Imagining the future of property and indeed society as a whole is difficult without factoring in the impact of technology. The internet, with its wave of influence over the past two decades, has brought with it a decidedly more interesting world. With more and more areas in South Africa being connected to fibre connections, the game is set to become more interesting than ever. This month, we take a look at the ways in which fibre is changing the property landscape.
Connectivity and business
A recent study on Wi-Fi in South Africa, released by Ruckus Networks and World Wide Worx, provides insights on the priorities and attitudes of companies towards connectivity and its role in the business world.
- 97% of corporations and 95% of small businesses use Wi-Fi internally
- 94% of respondents ranked quality of Wi-Fi connection to be the most important factor, followed by speed and constant connectivity ranked both at 92%.
- 86% of large businesses predominantly use Wi-Fi for IoT security and monitoring, 80% for connection to the intranet and 70% for cloud integration and adoption.
- 95% of small businesses use Wi-Fi predominantly for connection to the Internet and Intranet, followed by cloud adoption and IoT integration.
- 95% of respondents believed that wider availability of Wi-Fi would contribute to a smart city strategy. More than a third believe that smart cities will boost the economy and attract new business.
- 76% of respondents indicated that fibre infrastructure is the biggest tech barrier to smart cities roll-out.
While it’s worth acknowledging that we’re far from a utopian future where cities are connected and all homes are smart (in fact, many experts believe this is a pipe dream altogether), we are in an era where technology is controlling ever larger aspects of our lives. Real estate is no different.
How does fibre work, exactly? Simply put, fibre optic cables consist of tiny reflective tubes. Information is transferred through these tubes by light flashes, bouncing off the inner walls of the tubes as they travel. These light flashes are interpreted as data at the receiving end.
There are different options when it comes to fibre installations. Depending on your usage and capacity needs, you can opt for speeds ranging from 2mb/s to 100mb/s. The key to fibre is its stability when compared to traditional internet connections.
Effects on real estate
Amenities once believed to be extras or luxuries are becoming more important than ever. From off-the-grid electricity and water solutions, to state of the art security installations, homeowners know what they want. Ranking high on that list is internet connectivity – increasingly, fibre. While a fibre installation involves some initial spend, these expenses dwarf when compared to the potential returns once you decide to sell the property. In some cases, experts claim a fast internet connection could add the same value as a bathroom extension. While this isn’t necessarily as accurate in South Africa, it’s an interesting glimpse into the future of connectivity and its importance in real estate.
Thinking on a larger scale, a fully fledged fibre network has the potential to completely change the way we consider property. If, in the not too distant future, we were able to live in a more connected and smart city, in smart and connected homes, imagine the impact on our commutes and daily routines. Suddenly, the need to travel an hour to work every day would seem silly – why not work from your fully connected home office instead? Would traffic still be a factor? If cities become truly smart, road congestion and the detection thereof would be much simpler. Public transport would be more efficient, as would local governments’ attempts to upgrade infrastructure.
Once these innovations are in place, even partially, the location of a property would become largely irrelevant. While there would still be a demand for property in lush suburbs or by the beach, the constant threat of daily commutes and traffic jams would become obsolete. Suddenly, a home located an hour from the city center would be significantly more attractive – just think of all the parks and open space!
We’re already seeing early stages of this trend, with security estates on the periphery of urban areas gaining popularity. Offering residents a more peaceful and safe way of life, estates are also becoming smart hubs in their own right. With new builds coming on the market each day, fibre has become a basic amenity.
Of course, we live in a deeply divided country when it comes to access to technology and innovation. While it’s undeniable that fibre will have an impact in the future, it’s widely recognised that Africa is in need of intense funding to bring it on par with the rest of the world. At the International Telecoms Week conference in Chicago, held in 2017, it was established that, while most African submarine cable systems had the capability to deliver 100 GBPS wavelengths, Africa has not utilised near enough capacity to saturate those systems.
The first step towards creating a smart and connected city, country, or continent, is of course to get the people online. While this is a long and winding road, progress is being made. As more and more providers enter the fibre field, prices are beginning to drop. With an ever-growing number of new developments being built, the network is constantly growing.
Fibre, at its core, is still only an internet connection. But, with more reliable and consistent speeds, the opportunity for smart homes becomes more real than ever. We’ve spoken extensively about smart homes and how they can change the way we live, but let’s take a quick glance at the biggest game changers.
With a connected home and security system, you can always stay on top of your home’s surveillance. Whether you need live stream or app notifications, you have options.
We’d all be lying if we said that a large reason for considering fibre wasn’t to be able to download or stream movies and music faster. As we continue to live our lives online and on screens, it’s tough to ignore the importance of the entertainment value in the bigger picture.
From water saving taps to automatic light switches, there’s an innovation out there to suit your needs. With a connected home, you’re able to control every aspect of your property from your smartphone. Forgot to switch off the geyser or lights? Taken care of at the touch of a button.
While fibre and subsequent connectivity is exciting, it’s important to take note of the potential security risks that accompany it. As we become more and more connected through our data, we are putting ourselves out there for criminals to take advantage of. A smart and connected city will collect data on pedestrians’ patterns and preferences, activities at homes in terms of electricity usage or security, and keep track of public spaces. While this is good in the long run, there are bound to be some hiccups along the way.
As we wait for the inevitable wave of innovation to reach us, it’s exciting to consider a life where things are taken care of by smart technology. Understanding this appeal is essential in keeping your investment property up to date. While you may not be ready to take the plunge and convert your home completely, adding a few smart touches could do wonders. Starting with a fast and reliable internet connection is probably a good place to start.