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Key to Unlocking a Property’s Potential Might Be Ditching the Key

A room is only as good as its ability to let the right people in and keep the wrong people out. To do this, humans have been using a lock and key system since nearly the birth of civilization (the first key and lock system is thought to have been developed in ancient Egypt). But a physical key has its limitations, it can be easily replicated and is not easily transferable.

As societies grow more interconnected we have used advances in technology to help jump the trust gap. The sharing economy is only achievable through our ability to instill trust with the person on the other side of a transaction.

There are many advantages to this. One is that we are able to use resources, including space, more effeciently. Airbnb is a great example of how mutual trust created a community that feels empowered to share some even our most private spaces for the benefit of all of us (except maybe the hotel industry).

But for companies like Airbnb to continue growing, they will be pushing up against a macroeconomic trend: the decline in home ownership.


At our multifamily tech event in Los Angeles last week we heard PropTech VC firm Fifth Wall Venture’s Roelof Opperman speak on this very topic. “Airbnb has a supply problem,” he told the crowd. “It is a good problem to have, but it is still a problem. They need to start legitimizing the platform in order for them to be more appealing to multifamily.”

Airbnb seems to understand this better than anyone. They have partnered with a company called Niido to launch a brand of residential complexes that are specifically designed for home sharing. The $200 million in investment that they received from Brookfield Property Partners assures that these projects will be up and running in the near future. The platform lets the building owner become part of the space-sharing arrangement, thus helping another important stakeholder get over the pesky trust gap that Airbnb’s peer review system has helped bridge.

There is still one piece of antiquated technology that is stopping the progress of creating trust for all parties in a peer to peer space-sharing arrangment: the key. Having a physical key creates a lot of headaches for the person sharing their space and opens up a lot of liability for building owners.

But here comes technology to solve this issue as well. Today Niido announced a partnership with smart lock company Latch to help create a better, more trustworthy, experience for all parties involved.

This could just be the beginning of smart lock partnerships. Many companies see the future of e-commerce as in-home delivery. Amazon has launched their Amazon Key which would allow their delivery drivers access inside a building or even inside our homes.

There are, of course, security concerns for this new shared access arrangement that tech companies envision. Amazon is under fire for dismissing a security flaw that allowed hackers to open their lock with a few dollars worth of electronics. Hopefully, as the encryption and security technology gets more robust, we will start to see a new generation of locks that will help properties unlock their full potential.

Editor and Co-Founder