Around conference circuits, much time and energy is spent on discussing the merits and values of in-apartment technology upgrades. Nearly every agenda yields a session or two on automation through digital infrastructure. November’s National Multihousing Council OpTech Education & Exposition was no exception.
As a panel of seasoned property management and technology veterans touted the value of adding high-tech door locks, thermostat, light controls and other creature comforts, they also offered some sage advice: Don’t be outsmarted by smart home technology devices.
“This is an industry that’s in a great deal of flux right now,” said RealPage Vice President Henry Pye. “A lot of people are doing things just because it seems cool.”
He and other panelists agreed that multifamily leaders need a measured approach and a lot of thought about how the components operate, whether they meet code compliance and fit in with resident expectations.
‘Smart homes are about a living experience, not gadgets’
Pye was joined by Dwelo Chief Executive Officer Michael Rovito, UDR Director of Building Technology Josh Erosky and Wasatch Chief Operating Officer Jarom Johnson to discuss how to give residents a very cosmopolitan feel with networked digital devices.
Digitizing the rudimentary acts of turning on lights, entering apartments and adjusting temperature controls are a shiny marketing tactic for just about any community. Yet tossing an unorganized bundle of technology through the door can spoil what could be an otherwise distinctive experience for renters.
“Smart homes are about a living experience not necessarily the gadgets,” Johnson said. “It brings something new to your apartment when it’s interactive with you.”
Rovito, whose company offers smart home platforms for the multifamily industry, said properties need to have a connected hub and unified interface that promotes thoughtful interaction with the network for community and resident devices accessible through mobile software.
Timing and a good technology partner is everything
When properties install and market smart home technology, they should have seamless operation and the right people to help residents and onsite staff maneuver through the digital roadmap. Especially when using wireless communications protocols. like Z-Wave and Zigbee. that allow devices to talk to each other.
Johnson said the right provider enables the property to customize a positive experience for the resident.
Properties should focus on simplicity and speed of deployment so residents aren’t disappointed. If it’s not simple and isn’t working within the first few days of the resident move-in, then the property isn’t capitalizing on the potential.
“You’ve taken something that could have been a gain and now made it a detriment, which they will remember the rest of their lease,” Pye said.
Erosky said it’s important to help residents with the right network needed to support gadgets they bring into the apartment. Essential to that is focusing on a single app-control hub and a reliable network.
“If you don’t have a good network on the backbone, your entire smart home integrations can fail.”
Also, Johnson said, residents are not DYIers and want somebody on site to help set up their smart home technology.
Smart home technology can really make a difference
Ultimately, smart home technology is an opportunity for multifamily housing to shine, whether it’s something as simple as a door lock that opens with the touch of an iPhone or tablet or a fully integrated network of switches, shade controls and smart outlets.
If properly done, an otherwise pedestrian apartment can become a technology wonderland.
“The thing about smart technology is it’s one of the amenities that can really make a difference,” Johnson said. “If you can set it up where a resident moves in, you go into that apartment and set all that smart home technology up, get their internet up, so when they walk into that apartment, everything just works. People will love that.
“It’s really a way to win that resident right away, that initial walk in. They’ll fall in love with their apartment, and they’re never going to leave. I don’t know of any amenity out there that’s like that.”
Learn more about technology designed to increase resident retention.