5 minutes with Chief Product Officer Gavin Ray

By Paddy Smith
Gavin Ray, Chief Product Officer of Landmark Information Group, gives us his view on what AI means for the property market


How is AI being used in your field?

“There are a number of areas where AI is bringing new value to the property market; one of the biggest is in the interpretation of key documents in the conveyancing sector. It’s important to see this as an accelerator of the business process of buying property: it helps conveyancing lawyers more rapidly identify the risks or concerns related to buying a specific property and address them. Today this is mainly to do with the complexities of Land Registry ownership and increasingly assessing data relating to the environmental profile and planning process of the area.

“In the land development world, and in urban redevelopment, we see some great systems that can use AI to rapidly synthesise 3D building developments to show how land use and investment value can be changed, when you overlay historic information and market data you have very powerful insight into overall development value.”

What are the most exciting trends in AI for you?

“If our hopes for AI are buoyant, then equally so are our fears. The emergence of strong ethical models and a focus on building high integrity into the process of training and applying AI should unlock a lot of doors; it might feel a little arcane but is something to watch closely and reap the rewards. From this strong root, trust and much greater application breadth can follow. From a purely technical perspective, I think GPT3 from the OpenAPI initiative is quite stunning. There is plenty of debate over what exactly is its true algorithmic and application value, but the fact that it’s been taught 175 billion micro facts from text across the global internet means that we have the first ever single view of all relationships between words, language, point facts, topics and concepts.

“Just looking at some of the customisation examples that have come from this show how AI can now evolve in the mainstream; as you pose questions to GPT3 it starts answering and explaining facts, adding new examples and drawing conclusions you may find hard to believe but you know they are informed from 175 billion inputs.”

In terms of AI, what keeps you awake at night?

“I think we always wonder if AI is heading down the path of the more prosaic Hollywood movies where the computer takes control and one day responds to a request for help with “Sorry Dave, I cannot do that”, leaving you wondering how much power has been handed over to silicon. Thankfully computers have power switches and reset buttons, so we need to keep those things and remain in control!

“Humour aside, the real areas of AI to keep one awake, albeit briefly, are to do with integrity and certainty. As we use AI to support what we do in more parts of our business it’s vital to know what error rate and uncertainty lies beneath the veneer of intelligence. Having put high volume products to market in the past, I found it never matters what 99 per cent of the product does; your risk and uncertainty can be dominated by the 1 per cent or even the 0.1 per cent of edge cases. We need to therefore be sure that the benefit model of AI is never outweighed by the hidden cost of any bias, error or uncertainty, which implies we must continually state, measure, validate and report the integrity of AI services.”

Where does AI go next in the property industry?

“There are vast collections of static data that span the property industry, many are historical and foretell trends and issues for the future, so I expect some phenomenal new insight and hidden trend models to appear and help us considerably improve the speed of the conveyancing process.

“When you think about shifting society issues and trends in housing development and urban/residential usage patterns, environmental issues – like flood risk and coastal erosion or evolving understanding of land contamination – you can see that future value of property and land are very amenable to AI analysis. Also, dynamically, there is a lot of data moving around the industry telling us how, where, when and why houses sell, mortgages get lent, conveyancing completes, surveys define house valuations and equally interestingly why things go wrong.

“AI has a lot to offer in explaining what goes well and how to remove the things that don’t: I think we all want the process to speed up and there is much to do here.”


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