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BUILDING OPERATIONS

Your Property Manager May Soon Be a Robot

New York City

Robot Super

A graffiti artist's rendering of Rosie, the Jetsons' robot maid.

Sept. 13, 2017 — Artificial intelligence is learning how to handle menial maintenance tasks.

The Jetsons, the titular nuclear family of a popular 1960s cartoon show, lived in Orbit City and had a robot maid named Rosie, a slightly obsolete blue machine that did a lot of the household grunt work and even dispensed some tough love. What seemed like a fantastical gag half a century ago may soon be reality. Get ready for the robot property manager. 

Travtus, a Singapore-based start-up, has spent nearly two years collecting data on some 250,000 work orders issued by New York City property managers to fix things like leaky pipes, roofs or broken toilets. Last week, Crain’s reports, the company joined a 22-week accelerator program on the campus of Columbia University designed to further develop its product and, ultimately, help landlords and co-op and condo boards make complex decisions about fixing their buildings. 

"Property owners can start discovering trends in their buildings with the help of Travtus," says founder Tripty Arya. The key is data analysis. Eventually, Travtus will be able to see that tenants in a certain row of apartments are dealing with water damage, for example, and it can suggest to the property owner that fixing the facade might be more efficient than repairing the units on a piecemeal basis – even if that solution is not readily apparent from the complaints. 

Arya is hoping to target property managers overseeing smaller buildings in the outer boroughs who may not have the time, expertise or bandwidth to recognize broad patterns in their maintenance needs. Travtus will be capable of recognizing these patterns by drawing on a much larger pool of work orders from all around the city. As time goes on, the system will become even smarter and about how best to tackle problems. 

"This is where the industry is heading," says Zachary Aarons, co-founder of MetaProp, the venture capital fund running the tech accelerator at Columbia. "Artificial intelligence and machine learning can start doing a lot of the menial tasks that property managers spend time doing, and also gather information and weigh-in on the high-level stuff."

Rosie is so last century.

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