What does the future of living look like to you?
High-tech appliances might come to mind, like robo-maids, holographic TVs, or flying cars that fold up into suitcases. But if current trends are any indication of what’s to come, the future of living will revolve around something else – time. As many choose to trade suburban homes for city lofts and condos, our priorities have shifted to experiences. Time is the new luxury. We see this with the evolution of the on-demand service economy. Uber, Dollar Shave Club, and Amazon Prime save us time and hassle so we can focus on the things we care about. This means our future living spaces must evolve as well. In homes of the future, internet connectivity will be a utility for all – not an amenity for some – and intelligence will be built into the walls, not just plugged into an outlet.
While smart home devices capture much of the public attention, we believe the true future of living is maximized in the smart apartments and multifamily communities. Multifamily housing better serves our need for flexibility, convenience, and provides a sense of community.
What are Smart Apartments?
Smart apartments are more than smart lighting, temperature control, and voice assistants. Truly smart apartments are intelligent and connected from the inside-out, and are defined by three characteristics: smart device & amenities, connectivity, and community management.
- Smart Device & Amenities. Smart devices are the primary user interface for residents. The most common devices include voice assistants, smart thermostats, smart locks, and smart lighting. Smart apartments enhance resident living and provide modern conveniences by offering an on-demand service marketplace for services like Uber, Amazon, dog walkers, and house cleaners. Developers are capitalizing on ride sharing by offering designated pickup spots on property. Smart locks and remote access control make these services even more convenient and secure. These improved living experiences drives higher rents and increase NOI for property developers.
- Connectivity. During an apartment complex’s construction, builders work with utility companies for necessities. For smart apartments, they will also call IoT companies as smart apartments plan for modern implementations from the beginning. An IoT network is installed that connects building automation systems, management, residents, smart devices, and outside services. Connectivity includes WiFi and smart devices: sensors, HVAC, lighting, access control and a system management dashboard. This set up allows property managers to collect data from the entire building, not just individual units, giving them data to make better operating decisions to run their buildings more efficiently and effectively.
- Community Management. Property Managers collect rent, handle maintenance tickets, and manage packages. Smart apartments streamline these tasks, allowing managers to do more for residents. With a connected building network, they can spend less time on manual tasks and more time improving resident experiences and their communities. Smart apartments have modern features built in such as event calendars, instant messaging, resident assistance, and on-demand property services from plumbing to dog walking. Property managers also have control over smart devices in the building. They can grant remote access to residents who lock themselves out, set automated evening door locking for added property security, set temperature in vacant units to adjust based on weather minimizing cost and maximizing comfort.
More Efficient Buildings
Smart apartments technologies make buildings more efficient on two different fronts: energy management and people management. According to an ACEEE report, “intelligent efficiency technology” could save the commercial and manufacturing real estate sectors over $50 billion. Smart appliances are more energy efficient compared to analog appliances, and together they create even more efficiency through the entire building. People also become more aware and, hence, more efficient and effective. With smart locks, maintenance processing, and smart sensors, property managers and staff spend less time on maintenance and resident assistance. Smart devices and processes make in-unit maintenance trips faster, more transparent, and secure, giving management better oversight of their staff and operations.
More Affordable Housing
Thanks to increased building efficiency, smart apartments could actually spur more development of affordable housing. Per the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, the US has a shortage of 7.4 million affordable rental units for Extremely Low Income (ELI) households. 72 percent are ELI households are severely cost burdened and spend more than half of their income on rent. Smart apartments lower the cost of build and maintain buildings, making the affordable housing market more attractive and lucrative.
How to Build a Smart Apartment
For developers interested in building smart apartments (or refurbishing existing building), there are a few important principles to keep in mind.
- Focus on infrastructure, not gadgets. It might be tempting to install Nest thermostats or Amazon Echos and call units “smart,” but true smart apartments start with infrastructure. Connectivity will let you tap the full potential of smart apartment technology.
- Build in cybersecurity and data privacy from the beginning. Cybersecurity and data privacy are two of the biggest technological challenges of our time. Smart apartments collect your resident data, so it is paramount to keep it secure and use it responsibly. The best route for data security is by using trusted IoT, device, and platform vendors.
- Choose a platform that ties it all together. Smart apartments need a single platform that ties together property management, community management, building automation, and smart home devices. This unified platform is the key for easy control over such a complex system. There are very few property management services that offer a unified smart apartment platform, these vendors are different than vendors offering single service of smart device install only (i.e. install of lights and thermostats).
The Future of Smart Apartments is here
Smart apartments aren’t just the future; they are here right now. Residents already prefer smart home amenities over traditional appeals like pools and upgraded countertops. Smart HVACs, devices, and appliances already save property owners millions of dollars a year. Platforms like Homebase tie these futuristic elements together in the present for multifamily dwellings, creating the future of living now.
Blake Miller is the CEO of Homebase, a connected building and community management platform that brings together the benefits of simplified property management, building automation and smart home living. He is set to speak at BuiltWorlds’ Buildings 2.0 Conference on the Tech in Residential Buildings Panel. Want to hear more from him? Be sure to purchase your Buildings 2.0 tickets here.