TOYOTA PRIUS FLEET HELPS BUILD ULTIMATE PROPERTY MAP
A team of researchers has hit the streets with a mission – to build a comprehensive database of every commercial property in Britain. To carry out this massive task from street level, their employer is using specially adapted Toyota Prius hybrids.
“If only you knew what we know” is the slogan of FOCUS Information Ltd (a CoStar Group Company), the UK’s leading provider of commercial property information to the professional market. In December it became a fleet operator in the know with the purchase of its first cars, 14 top-of-the-range Prius T-Spirits for its newly recruited field researchers.
FOCUS is rolling out a strategy introduced by its parent company CoStar Group Inc, the USA’s biggest commercial real estate provider. CoStar started using 100 similarly equipped Toyota Prius cars to carry out the equivalent work in the States in September.
The passenger seat of each car is equipped with a hi-tech docking station for a laptop computer, 3G card and GPS tracking. The researchers are assigned geographical “grids” in which to identify every available commercial property.
Without leaving the car they can “geocode” each building using their GPS tracking systems, measure it by laser, photograph it and complete up to 60 fields of relevant information. The data is uploaded instantly to CoStar Group’s international central database.
“Ordinary battery cars would have been a waste of time for us as we need to power so much kit, which is one reason we went for the Toyota Prius,” says FOCUS Information Director Matthew Hopkinson. “We reckon we’ll be able to average 50mpg despite the amount of stop-start driving we’ll be doing, and that’s way in excess of what any other vehicle could give us.
“We’ll be relying on the battery a lot and recharging it as drivers go to and from their grids, so Prius provides the most efficient and environmentally friendly way of collecting the data.”
The striking black hatchbacks have been wrapped in CoStar Group’s corporate branding using the latest process, which can be easily reversed when the time comes for resale. The cars are expected to cover an average of 125,000 miles over their anticipated five-year tours of duty, though mileages will vary widely depending on the density of property in each assigned territory.
“We’re pioneering in these cars – it’s the first time any data-provider has gone out regularly into the field,” says Mr Hopkinson. “The drivers will visit every property in their territory at least every 12 months, so that for the first time the stock of commercial property in any particular area can be clearly demonstrated.”
Property professionals will be encouraged to use FOCUS/CoStar as their central reference point, with enough data available to enable buying decisions without them even needing to visit a property.
But the company says that even now it offers more commercial property listings and related information than any other supplier. Established in 1984, it is based in London, Manchester and Glasgow and expanding fast. “Our research establishment is growing from 65 to about 160, so it‘s a major investment coming in from the States.” says Matthew Hopkinson.
“Eventually we’ll hold more information on commercial properties than the Government that has to tax them!”