Data, AI, and Computer Vision in the Real Estate Space

Data-Hunters: Malcolm, congrats on being designated a Data Hero. Quantarium is a leading producer and purveyor of value-added data in residential real estate. Tell us more about the potential in this space?

MC:  Let’s take a step back for a second. First, thanks for the recognition.  Our data and analytics scientists and experts have been quite innovative in their approach to building the industry’s leading RE data lake, so it is   genuinely a team-wide validation to receive this distinction.   Residential Real Estate in the United States is in aggregate a $45 trillion space.  In addition, homes are the most vital and valuable of most families’ investments/assets.  As such, reliable, intelligent, timely, accurate, and usable data in real estate is vital not only to this vertical but to the entire economy. PropTech, as the area has been called, is a booming industry and we’re happy to not only be in the space but also to enhance the stories of other players.

Data-Hunters:  Quantarium has had quite an interesting journey.  Can you tell us more?

MC:  Indeed, the journey has been amazing.  To me, the most interesting part of the story is our product and customer journey.  We started – as an idea- and ended up building the leading Automated Valuation Model, QVM,  that still breaks the tape in the AVM race.  We leveraged that knowledge and experience to build a Data and Search platform for real estate, powered by the most comprehensive data lake in the industry.  We wanted to emphasize the platform aspect so that we could power any company that leverages residential real estate data- from mortgage companies to banks to insurance.

Data-Hunters:  There is a lot of talk in the industry about technology versus people and vice-versa.  Some of the discussion emanates from the benefits of consistency and efficiency, but some is about the reduction of bias in housing prices and access.  Can you comment on this debate?

MC:  Quantarium, while an AI company, has never been purely technocratic:  Clearly, we, like anyone would, affirm the unquestionable importance of human wisdom in all parts of society, including this vital area of the economy.  Often, the debate is cast in binary terms, which we reject.  Increasingly, it would appear the industry will benefit from, and work towards, an equipoise in understanding both the methods and instruments through which human wisdom and tasking are best applied and those areas in which machine learning technologies can be best advantaged – we see the growing confidence in the category of hybrid valuation products as evidence of this. And that is why, for this specific area of technology, Quantarium’ s Translucent A.I. is embedded in our Valuation Services Platform (QVSP). as an asset for human assisted and enhanced technologies.  Intentionally architected this way, Quantarium’s translucent A.I. based technologies, provide auditable line of sight to offer the optimal platform for professional human input integration, as needed, towards maximum possible results. Indeed, this should be the expectation, as the most computerized airplanes and spacecraft still, of course, provide manual controls, for takeoff and landing. While, in other areas such as AVM’s Quantarium’ s advances in Computer Vision (CV) technology is allowing QVM to transcend historical constraints by crossing the threshold of AVM’s not being able to understand property condition, or see inside the structure to account for value adjustments other than assuming a static coefficient of average condition for the year built.  Moreover, the fidelity of Quantarium’ s CV, can detect and eliminate occupants’ photos and other iconography that may be human interpreted to indicate racial, or ethnic identities that could consciously, or unconsciously introduce unwarranted subjectivity in the valuation, or QC process. Now it’s important to note the issue and challenges are much larger than exemplified here and at the end of the day, the challenge for AI to assist in addressing bias, will need to understand, certain axioms remain, particularly with regard to any technology being only as effective as the data it relies upon.  Quantarium remains ever cognizant of this, consequently it understands that models rely on trailing data and indeed that data unavoidably, at this juncture, has suffuse within, whatever prior human biases contributed to skewed valuations, with this understanding in hand, Quantarium refrains from making any announcements regarding AVM’s eliminating bias in valuation – it is disingenuous and the challenge to eradicate this will take more than just technology.  Can it be an asset in addressing the challenge? Absolutely –and Quantarium is making significant R&D investments, with a focus on assisting the industry in addressing the challenge. 

With regard to bias, we have to be more careful.  Certainly, evidence for racial bias in real estate exists.  But while technology is often considered a neutral “tool”, the data it relies on has bias built into it.  So we have a lot more work to do to identify and eradicate bias and AI is an important part of that process.    Quantarium has already devoted R&D resources to this area.

Data-Hunters:  Malcolm, what is the vision for Quantarium in 2022?

MC: We are a very optimistic and upbeat team. Yet, to be sure, as with all companies, Quantarium has been adjusting to the realities of a Covid economy and the impact that has wrought on the global business climate.  In the main though, we are fortunate to be able to focus on some strong tailwinds, such as Machine Learning, Computer Vision (CV), and Data Innovation are in demand as they play a larger part in the future of both the commercial markets and the regulatory environment.  Moreover, Quantarium has made a mark in several areas of this space and as a result are fortunate to have a set of relationships with incredible experts across the industry, including in the newly burgeoning PropTech space. Our 2022 vision then, is to provide our quickly expanding customer adoptions with innovation and rapid deployments of proficiency technologies, spanning from our new Computer Vision   APIs and Valuation services, through to our Smart Market Explorer™ within the Quantarium TerraVerse™ to help our customers navigate the industry challenges ahead. More on that soon!