By Meghan Hall
Viewing and evaluating properties in a digital manner has become paramount as social distancing orders across the nation took effect, making REscan’s entry into the proptech market almost serendipitous. After four years of research and development, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm recently unveiled its 3D mapping technology that captures physical spaces from purely a human perspective and is a step in the right direction for the complete digitization of the commercial real estate world, according to REscan’s CEO and Co-Founder Robert Herman.
REscan Inc. has been in the research and development phase for the past four years, but is now finally rolling out its technology, which seeks to digitize indoor and outdoor spaces. Can you please tell The Registry why you decided to establish REscan?
So many industries from music and film to banking, insurance, and so on have all gone digital, and my co-founder and I believe the commercial real estate sector is next. I experienced the limitations of brick and mortar portfolios as the owner and manager when I was leading Washington State Pension Fund’s European Platform. I was on the road all the time juggling sometimes between a dozen cities a day. Digitizing the very asset will result not only in unprecedented efficiency and transparency, but enable remote management, understanding, and communication for professionals. This is what I was missing most when at my former job.
Were you seeing any pain points in the industry that you specifically wished to solve with this technology? Why or why not?
There is a huge need for up-to-date full digital documentation, meaning 3D models and 3D remote viewing, to understand the full asset, and our technology addresses this need. I could have eliminated many unnecessary journeys, and should there have been a good communication tool coming with it, I could have involved my colleagues as well.
What has the research and development process been like?
It was twice as long and twice as costly as we anticipated. We had to learn that digitizing very large properties is challenging. In the meantime, it was a fascinating journey, a great learning curve, which is by far not over.
Can you explain a little bit about how the technology itself operates to produce an accurate digital twin?
The most important driving factor for us was that we capture and revisit the spaces from a human perspective. Therefore, we built a head-worn scanner, which is essentially “mapping car” technology in a hardhat. This enables us to capture wherever a person can walk from a human point of view. Then we reconstruct the captured data and turn it into 3D models in the cloud.
The technology can cover 250,000 square feet per hour. How does this compare with other 3D mapping technologies on the market?
To the best of our knowledge, this is an unprecedented capturing speed. While some competitors come close using either a trolley, body-mounted structures or handheld devices – none of these are easy to use when it comes to opening doors, walking up or down stairwells, or, and maybe this is the most important part, scanning in a crowded space. We do not need to shut down operations in the buildings we scan.
For those who are new to this technology, can you explain what a spatial data marketplace is, and how it has the potential to impact the commercial real estate market?
Think of a library as a place for written knowledge that is accessible online. In the same way, with time, our goal is to build up the repository of digital twins where the owner will be able to commercialize, analyze or just use it for portfolio management. In the case of retail, we envision augmented reality-based experiences as the driving force for commercialization.
What feature of REscan would you most like to highlight? Why?
If there is a single one, then it is scanning spaces from a human perspective at scale. This has never been done before. However, on a system level, I’m very proud of our end-to-end solution, which enables us to capture, process, annotate, store, manage and interact with large commercial spaces.
As REscan continues to bring its product to market, how does the firm plan on staying competitive, especially given the current competitiveness of other CRE-related tech?
We never stop developing and improving our technology, and we keep on working on quite a few prototypes which will be on the market in due course. In the meantime, competitiveness is not only about technology, but also about product, and in this regard we intend to play on our remote solutions which, sadly, are a much-needed feature in current circumstances.
Is there anything else you would like to add that The Registry did not ask or emphasize?
One thing I must emphasize, that being an industry insider is a huge advantage when going to the market, and this is a fantastic advantage. However, being a non-technical founder, it would mean nothing without fantastic technologists, engineers, and other members of the REscan Team. They are the ones who make the seemingly impossible possible and enable our company to be and stay ahead of the curve.