Over fifteen years of real estate development, ownership and management, I’ve learned that there are two certainties in this industry: 1) residents are in constant pursuit of new technology and services to add convenience and joy to their lives and 2) property owners are racing to keep up with residents as they adopt more and more consumer technology (often, to the detriment of their tenants).
Today, property owners and managers pay to deploy a host of apps that service basic renter utility functions (rent payments, insurance, e-commerce, etc.), resident-engagement tools to help build a sense of community in the property, and concierge-style service stores to reduce the stress of busy residents. In pursuit of consumer-grade technology, across several functional areas, multifamily leaders are offering disjointed and disconnected point solutions to their residents – software that delivers little to no monetary value back to the owners and consistently frustrates renters. Property owners are currently missing opportunities to generate revenue to third-party insurance and payment providers, consumer goods companies, and in-unit vendors (such as housecleaning and dog walking). Worse, residents are juggling many applications (a service for storage, payment, laundry, packages, etc.), usernames, passwords, and payment methods, resulting in an overall disjointed digital experience.
I know there is a better way forward. I believe that the right approach is a single, unified building operating system (BOS) that enables multifamily owners and managers to collect on digital and physical transactions in their buildings—while, at the same time, saving residents countless time on antiquated tasks across multiple different apps by offering new tools to enrich their day-to-day lives. That is why I co-founded Livly, to be a platform for activating new experiences and revenue in physical spaces, or in other words, an operating system for buildings.
As defined by Technopedia “An operating system (OS), in its most general sense, is software that allows a user to run other applications on a computing device.” Along those lines, we predict a much overdue evolution towards a unified building operating system for the multifamily rental ecosystem. Namely, a software application that runs on a web browser or mobile device that unifies disparate digital services (such as rent payments, maintenance tickets, package management, on-demand hospitality tools, etc.) while also connecting to the building’s hardware. The BOS forms the glue that combines once disjointed building software and hardware solutions under one platform. We use a set of open application programming interfaces (APIs), to create a seamless resident experience digital journey and maximize the building’s value through new revenue streams for the property owner.
The underlying benefit of an OS-based approach to both residents and owners is clear. For instance, with the BOS, residents maintain a single set of credentials, vaulted payment methods, and house accounts for easy sign-in, sign-up and purchasing. Owners have the flexibility to configure the resident’s mobile experience, surfacing the functionality and partners that best fit their buildings. Likewise, as new applications emerge, owners can seamlessly connect to the latest and greatest features, offering modern services to residents.
The best industry BOS will be an end-to-end digital operating system that intelligently spans the entire journey of the resident: from future resident on-boarding, to renter, to off-boarding, capturing monetary value and delivering on seamless experiences at ideal engagement points. For example, access to easy-to-consume renter’s insurance right from the user interface. The BOS will deliver a modern approach to the basic functions, such as payments, communication, maintenance requests, and will offer world-class hospitality services to renters. The end result? Turn residents into fans and generate revenue for owners (a win-win scenario).
In addition to a unified digital platform, the right operating system connects the digital and physical elements of a building. As a developer in the city of Chicago, I’ve learned that the market is demanding larger amenity and mixed-use hospitality space. At the same time, residents are more comfortable renting smaller units with the promise of much greater shared amenities. This combination of micro-development and underutilized space presents an opportunity for landlords to generate value: engaging Livly’s internal logistics engine to transform “deadspace” into revenue sources. Think of a near term future in which owners can easily convert basement rooms into distribution centers for essential goods for their residents. Unlike trendy smart-home hardware, an operating system that activates deadspace will generate long-term value for both owners and tenants.
How are we doing it? To start, we’re doing the hard work to both integrate and develop API end-points for third party software in our unified BOS. We’re bridging different API connection points to the foundational providers in multi-family: from accounting software to payment services, we are investing in integrations with the major underlying systems that drive utility services in apartments. We’re also developing hundreds of APIs and building partnerships to integrate with the best consumer goods companies to offer deals to residents at the exact right time. In fact, we’ll continue to create partnerships with unique companies across the resident and property management experience—constantly plugging services into our unified building operating system to offer the best tools to renters. Like existing operating systems for PC’s and Mac Computers, our new building operating system will maintain a distributed marketplace of vendors. All the while, delivering revenue back to owners and enhanced experiences to residents.
Just as important, we’ve compiled a team that reflects the unique perspectives required to build a robust platform: a combination of real estate professionals, technologists, designers, and engineers. We realized early on that in order to deliver a product to so many different stakeholders—property owners, managers, residents, and vendors—that spans both real estate and technology, you need a wide variety of thought leaders on staff. Too often, major property owners with no software development background attempt to build tech platforms; and software startups, with no building ownership/management experience attempt to tackle persistent real estate pain points. We managed to assemble a team consisting of experts in both fields to challenge assumptions and build a well-rounded operating system.
When I started my career, the cable companies charged owners to wire up their buildings. Now, these same organizations are paying owners for access to my properties – providing market controls, choice to renters, and revenue to owners. The same level of change is happening right now in multifamily. Building operating systems are empowering building owners to deliver high quality, revenue generating services and goods to their renters through a unified digital experience. An evolved BOS is not only a needed disruption of the industry but an approach where everybody wins: more revenue for building owners and managers and a better experience for the renters. By the end of the calendar year, some of the largest developers in the country will be using building operating systems. Once this happens I believe it will quickly become the standard for any modern building and an industry norm.