The Unconditional Blog

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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category


True Broadband for NZ – our future will be dictated by who owns the dark fibre

Posted on: December 24th, 2008 | Filed in Technology

This blog post strays a little from the central perspective of the real estate market, but I think you will clearly see the contextual relevance.

The new government has made a commitment as part of the election promises to “invest up to $1.5 billion to drive the roll-out of a “fibre to the home” ultra-fast broadband network in New Zealand” – that is great news, as for the more than 853,000 broadband subscribers in NZ will atest having broadband is now a need-to-have rather than a nice-to-have, especially when for some reason you end up having to experience dial up again!!

Recent articles have indicated that the performance in the growth of broadband penetration in NZ positions ourselves in the top 6 countries for rate of growth, but as we all know fast growth often comes off a small base and the data from the OECD annual report (June 2008) shows that NZ ranks at #19 of the 30 countries for subscriber penetration at 20.4 subscribers per 100 inhabitants as the graph below shows.

Broadband penetration June 2008 - OECD

Clearly being below the OECD average means we have a lot of catching up to do, however what is concerning in my judgment is the facts hidden in the makeup of the graph – what form of broadband do we have ? The graph above shows how dependent our broadband is on DSL – with very little cable and virtually no fibre.

dc3-and-concordeThis is the crux of the issue – if you believe broadband is reflective of DSL performance then we are failing to aspire to the vision of true broadband. Think of it this way – we here in NZ on our DSL lines (through copper wires) are experiencing the internet with the equivalent of a 1930 DC3 whilst the rest of the world is flying around in Concorde – the fact is that today the maximum speed that our major broadband supplier is able to offer us in Auckland is 7.6 Mbps and for that we have to pay between $49.95 and $79.95 – now compare that to Stockholm in Sweden, households there have a 100 Mbps fibre connection for the equivalent of $29! – 13 times the speed for almost half the cost. (By the way these are download speeds, let’s not start to examine upload speeds of just 128Kbps in NZ!)

Not only that but the inhabitants of Stockholm (a city of similar size to Auckland) have the ability to switch broadband ISP provider at the click of a mouse as price competition is a reality with multiple providers.

The reason for this hyper-connected environment lies in the “dark fibre” as alluded to in the title of this blog post. I must admit a week ago I would have made the assumption on hearing the term that it referred to the next Batman movie – but no, it is in the judgment of Brough Turner (SVP and CTO, NMS Communications) that the key to unlocking broadband performance is in who owns the network of fibre cables that connect your house – which when unlit by a laser are called Dark Fibre. For as he states you own the right-of-way to your home and thereby you can allow all delivery trucks, postal and other service companies to attend to your needs, so it needs to be with the fibre connection.

Brough was a speaker at the Emerging Communications Conference in the US earlier this year and spoke to what he called “Own the Network – A Radical New Approach to Internet Connectivity“, I came across the presentation by way of IT Communications podcast and was motivated to listen a couple of times to fully appreciate the significance of this subject.

The critical issue is the recognition that the core infrastructure of dark fibre should not be left to the ISP providers to install rather it should be seen as a primary utility infrastructure much as with water and waste pipes and other services, thereby allowing more open competition to those who want to provide services to “light-up” the fibre. Now unbundling of the local telecommunications network in NZ is a move in this direction, but from reports this only applies to the existing copper wires. For our collective future we need to see more investment in fibre as this is the future of Information Communications.

Finally, it is not just super connected Sweden that outshines NZ – here is a comparison of other countries broadband services as compared to ours – hopefully with the new government’s planned to springboard us up the OECD ladder of broadband we will soon be connecting across the world at supersonic speed.



Australian real estate now complete with Google Street View

Posted on: August 28th, 2008 | Filed in International, Technology, Website searching

Domain – the Fairfax owned real estate portal in Australia is the first of the Australian real estate websites to launch the Google Street View application within their site. The plans are in place for the NZ launch later this year, we are assured by Google. In the meantime have a wander down some suburbs from across the Tasman and literally peer over the fence!

The degree of coverage is pretty extensive as can be seen from this map of Northern Sydney where the key blue line on streets indicates the coverage for Street View. Equally outside of the major cities Google has driven down most of the streets. I found this place called Richmond on the Flinders Highway some 300 kms inland from Townsville in Northern Queensland – admittedly no houses for sale but you can still see all the homes in the place of less than 150 homes.

So be ready for the exposure of all of NZ’s streets soon – naturally we will be ready to offer it as part of the presentation on


Does Twitter have a place in real estate?

Posted on: August 10th, 2008 | Filed in Technology

I am not sure of the general level of awareness of Twitter in NZ outside of the tech community. I became aware of Twitter at last year’s Real Estate Connect conference and at the time thought “this is true geeksville”! -(no disrespect to geeks).

A year later and with no intervening exposure to Twitter I am now seeing the appeal and interest in Twitter. Let me explain.

Twitter is a micro-blogging platform which can be accessed through a browser or mobile. It uses the 140 character set restriction of traditional texts, but unlike the 1-to-1 relationship of SMS text messages, Twitter allows groups of people to follow each other. Follow, being the operative word as the chatter on twitter is primarily people telling others what they are doing, where they are and where they are going. People invite friends to join as part of groups so your social circle grows to become a virtual cloud of friends walking around with you sharing what you do and what you want to share with your group.

To better explain Twitter this 2 minute video from the excellent people at CommonCraft (who just have that ability to make the complex seem simple) will help your understanding and adoption.

Twitter is definitely all about “now” – a live commentary of people’s lives shared with friends and followers. So what of the application for real estate? To be honest, I don’t think any – real estate is far more of a 1-to-1 than a 1-to-many relationship so I doubt that it has direct relevance. Potentially agents might choose to share what they are doing, but considering the competitive nature of the industry I doubt it. In the US naturally within a subset of the real estate fraternity twitter has become a “must-do” – reference this blog post by Nicole Nicolay – 22 reasons to use twitter for business and pleasure.

The best demonstration for me of Twitter was during the sessions at the Connect Conference. With hundreds of attendees constantly Twittering you can see through the collective use of a single message thread how it can form a live commentary of the conference session, as this excerpt shows. This could be of interest as a support to many types of conferences, although this demonstration of the “wisdom of the crowd” could be lethal to that boring presenter in the future if you get mass social engagement to close down a session or even walk out!

And if you are interested I am signed up to Twitter – find me at AlistairNZ – can’t promise I will be using it much!!


Futurism – what will the future hold for real estate?

Posted on: July 29th, 2008 | Filed in Technology

Crystal ball gazing is an appealing pastime for anyone, and for me the appeal lies in seeking out future trends within online and its application for real estate.

The recent Real Estate Connect Conference gave me just such an opportunity through the presentation by Michael Rogers, whose role is the “Futurist-in-residence” at The New York Times. He shared his vision for the future consumption of media.

The greater part of his perspective was focused to the Millennial generation (those born between ’77 & ’97), but the trends of media production has applicability for all generational groups. The key platforms of his views were built around the characteristics of mobile, omnivorous, opportunistic, social and visual; let me explain.

Mobile has always been seen as the future – freeing us all from the cable tethering us to the office or the home. Well now we are all but free to roam with only the availability of power limiting us. The smart phone has morphed into the “touch” mobile device with Apple leading what will be a sweeping revolution of the mobile device industry over the next year with the forthcoming Android phone powered through open source application layers, offering us so many ways to consume our time.

Early versions of touch screen devices such as PDA’s and tablet’s were always a compromise as neither provided connectivity as the new laptop replacement devices do. Web browser powered by WiFi, WiMax or 3G truly make the future mobile device the laptop replacement for browsing, searching and connecting which we have all being seeking. As ever we in NZ will be at the mercy of the telcos who in some parts of the world (most noticeably the US) seem to be getting it – by offering unlimited usage of talk and data for $99 per month.

The other component of this true mobile environment, one that has huge implications for real estate is GPS – property is all about location; as is finding retail and services all from your handheld device. The opportunity are limitless as were presented in the recent blog post “the iPhone is ready to revolutionise real estate

As to consumption of media now with this new truly mobile media; the key today is omnivorous consumption – the millennial’s consume media in almost all forms and shows no sign of relinquishing any, be it newspaper, radio, TV, magazines and online – the browsing nature allows them to demonstrate the 3rd characteristic that of being opportunistic.

This generation despite growing up with multi-channel access to news is often the last to know about stuff, their expectation is that media will come to them – they are the “RSS generation” and expect the same stuff to be available across all media platforms rather than them having to hunt it out.

Having been informed , this generation want to participate in the conversation. Naturally they are all on Facebook and MySpace and are comfortable to have their friends follow their lifestyle and activities, the next challenge is to provide them with the platform to take their friends and network with them wherever they go on the web, so their experiences are truly social.

Another far from unique skill this generation has developed is multi-tasking. They can and do consume media whilst undertaking other tasks – they have developed what has been coined as CPA – “Continuous Partial Attention”.

Finally this generation are visual Рhighly visual when it comes to media, borne of their need to multitask, they seek out visual content and abhor pages of text (maybe this blog post!).  They are also not surprisingly demonstrating a diminished reading ability as a consequence of this behaviour.

So what then to make of these trends for their application to real estate? – here is my take.

Real estate agents were early adopters of the mobile phone – they have been and always will be a mobile workforce, especially as we are likely to see less high street presence for the industry. I therefore firmly believe this industry will be big adopters of mobile touch devices. This will have a big consequential beneficial effect for online marketing. Over the past 5 years as the web has replaced newsprint as the primary source of real estate listings, the expectations of the consumer to contact and engage with agents through email with fast response has failed. Agents don’t like being tethered to their desk. Now providing them with a universal communications device that is so much simpler than a Blackberry for the mass of agents, adding to it a web browser and a GPS device and you have the components to empower agents to show the future generations the service professionalism and support that the consumers want.


The iPhone is ready to revolutionise real estate

Posted on: June 10th, 2008 | Filed in Technology

The announcement by Vodafone today that NZ will be among the first countries to be given Apple’s new baby – the 3G iPhone is great news for this country and the real estate industry.

To quote a phrase I have used recently in presentations to this industry and respectfully borrowed from an Australian conference speaker

“Agents will not be replaced by technology – they will be replaced by agents with technology”

that technology arrives on the 11 July, and I for one can’t wait to see the adoption of this by every real estate agent.

Just image the future of real estate – you have briefed a buyer’s agent to find you a family house of 4 bedrooms close to the heart of Christchurch as you have been relocated by your company. Your agent pressured by an active market is viewing a selection of possible. At one she senses she has found your perfect home. She captures some still shots and video and upload them to a hosting site – an email alerts you to view and the GPS enabled iPhone captures the location and also using compass telemetry you can see the exact location each photo is taken from, overlaid on an enhanced view of Google earth. You call the agent to clarify the aspects of the property and ask her to photo the view from the top floor master bedroom.

Equally keen to find a buyer for an investment property you want to liquidate the agent meets you onsite and armed with their iPhone they capture some “scene setting” pictures. These they upload to our website to recreate a temporary draft listings accessible to the vendor and the agent. The upload carries with it the GPS positioning which is interfaced with the geo-location database to add to the listing all the legal description and specification of the property together with the property sales history and the market trends in the area. Being a rental property there is no internet onsite so the agent reviews the “draft listing” with the agent on their iPhone and tweak the content to suit the vendor all in real time. Then they agree the marketing campaign and with an email send a project brief to the professional photographic company who will take quality images and replace the “scene setting images”.

All of this is now possible especially with the benefits of the new iPhone – as ever turning possible into probable takes vision and commitment from those in the real estate community to embrace technology which more and more will play a larger role in the future.

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