Property Entrepreneurs: How Pelican Media built an app to sell City apartments off-plan

 
Chris Bown
The iPad app was created to sell new apartments at Landmark Place in the City of London

When the luxury apartments at Landmark Place in the City of London were launched in February, their details were presented on a series of iPad Pros. The new tablet had been launched just three months previously, but Tony Nicol could see the benefits of using the new hardware – and set his team racing to develop apps to exploit it.

“As a presentation tool, it is so much better than the standard iPad,” says Nicol, who saw the opportunity as he watched Apple’s grand product reveal – developers don’t get prior details from Apple. The team at Pelican then set about developing software that would deliver a richer, more immersive presentation of Barratt’s luxury riverside homes – and could be reused for showcasing other schemes in future, too.

When Pelican started out in business, most residential developers were using watercolour artist’s impressions to sell their schemes. But the Colchester-based team has thrived by adapting to change as digitisation has taken over illustration, and as the technology used for presentations has improved dramatically. “Our core business is the modern equivalent of watercolours – computer generated graphics,” he says. “And our edge comes from being good at CGI, as well as being good at technology.”

The app in action at the property launch with interactive model of the development

Getting the views across

For the Landmark Place launch, Nicol and his team arranged 14 iPads, mounted around a model of the development, and connected so that smart lighting could highlight specific apartments as they were viewed on the tablet. Video views were used to take potential buyers into their apartments. Even still images were enlivened with, for example, shimmering water on views of the block’s swimming pool.

“One of the big things we had to get across was the views,” he explains. This involved taking a camera on a drone to hover above the development site, while foundations were being built. Flying to precise co-ordinates, it filmed actual views of City Hall and HMS Belfast that residents will experience from their flats. The footage was then built into the presentations. And, for the homes without a riverside view, a CGI of the building’s internal courtyard had to be created.

While the London launch was a great success, Nicol’s team have also developed the iPad app so that agents can take a handful of them on the road for local presentations. One tablet acts as a master and communicates with the others, ensuring everyone holding an individual tablet gets to enjoy the presentation, while still having the option to tap and check out certain details individually.

3D or VR?

As a business that’s thrived by always embracing the next advance in presentation technology, Nicol and his team are constantly testing new ideas. Right now, they are trialling a virtual reality setup with something similar to Google Glass. However, he’s not sure VR is ready for the mainstream, admitting: “I’ve yet to find a technology I’d be happy to put out there yet.”

Likewise, the lure of a 3D experience is still in the realms of the film makers: “The thing everyone’s asking me about is holographic projection – it hasn’t arrived yet.” But when it does arrive, he’ll be there..

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