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Emerging Technologies and their Impact on Housing

By John Ellis, Managing Director, Ellis & Associates


Join John Ellis on Day 1 (Wednesday, June 28) of The Re-Think Conference at 10:00-12:15 when he presents "Technology Trends: The Global Perspective." He'll also speak then with Tim Costello to discuss the massive shifts that technology is fueling.

There are five main technology areas that builders and the broader building ecosystem will need to be aware of in 2017. There is no rhyme or reason as to the order I have these listed. However, the hacking issue is one that is happening now and will only intensify in 2017 and therefore needs to be viewed as an immediate issue.


“You ain’t seen nothing yet!” This is the collective view of the IT security industry as they were asked to recount 2016 hacking and security breach issues and talk about 2017.

In today’s building industry, as builders look for ways to differentiate themselves, they are exploring partnerships with companies like Samsung, Apple, Google, Amazon, Baidu and others. These companies make physical products like appliances, thermostats, and radios. But more importantly, these companies deliver software services over their respective hardware. What types of liability does a builder face when they install a product, say a door with a smart lock, and that lock is later shown to be hackable? What happens to a builders reputation when customers write scathing reviews of their lights being turned off unexpectedly, or their thermostat being messed with?

Here are a number of hacking and penetration incidents that all those involved in building residential and commercial structures must be aware of. These incidents highlight the new responsibilities builders must bear as they design and develop “smart buildings.”



This technology continues to improve in terms of speed to print objects as well as what can be printed. As I stated at 2016 PCBC and the Leader-to-Leader Forum, this technology will have profound impacts to the way houses and light-commercial buildings are built. While it is still cheaper for the moment to order and ship in bulk, the day when the building job site has a 3D printer trailer is coming far quicker than even I expressed last summer.

Examples of advancements in the 3D printing arena that have happened since my keynotes in 2016 include:

  • 30 astonishing 3D printed home structures
  • Electronics, plumbing fixtures and steel fasteners


Drone Commercial Operations

Drone technology is the latest technology advancement that will cause upheaval in the residential and light commercial building industry. At that time, I projected commercial drone delivery of goods within five years and suggested that homes slated for building in the 2022-2025 timeframe might in fact not require a garage but rather, a drone landing pad.

Since my talk, a number of events have happened in the drone industry to suggest that commercial delivery will be coming to a home near you not in 2025 but closer to 2019-2020.


Autonomous Vehicles

In my 2016 PCBC Leader-to-Leader Forum presentation, I highlighted autonomous vehicles as THE biggest disruptor to all building industries. For the residential builder, autonomous vehicles (or AV for short) potentially mean no more curbs, no more wide streets or the necessary setbacks, no more garages, and a wholly different perspective on land use. For the commercial builder, AVs mean no more parking lots, no more parking structures and an absolutely rethinking of land development.

In my talk I said we were looking at the 2025 time frame for when AVs would be introduced into the driving and road landscapes. However, a number of things have occurred since the Leader-to-Leader Forum 2016 that suggest we will see autonomous vehicles and far earlier.

Wireless Electricity

In my 2016 interview with DIGS magazine, I talked about wireless charging and the opportunities it would present as we re-envision how we wire homes and buildings. At the time of the article, I suggested it would be years before we would have such an invention in our homes or commercial buildings. However, Disney just announced the first-ever charging room and are looking to bring this to their parks and resorts in the very near future (far faster than I had envisioned or suggested).

Check out the other articles in our 2017 Trends Series:

Technology (Part 2)  /   Marketing and Consumer Insights  /   Multifamily  /   Land Planning  /   Business Management  /   Capital  /   Design

Ellis & Associates
Mr. Ellis is Founder and Principal of a management consulting practice and University adjunct professor at Notre Dame teaching financial math to Executive MBA Students. As former Global Technologist and Head of the Ford Developer Program with Ford Motor Company, John was tasked with expanding Ford's "brought-in" strategy of integrating mobile technology into the vehicle.





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