Two Sydney ISVs have banded together to create a 3G-based virtual office, mapping and database application for the real estate sector.
The ISVs, Echo Solutions and Mapshed, worked with 3G network operator Hutchison 3 to build an application -- named Loc3 -- that enabled real estate agents to do all their property management, sales management and mapping remotely, using 3G smartphones.
Tony Mulry, managing director at SMB mobility applications developer Echo Solutions, said Loc3 had just been tried by First National Real Estate in the outer Sydney suburbs of Dural and Hornsby.
As a result of that three-month trial, Loc3 was commercially launched last week and First National's Dural office is adopting Loc3 on its sales team's mobile phones, he said.
"We have integrated our core competencies in Loc3 to ... provide full virtual office and mobility functionality for real estate agents," Mulry said. "Real estate agents are required to move around a lot."
Although PDA-based applications were available for real estate agents, they generally required updating physically, by returning to the office. Loc3 allowed agents in the field -- using 3G phones instead of PDAs -- to update their data in real time, Mulry said.
Loc3 enabled real estate agents to integrate enterprise, property management and sales applications and use those applications remotely, potentially saving considerable time and money, he said.
"The industry has been very office-centred, so they would have a system for sales management and that would be used in the office, and you would only access data from the office, or a property management solution that was also in the office," Mulry said. "They didn't have any mobility. The only thing that had been made available had been to input it in a PDA."
Mal McEwan, CEO at spatial web services provider Mapshed, said Loc3's mapping service was .NET- and J2EE-compliant. The developers had integrated it with a real estate-specific application and information from Echo's hosted business application.
That meant aerial photographs, virtual tours, pricing and other information, availability details, inspection scheduling and other routine real estate activities could all be done using Loc3, he said.
"And really, to be able to deliver this, what we've done is we're delivering Oracle database management as well. So really the application is pulling together all the threads," McEwan said.
McEwan said the application conformed to open standards, in that the database was an open system that could be integrated with other packages.
First National Real Estate was contacted for comment but had not replied at press time.
However, First National Dural principal sales office Pauline O'Neill said in a statement that IT could give real estate agents an edge in what was a very competitive market.
"The [Motorola] A925 phones running Loc3 have saved us at least two hours a day by enabling agents to download, enter and send data at high speed in the field and generate reports on the spot," she said. "Now that properties can be viewed online only a few minutes after a valuation, vendors and buyers have been very impressed."
Loc3 is reportedly the first product to emerge from Hutchison's 'Developers on 3' program. It will be marketed globally by Mapshed and Echo, in association with 3.