With today’s continuously-advancing technology it is likely that by the time a shopping centre has installed the latest innovation, something more advanced will have hit the market.
However, life is getting easier with the introduction of IP telephony, which runs information over data lines and enables data, voice and video across one network. Once installed, it is easy to attach new devices.
Redstone’s (0845 200 2200) Smart B technology links kiosks, plasma screens, alarms, CCTV coverage, access control systems, footfall counting and all other building management and communication networks from one central system.
Group sales director Andy Bridston says that in Bullring Birmingham, for example, Smart B provides an IP infrastructure that can be used by everyone including managing agents, tenants and the public. “IP telephony is the background for the future,” he says. “The infrastructure isn’t likely to change, but the technology you can attach to it will.”
Bridston says future technology will enable loyalty cards to contain radio frequency identification, which means plasma screen advertising can target customers when they enter a centre.
Eversheds (020 7919 4500) gets involved with IT installations to ensure everything fits together legally. Senior associate Bruce Cairns says: “The modern tendency is to try and make revenue out of the IT rather than use it as a tool.
“Wi-fi, for example, will provide a service to the people who use the centre but can also be used to get revenue from the wi-fi supplier.”
Cairns led the IT work at Bullring and believes a central intranet system is the biggest change in IT.
Comgenic (0113 384 4444) worked with Redstone at Bullring. It provides a range of communications products but Comgenic Manager is an application that delivers content across web, touchscreen points, plasma screens and the intranet.
General manager Stuart Ross says: “Someone can easily update the system with changes and communicate with the customers as well. The tenants can also put features or updates on the intranet.”
But Eversheds' Cairns believes the biggest debate at the moment is in the area of mobile communications. Wi-fi is appearing in shopping centres, and 3G telephony will also be important. “It will be interesting to see how these two technologies integrate,” he says. “People will want data access on the move. They will want to use their laptop and receive emails wherever they are.”
New technology in the shape of Trace Solutions’ (020 7825 1000) BlueBox is enabling property investors to maximise revenue.
BlueBox incorporates a property and lease database, diaries that can integrate with Outlook or Lotus, accounting, forecasting, service charge management, budgeting and comprehensive reporting. There are also modules for retail management, budgeting and reporting.