By Tom Shrive
The robots are rising. Artificial intelligence (AI) powered smart home assistants – like Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Home/Now and Amazon Echo/Alexa – are working their way into our everyday lives. AI is becoming more appealing across the board, completing simple tasks such as checking the weather, ordering groceries, or arranging your calendar. AI is rapidly developing in sophistication and it won’t be long before these assistants can contact British Gas to schedule boiler checks or have a cleaner arranged for Saturday morning.
So, what’s next? How about being able to instantly report a faulty lift if you live on the 23rd floor of one of London’s slick new developments? How about getting personalised recommendations on things like insurance, utility, and cleaning companies, based on what’s best for you and your home? How about your own AI assistant, called Porter, who serves as your building’s property manager? Well, our new business is doing just that and blurring the lines between man and machine.
At AskPorter our mission is to leverage AI to create a more compelling residential experience. The property industry is better positioned than most to take advantage of the developments in communication and AI. We aim to help building owners and managers have better relationships with their tenants, totally transforming the customer experience from one of frustration to one of concierge living. To do this, AskPorter simply uses customisable ‘AI skill sets’ that automate processes and workflows. This saves time and ultimately improves happiness across the board.
I and my lifelong friend Sam Tassell co-founded AskPorter in London, in 2016. We are the first property management platform of our kind with an AI digital assistant that serves as a property concierge for residents. The assistant, Porter, proactively carries out planned duties, guides customers through enquiries and reporting issues, and delivers concierge services, only reverting to a human manager or approved service provider when necessary.
Porter isn’t just another complaint ticketing service. If residents do find themselves with an unfortunate fault, or an issue with their property, he manages the issue. More than that, he allows residents to track issues, and interact until they’re resolved. Porter provides unparalleled visibility, empowering users and turning negative experiences into what we hope will be positive.
More than that, Porter helps residents get the best from their property. Let’s say a resident wants to hire a cleaner. Instead of just spewing out a list of local cleaning services, Porter finds the best services for the property, and assists in the arrangements. We believe the combination of property management and concierge services are crucial to a happy rental experience. As ironic as it may sound, Porter should humanise what today feels like an impersonal and mechanical customer experience.
Earlier this year, we were lucky enough to secure investment of over £500,000 from heavy-weight property, technology and business experts, including personal investment from serial super-angels James Caan CBE and Faisal Butt. This is alongside a follow-on commitment from Pi Labs, the PropTech VC firm whose pre-seed programme we graduated from in 2017. We are using the new funding to continue developing and improving the platform and AI assistant as we roll it out to more properties across the UK.