Expansion of 5G Set to Reshape American Communities, Real Estate in the Years Ahead

CHICAGO (November 18, 2020) – As migration trends shift in the wake of COVID-19, U.S. communities will race to ensure their infrastructure can accommodate influxes of new residents and businesses. During a Wednesday session at the 2020 REALTORS® Conference and Expo, the National Association of Realtors® examined how the expansion of 5G will impact the real estate industry and discussed the importance of high-speed internet for effective applications of augmented and virtual reality.

"Although we don't necessarily see the direct impact of 5G on real estate yet, there are ancillary applications that will rely heavily on 5G, such as IoT (Internet of Things) sensors, autonomous vehicles, smart cities and others that will potentially change where and how people live," said Dan Weisman, NAR's director of emerging technology.

Weisman began Wednesday's discussion by outlining the evolution of wireless technology and its importance on future real estate development before asking his three panelists why Realtors® in particular need to pay attention to 5G. A representative from AT&T was on hand to provide a more technical overview of how and why the 5G expansion is taking place.

"I look at 5G as a rebuild of our mobile network, "said Doug Zimmers, AT&T's lead of 5G business development. "5G is driven really by the environment that we're in today. Everyone is connected and everyone has a mobile device. And, taken a step further, we have IoT devices in the field where machines are communicating with other machines."

Zimmers gave the example of using a mobile device to scan a QVR code on a parking meter to pay a parking fee.

"This is where the network is being rebuilt," he continued. "5G isn't so much about bandwidth and speeds, it's about providing an environment in which we can support immersive and advanced technologies… to handle what could be millions of connected devices in a small geographic area."

In one of the most practical and intuitive applications to Realtors® and the real estate industry, Weisman asked a representative from Lutron, a global leader in smart lighting and shading control systems, to examine how smart device technology will continue to change in the near future.

"Over the last couple of years, the evolution of smart home technology has been tremendous," said Melissa Andresko, Lutron's chief corporate brand ambassador. "When we started hearing a lot more about IoT three or four years ago and people started talking about putting these devices in your home, you would hear two questions from people most often. The first was ‘Is it complex?' And the second was, ‘Why do I need it?" And I think manufacturers have done a tremendous job addressing both of those issues."

Andresko noted that smart home technologies had not long ago begun to develop a reputation as being "gadget-y."

"I remember walking the halls at trade shows and seeing things that shouldn't be connected to the Internet," she recalled. "Just because you can connect it, doesn't mean you should. You need to be connecting practical things and you need to give people practical reasons to have these products.

"What I think is most fascinating is that we've evolved from having this cache of being gadget-y to today smart home technology is solving real-world problems. And manufacturers have done a great job of simplifying the installation process and improving the connectivity with other devices."

Lutron recently announced an alliance with Ring, which allows inside or outside lights to come on when any specified actions are detected by a Ring camera or device.

Weisman then asked Dan Swan, co-founder of RealAR, to explain the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality.

"VR is all about immersive experiences and headsets, whereas AR tends to be more focused on other devices – which for us is the smart phone," said Swan, who is also the CEO of RealAR, an augmented real estate app that helps people see property in a life-size scale on a smart phone. "We want to make our experiences super simple and super streamlined, and as you're going through the real estate buying or selling process, we want to make it accessible for everyone as quickly as possible without them having to really even think about it."

"Now, in the time of the pandemic, we're seeing much higher, deeper demand for things like remote viewings. So, you could be on-site with a customer and walk them around a property and look at a different configuration of furniture, or you could also be on the other side of that world and have that same conversation using augmented reality."

"For us, that's where we're seeing 5G as a really exciting, enabling, emerging technology."

The National Association of Realtors® is America's largest trade association, representing 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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