Editor's Note: Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

April 17, 2024
Is the industry stepping back from proptech to use a far more all-encompassing term?

This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of Security Business magazine. Don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter if you share it.

It took several years of evangelizing by industry stalwarts like Brivo’s Steve Van Till (and a pandemic), but in 2024 it finally seemed like integrators and other security industry stakeholders were coming around to embrace the term proptech and the potential untapped market it represented.

So, it was almost shocking to read an email that arrived in my inbox on March 27 announcing that the Security Industry Association (SIA) had named my old friend Dan Cremins as the new chair of its “Built Environment Advisory Board.” Wait a minute, what the heck is that?

Scrolling down the press release, I came to this paragraph: “The SIA Built Environment Advisory Board’s primary efforts and accomplishments include publishing the SIA Proptech Report, which evaluates proptech trends, market size and buying interests affiliated with security solutions in commercial real estate, including office environments and multi-family housing, and producing a helpful series of blogs and videos on proptech security topics.”

I concluded that SIA renamed the advisory board, but I was still puzzled as to why. In my humble opinion, proptech was gaining the momentum it needed…and what does “built environment” even mean? Sounds like a way-too-general, all-encompassing term that really doesn’t connotate anything.

So I asked, and the liaison for the advisory board, Cameron Walker-Miller, SIA’s Director of Standards and Technology, offered this explanation: “The advisory board debated the buzzworthiness of the name proptech before deciding to change it to ‘Built Environment,’” he wrote. “Given that Built Environment was already the established term across various building-related industries, they chose to adopt it to solidify the position of property technology within all the related industries. Within the real estate industry, the term Built Environment better reflects all the innovation that occurs within a property, including security.”

So, I was right, it is a more all-encompassing term – but again, why stunt the momentum of proptech, and more importantly, are the two terms interchangeable?

Luckily, working for a big B2B publishing company, I was able to tap the expertise of Janelle Penny, the editor of another of our magazines, Buildings. “They're definitely not the same thing,” she told me. “The built environment is an architectural term that just refers to all man-made structures and features; proptech is technology that helps people manage the built environment more efficiently.”

She directed me to a whitepaper written by Ferdison Cayetano of access control company ButterflyMX. It contains a succinct definition of the built environment that may prove helpful – or perhaps confusing – to security integrators:

“The built environment encompasses all the human-made elements that we develop and add to the world around us to enable daily human activity – including buildings, parks, roads, sidewalks, energy networks, and water distribution systems, to name a few. When people have changed some aspect of a landscape, whether indoors or outdoors, that area becomes part of the built environment.”

Reading the whitepaper, I was struck by the sheer meaninglessness of the term. The built environment is anything man-made, that’s helpful. Sure, security is a part of that, but frankly, I am amazed such an overarching term is so commonly used in the buildings and real estate markets. 

In any case, be on the lookout for the propagation of the term “built environment” in our industry – and know that proptech is probably the drill-down word you are really looking for.

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine. Email him your comments and questions at [email protected]. Access the current issue, archive, and apply for a free subscription at www.securitybusinessmag.com

About the Author

Paul Rothman | Editor-in-Chief/Security Business

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine. Email him your comments and questions at [email protected]. Access the current issue, full archives and apply for a free subscription at www.securitybusinessmag.com.