By Craig Cheatham; adapted with permission from Facebook

Upstream is a broad-based effort owned by brokers and designed to be managed at the strategic level by brokers elected by brokers to a board and run at the operational level by a contracted vendor.

Upstream is a platform for data entry, data storage and data distribution. It is not an MLS or a service that interfaces with the public in any way. Upstream is designed to operate outside of the core MLS functions of cooperation, compensation and valuation (and the enforcement of policies and practices relating to those).

The purpose of Upstream is to provide brokers with an efficient tool for managing their data, assisting them in working with their MLS(s), their vendors and their internal applications.

Single-entry data management

One goal of Upstream is to move the process of data management as close as possible to single entry for all real estate-related data.

Managed entry at the brokerage level establishes one source of data that would populate all uses of that information, helping ensure that the most current and most accurate data is utilized inside and outside the real estate firm.

Upstream’s design provides for assistance with data entry, including a mandate to use the latest version of the industry-established “data dictionary,” public records data and other error-correction tools.

Data storage and sharing

A basic function of Upstream is to provide data storage for broker data. The database would be redundant and secure and set up to provide efficient interfaces with approved users of the data.

Upstream data for one participating brokerage will not be accessible to any other brokerage, unless the two firms create an independent agreement to allow access to each firm’s data.

Upstream itself will not have access to any participating broker’s data, but only may access and/or distribute data at the affirmative direction of the broker.

Upstream also is designed to serve as a platform for controlling access to and distribution of the data, along with the establishment of the terms for any use. Participating brokers would designate within Upstream which specific data would be accessed and manage the conditions for use.

Preparing data for MLS use

At least initially, Upstream will do the work of preparing data for the format necessary for current MLS use, including each MLS’s data dictionary and all of its business rules.

Brokers hope that progress will be made in the coming months and years to move MLS databases closer to the industry-established data dictionary format and that some number of business rules can be harmonized.

MLSs will be asked to work with Upstream to help brokers receive the benefit of single entry by assisting Upstream in setting up the interface between Upstream and the MLS.

Brokers intend for their local MLS(s) to receive “clean” and compatible data from brokers through Upstream so that MLSs will have fewer data format and business rules issues with which to deal.

Application providers, from those assisting with external display/use to those powering systems used inside of brokerages, are set to benefit from the single set of “clean” data directly from Upstream with the broker’s permission.

What are the benefits?

Brokers are hopeful this will allow real estate companies and their representatives to deploy data sets to vendors directly and efficiently, eliminating the need for MLSs to deal with data integration issues and giving vendors one format nationwide instead of hundreds of databases and data layouts.

Brokers plan to benefit from savings in time, effort and expense by having one place to enter and edit their data.

Other benefits planned are to set up Upstream’s processes to provide greater copyright protection for data, to improve methods for tracking the source of unauthorized uses of data, and to make more readily available data that may be of use but has been purged from other databases after a period of time.

Upstream also may be able to assist brokers in negotiating various revenue-producing uses of their data, though each broker would decide on a firm-level basis whether it would participate in such opportunities.

Beyond property data

The data envisioned for Upstream includes more than property data. And the data on any particular address could be historical, active and/or simply parcel data.

Records could include information in a wide variety of categories of data sets, such as records relating to consumers, vendors, agents/employees, images, videos, accounting and more, at the discretion of each broker, though perhaps with some limitations set by Upstream.

The most valuable records for brokers to enter into Upstream would be those the firm finds itself entering multiple times into multiple applications.

Brokers have designed Upstream to benefit all parties involved with real estate-related data, including MLSs and vendors, but especially the brokerages themselves and all their affiliated salespeople and employees.

Read the WAV Group description of Upstream below:

Craig Cheatham is secretary of the UpstreamRE LLC board of managers. He is also the president and CEO of broker network The Realty Alliance.

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