driving Change Source: Verizon Communications Quarterly Report, June 30, 2013
    • 3. Big business is responding to—and encouraging: 1. Widespread adoption of mobile technology 2. Ubiquitous “always on” Internet connections 3. Seamless connections between devices and back-end computer servers 4. More info streaming between devices and systems 5. Increasingly blurred line between phones and computers Big Business Driving Change Page 3
    • 4. • President signs an Executive Order in November 2011, “Presidential Memorandum—Managing Government Records” • Commits Federal Agencies to immediately transition to a digital government. • Directs the Federal government to update records management practices for the digital age. • Agencies must: • Plan for how to archive materials • Work towards a more open government • Assign roles and accountability within agencies • Will need to account for massive amounts of digital data. New archival file types? New storage technologies? Government Driving Change
    • 5. • President signs law in February 2012 directing the FAA to come up with rules which can open up National Air Space to mobile drones for civilian, commercial and law enforcement • Drone technology is rapidly advancing • FAA needs to account for safety issues with drones • Privacy issues have come to the forefront Government Driving Change
    • 6. Consumers driving change in devices 1. 1Q 2012, iPhone revenue larger than all Microsoft’s revenue. 2. Forrester: predicts tablets will be the primary computer by 2016. 3. IDC: predicts PC sales will decrease by 7.8% in 2013. Consumers Driving Change 1. Source “Vanity Fair” August 2012: In the quarter ended March 31, 2012, iPhone had sales of $22.7 billion; Microsoft Corporation, $17.4 billion. LI NK 2. Source: IDC Worldwide Quarter PC Tracker, May 2013 3. Source: Forester Research, April 23, 2012 blog.
    • 7. Consumers: Device Trends Page 7 Source: sizes from
    • 8. Consumers: Device Trends Page 8 Source: ATT and Verizon web sites Screen Size of Currently Available Devices (inches)
    • 9. • Larger phone sizes available (converging 5.5 – 6.5 inches) • Software developers and content creators are designing “device independent” software to accommodate multiple screen sizes Consumers: Device Trends
    • 10. Typical User Checks Phone ~150 Times / Day Consumers: Device Trends Source: TomiAhonen Almanac 2013 LINK. KPCB "Internet Trends D11 Conference, 5/29/2013, Mary Meeker, Liang Wu
    • 11. It’s starting to add up…. Users Checking Information Frequently Miniaturization of Components + Ubiquitous Wireless Connections = Wearable Device Consumers: Device Trends Apple “IOS in the Car”Samsung Galaxy Gear Google Glass
    • 12. • “Disruption” model of technology change • Product with limited features/lower costs fills a niche • Gradually they mature and challenge market incumbents • Incumbents fail to compete with lower cost products Technology Disruption
    • 13. • Example: Cameras Consumers: Device Trends Phone Features 2009 2013 Image Detail 3 Megapixels 41 Megapixels Video VGA (640x 480) / 30 fps HD / (1920 x 1080) 60 fps Activating Camera Select app Shake phone (instant) Camera Software Limited Smile Detection Burst Mode Advanced editing Connectivity Email Instant Uploads / Sharing
    • 14. Camera shipments to US (“Point and Click”) Consumers: Device Trends Page 14 Source: Camera and Imaging Products Association Canon Inc., CASIO COMPUTER CO., LTD., FUJIFILM Corporation, KONICA MINOLTA, INC., Nikon Corporation, OLYMPUS CORPORATION, Panasonic Corporation, Sony Corporation, and others.
    • 15. EP Usage: Device Type 2010 2012 2013 1 YR % Trend Smartphones (own) 81% 81% 81% iPhone 28% 54% 49% Android 10% 27% 39% Blackberry 44% 19% 12% Other 18% 0% 1% Tablets (own) -- 21% 25% iPad -- 86% 68% Android -- 14% 29% Microsoft Surface -- -- 3% N/A Source: EDR Insight Technology Survey, 2010, 2012, 2013
    • 16. EP Usage: Mobile at Work Page 16 Source: EDR Insight, Technology Survey, 2010, 2013 Function 2010 2013 Email 96% 97% Voice 92% 92% Calendar 71% 83% Navigation & directions 60% 84% Text messaging 56% 93% Document review / reading documents 55% 53% Photos to put into Phase I report 49% 63% Finding a place to eat 32% 58% Locate research facilities 24% 48% Note taking / collect textual notes in the field 19% 24% Tracking time allocation 13% 16% Video 10% 30% Take snapshot of documents N/A 69% Video chat with colleagues N/A 15%
    • 17. a. Site Visit b. Records Review c. Reporting Technology and Phase I ESAs
    • 18. Site Visit
    • 19. Google Maps arrived in 2005 • 2007: Street View • 2009: Google Maps Navigation • 2012: 50% of Google Maps traffic comes from mobile phones • Today: Acquires “Waze” / integrates real time traffic reports from individuals “Microsoft Maps” arrived in 2005 • 2007: Bird’s Eye oblique imagery • 2012: Finished aerial photos of the entire US at high resolution Apple’s Mapping arrived 2012 • 2012: Becomes the largest company in US history • 2012: Apologizes for its mapping • Today: Announces “IOS in the Car” “Map Wars” Drive Innovation Page 19
    • 20. Focus for the future: • Augmented reality • Integrating “social” information • Continuous information where you are • Map of building interiors • Creating a 3-D model of the world Future “Map Wars” Page 20
    • 21. • Mobile phone with built-in GPS enables you to: • Capture your path • Mark points of interest • Upload and save Google “My Tracks” App Page 21
    • 22. • Mobile Phone Internet connection enables you to: • Send your location to others • Track progress on Web page and Phone • Observe progress of colleagues • Perform “fleet management” “Glympse” Mobile App
    • 23. • Larger screens, high quality graphics and UI enables you to: • Capture Site Photos and Maps • Draw on top while on site • Create diagrams • Upload results “Skitch” Mobile App
    • 24. • Phone camera means: • You can take horizontal and vertical measurements “Smart Measure” App
    • 25. • Combines: team location collaboration with height, distance, triangulation, % grade and optical range finder • Incorporates: GPS, Gyroscope, Camera, Aerial Photography, Video “Theodolite” Mobile App
    • 26. • EDR Mobile App Mobile Data Collection
    • 27. • High speed mobile connections are impacting Site Visits: • Video • Collaboration • “Augmented Reality” Mobile Video Conferencing Mobile Video Conference
    • 28. • UAV technology is rapidly advancing (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) • FAA drafting rules for UAV in US airspace. • Applications: • Recon with quadcopters • Structurally unsafe building? • 10,000-acre site? Mobile Aerial Recon Quad Copter Video
    • 29. • 43 states have introduced 115 bills and resolutions. • Ten bills have been enacted in eight states. • Resolutions have been adopted in ten states. Mobile UAV: National Debate Sourrce: National Conference of State Legislatures
    • 30. Records Review
    • 31. • Quick image capture • Automatically Crop • Save and Build PDF “Genius Scan” Mobile App
    • 32. • Records review of the future will incorporate new mapping and tablet technologies Interactive Records Review Tablet and Mapping Application Video
    • 33. Reporting
    • 34. • Upload Photos with locational information: • Onto a map • Into PDF archives Data with Maps
    • 35. • Microsoft 365 • Google Drive • Dropbox Device Independent Documents
    • 36. • Today’s assessment documents are optimized for print…. • 8 ½ x 11, paginated, Table of Contents, etc. • But typically, they are not printed! • The proliferation of small devices may alter documents… • Users will prefer documents optimized for their screens. • 8 ½ x 11 document layout will increasingly become irrelevant. Print Independent Documents
    • 37. • Mobile software applications divide their content into hierarchical sections.. • Assessment reports divide their content into hierarchal sections. Print Independent Documents
    • 38. 1. Those that leverage mobile technologies to save themselves time. 2. Those that save their customer’s time. 3. Those that optimize information for devices that customers use. • Does it make sense to optimize for print? What Firms Have An Advantage?
    • 39. • Paul Schiffer/Duncan Anderson • Audience Q&A Discussion
    • 40. In your day-to-day business with the challenges you face, what problems does new technology allow you to solve? Question 1
    • 41. Can you share some examples of instances when your work process has been transformed by a particular technology or app? Question 2
    • 42. What are some of the key trends you see going forward? And how can environmental professionals take advantage of those trends? Question 3
    • 43. Whenever we go through fast-paced change—as we are now, it is difficult to keep tabs on what’s truly useful. How do you keep up-to-date with the latest changes and how do you distinguish between technologies that are worth your attention and those that are not? Question 4
    • 44. How are online communication and collaboration impacting you, your colleagues, and your clients today? Question 5
    • 45. In any organization, there is a spectrum of new technology adoption, early adopters, late adopters, and those in the middle • What are some of the concerns people have with new technology? • How do you demystify it and instead focus on the benefits? • What advice do you have for companies on how to integrate new technology through their workforce? Question 6
    • 46. Audience Q & A
    • 47. © 2013 Environmental Data Resources, Inc. Thank You!
    • 48. 1Q’12 Unit Shipments 1Q’13 Unit Shipments Year-over-Year Growth Apple 11.8 19.5 65.3% Samsung 2.3 8.8 282.6% ASUS 0.6 2.7 350.0% 0.7 1.8 157.1% Growth in Tablet Demand Tablet Shipments in millions, worldwide Source: IDC Worldwide Tablet Tracker, May 1, 2013.
    • 49. Global PC and Tablet shipments by Quarter (Millions) Tablet Shipments vs. PCs Source: KPCB "Internet Trends D11 Conference, 5/29/2013, Mary Meeker, Liang Wu, citing Katy Huberty, Ehud Gelblum, Morgan Stanley Research. Gartner. Data as of 4/13.