Resident Technology in Multifamily: What Residents Really Want
What exactly do residents want? You might be surprised.
In a part one of our blog series, we explored the topic of using emerging technology in multifamily. For part two, we dive into the usage of new technology in student housing communities. Recent surveys have shown that when it comes to automation technology in multifamily, residents across all generational areas do not want a lot. They do not want the bells and whistles such as lighting and window shades control. What they are really interested in is utility management—being able to control their heating and air systems—and security systems.
Using Technology in Student Housing
The exception, however, is in student housing, where the emphasis is on broadband. There is not another segment of the population that uses more technology, bandwidth, and media than 18- to 22-year-olds—and not another segment with the least amount of patience when it comes to using technology in multifamily.
“The problem in communities that are purpose-built for students is that you have a large number who are all moving in on one day,” says Henry Pye, Vice President of Resident Technology Services at RealPage. “That could be 500 to 1,000 students moving in at the same time. While a small technology failure rate in a luxury multifamily or senior living vertical of a few percentage points might be okay, in a community with 800 kids this translates to 16–20 kids at the trouble desk, very impatient and very unhappy with their units.”
Connectivity and Integration
It is this understanding of technology that many property management owners lack. A central database is critical to streamlining operations. It is the theory behind the Internet of Things—that all devices and systems within a community connect. The problem is, however, that many of today’s automated systems are proprietary systems that operate on different platforms and databases or disparate networks. And that is where the challenge comes in for multifamily.
Connecting all devices may be achievable in regard to the leasing office. But it is a daunting task when it comes to resident units. How can you connect everything when there may be wireless phones working on cellular, or locks working on Z-wave, or other devices using Bluetooth? You can’t. And that’s why developers are creating a central Internet-enabled device where the brains are somewhere on the cloud. The goal is to get all the manufacturers to build their products on an open platform so that it can all operate over one network and, one day, integrate with the community’s property management software.
“The whole Internet of Things and everything becoming connected—that is the sweet spot of broadening the property owner’s network into the community so it touches the residents,” says Steve Sadler, Director of Resident Technology Services at RealPage. “It is finding some synergies between what residents want that is fun as well as what owners want that would make management of the property more efficient.”
In student living homes, every mistake is multiplied, amplified, and worsened, so companies should scrap any strategies to test new technology in these environs.
What’s Ahead for Technology in Multifamily
The evolution of the Internet of Things in single family homes will usher in lower-priced home devices, and those lower price points will go a long way in helping multifamily properties implement resident technology services. As you consider resident services for your properties, keep in mind that the decisions you make today may greatly impact your property—and your purse—tomorrow. With the rapid pace of changes in technology, even six months changes the discussion as to what technologies to implement.
“Once we get over this threshold where these devices talk together, we will get to a point where we are actually simplifying things,” says Pye. “That is the future we are going to, but there are going to be a lot of growing pains to get there.”
Pye and Sadler will speak more on resident technology services, broadband, and student housing, at the 2016 Broadband Communities Conference in Austin, Texas. To find out more information on these sessions on, click here.