Matterport Brings Physical Spaces into the Future of Work

The last bastion in the non-digital world?

Widespread stay-at-home orders during the pandemic have dramatically accelerated the digitization of processes across a raft of industries, with businesses forced to find ways to shift their operations online as a result of restrictions on travel and normal in-person interactions. This has highlighted processes that have retained manual elements, because of tradition and common practice, or because digitization is impractical or unjustifiably expensive. CCS Insight’s survey research shows that a quarter of businesses have identified key processes that cannot currently be carried out remotely.

This is a particular challenge for property-focussed industries and processes, such as construction, real estate, facilities management or even insurance, where the physical property is the focus of the process. Property surveys, architectural and interior design, inspections and viewings, for example, have traditionally required people to physically visit a site, incurring travel and time costs which escalate in line with the number of participants involved in each project. During the pandemic, the limitations of this have been brought to the fore, especially given the additional economic pressures that many industries have faced, and this has prompted a wave of interest in technology that helps solve these problems.

Matterport: Digitizing the Physical Space

One firm that has been a beneficiary of this digital acceleration is 3D capture and spatial data company Matterport. Founded in 2011, Matterport enables customers to create a highly accurate, 3D “digital twin” of a building or space, which can then be shared and incorporated into existing business processes, allowing people to collaborate on or around that space.

The company’s artificial intelligence-driven spatial analysis capabilities enable automatic measurement of dimensions throughout the 3D model, as well as automatic identification of fixtures and fittings, to help accelerate processes and maximize the value of the model as well as the space itself. Collaborators can annotate and label the model, and support for @mentions and comments are planned for release in the coming months to facilitate collaboration.

It’s been a hugely successful year for Matterport, which grew its annual revenue by 90% in 2020 to reach $86 million and saw subscriber numbers rise more than sixfold to 250,000. Over 5 million spaces have been captured and are managed through the Matterport platform, aided by the introduction of an iOS capture app in May 2020. The app is a major point of differentiation that makes the service more accessible and has significantly lowered barriers to entry compared with other digital twin technologies.

Although much of Matterport’s focus has historically been real estate, the company is now seeing interest from all sorts of businesses recognizing new opportunities to use the technology to digitize their processes.

In response to this greater demand, Matterport is now readying for the next stage in its growth — a stock listing, which is expected later in 2021. Matterport has also opened up its platform with a view to growing an ecosystem of partners that can build custom applications and extensions, as well as integrating models into external systems to support a variety of industry-specific business processes for insurance, retail, facilities management and more.

Another valuable angle that’s driving demand is the ability for customers to query the spatial data and derive additional insights, for example calculating the square footage or the number of windows in an entire property portfolio.

Enabling the Future of Work

The creation of a 3D digital twin reduces the need for people to visit a site in person, which can create huge cost savings for large projects — for example, minimizing the number of subcontractors coming on-site or allowing them to begin their work sooner. It also ensures that everyone is working to the same specification, improving consistency, transparency and traceability, and accelerating processes from end to end. Add to this the opportunity to embed models into broader digital processes and to employ the space’s data for management and other purposes, and it’s easy to see why demand is growing so quickly.

There’s also an interesting use for digital twin technology in the context of the return to physical offices as lockdowns start to ease. With the role of the office changing in response to the shift to hybrid working, property owners and facilities managers will need to adapt their spaces to the developing needs of businesses and employees, for example providing more meeting rooms and fewer desk areas.

However, because no one yet knows exactly how hybrid working will look, the exact requirements will remain in flux for some time, necessitating a flexible approach that can continue adapting as those needs crystallize. The more the design and management process can be digitized, the more responsive businesses can be, and the more the cost of change can be controlled.

The technology could also be used to give employees confidence in their return to the office, allowing them to view a new layout before reaching the office. The model could also be linked to room- and desk-booking systems, for example.

Although the digital twin concept has been around for some time, this is a fascinating new take on the opportunities for the technology. It’s one that has the potential to create a new wave of applications that facilitate and enable the future of work, and while we’re just scratching the surface at this stage, Matterport is determined to take a leading role in defining the space.