Robert Nix is chief technical architect at Urban4M.
What do you do?
Technically, I design the servers that power our spatial analytics and choose the technology and tools we integrate with our servers.
How’d you end up in real estate tech?
Initially, with Urban4M, I started developing a generalized spatial analytics platform. And while that’s still what we have on the back end, as we developed our models, it became more and more clear that real estate will benefit so greatly from our tools that we chose to place a focus on the industry. Though, of course, our capabilities can still expand into any industry requiring/utilizing spatial analysis.
What aspects of real estate are you trying to make better?
Enabling buyers to know the exact place to search for opportunities. Enabling sellers to know the exact place to market properties. Enabling businesses to know the exact place for bricks and mortar.
More generally, understanding places, enabling perfectly objective spatial decisions.
What’s your favorite part of what you do?
I love seeing all the little pieces of a design come together and watching lots of moving parts begin working together. Even more, I love to simplify, generalize and standardize. And, of course, I’ll always love coding.
What products have you had a part in developing in the past? Describe the product — the idea and the execution.
The largest and longest project was while at Oracle. For many years, I worked on the core libraries on which all Oracle Applications products rely. Designing, developing and optimizing central services related to accessibility, i18n/L10n, and user accounts, sessions and security, for example.
I was developing invisible utilities, like the spokes on a wheel. Services on which everyone depends, developers and customers, but which hopefully no one ever notices.
What are you working on right now? What are the challenges?
The two main projects I’m working are our platform optimizations and data-integration strategies. The challenges with respect to optimization: typical; ensuring benchmark measurements are capturing what we need measured so we can know what knobs to dial up or down. Challenges with respect to data integration: the messy nature of data.
Favorite Twitter account?
Favorite band or singer?
When I was still using last.fm/user/rnix/charts, it showed my all-time favorites as Iron&Wine, Modest Mouse and Architecture In Helsinki. My recent favorites are The Paper Kites and Sylvan Esso.
What do you hate about technology?
That the “best” technology is too often not the winning technology, or it takes far longer to win than it otherwise would in the absence of financial momentum. Maybe that isn’t so much about technology as it is about markets.
What is one thing you would like to fix about the real estate industry?
Everything? LOL. The time and information required to find properties that objectively suit a buyer’s preferences and the granularity in which sellers can market their properties.
Do you think technology can change the industry?
Absolutely and greatly needed. In fact, I expect we are about to prove it.
In or out of real estate, is there one problem, large or small, that you would like to solve?
This is too broad to reconcile so I’ll restrict myself to real estate-related.
Access to information is bottled up in a costly or convoluted infrastructure. The information needs to be made available to everyone so that even more technological ideas/solutions can flourish.
What motivates you?
The challenges of making things work better than they have.
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