Phoenix, Arizona based Alliance Residential Company is one of the largest multifamily developers, builders, and managers in the U.S. And at this point, they also might be the most technologically innovative due to their current rollout of the country’s largest smart apartment initiative, to date. Partnering with technology leaders Google, Nest, and Dwelo, Alliance is launching their new “Alliance SmartHome” package in 25,000 luxury apartments across the nation.
What is unique about the plan is how all the technology will be designed to require almost no work from the tenant. As anyone who has tried to get a customer to onboard technology knows, the less you require of someone, the more likely they are to actually use the tech. Taylor Wiederkehr, the project’s architect, and the leader of technological innovation at Alliance stressed the importance of giving residents a ready-to-use product to make sure that they get the most out of the technology, “We wanted to ensure that from the moment our residents move in, they are able to control multiple aspects of their home – access, climate, and lighting – from a single, simple interface – the Alliance SmartHome app powered by Dwelo.”
A similar philosophy guided Dwelo CEO Mike Rovito, “Dwelo works with owners to pre-install devices in a unit, everything works from the moment someone moves in. They get an email that welcomes them to their new smart apartment and within literally 30 seconds they can be controlling it from their phone. No installation, no wiring, no device pairing – it just works.”
One of the things that has kept many apartment owners from investing in smart home technologies is the fear that tenants will not use it and the money spent on smart devices will be a waste. Creating a single product package that can be turned on with the touch of an app icon is a great way to subdue that fear.
Another roadblock in the path towards smart apartments is the tenants’ apprehension about privacy. The recent pushback against many internet companies such as Facebook showed that the public’s sentiment towards data privacy can influence their behavior. This is likely elevated when it comes to landlords having access to smart home data since there is little information more private than what you do in your home.
Taylor spoke a little on this topic, saying,”Our solution has built-in roles and permissions that ensure managers don’t have remote access or visibility to an occupied unit. Only the resident can control and see the status of their devices when they are living in their new home. It is imperative to be transparent with your expectations surrounding resident data privacy and security so that all parties involved, including the vendors, understand how they need to be developing their internal roadmaps to ensure a smooth adoption. We have learned to be patient, adaptable, and open-minded, as we dive deeper into this newly emerging technology as IoT in multifamily still exists in a legal grey area that is becoming more clearly defined every single day.”
When I asked Taylor what he saw as the next steps in the progression of the smart apartment he told me, “We anticipate integrations with other cloud-based services which will allow for an array of connected solutions beyond the unit itself including enhanced resident/staff communication, and real-world applications of virtual and augmented reality. These next-generation experiences will include but are not limited to, driving discounted luxury and necessity item sales using AR/VR, ordering on-demand transportation via ride-share apps through a single voice command, and even improving the overall social environment of the community by enabling the resident to interact with the leasing office and other individuals at the property through the smart home’s voice interface.”
Mike has similar thoughts about the smart apartment trend reaching outside of the individual units, “Technology can help streamline access to amenities throughout the property. By bringing access to those amenities into one centralized app where the renters already manage their comfort schedules and home access, it makes their relationship with shared spaces throughout a property more intimate.”
Even with big projects like this, the nation’s apartment stock has a long way to go before the majority of it is considered “smart.” Many landlords are likely waiting to see if the expense of installing smart home technologies creates adequate return on investment. Once renters show that they are willing to pay more for and stay longer at smart apartments then I predict a race to roll out these types of programs in apartments buildings across the country. As with almost everything, consumer demand controls the market. Once renters demand that their dwellings come equipped with connected devices, landlords will have no choice but to invest in the technologies or see their applications drop and vacancies rise.