Real estate has never been on technology’s leading edge. But resistance to change has been breaking down as the tech-savviness of the general population grows. We all carry powerful tiny computers in our pockets at all times, giving us access to the plethora of what the internet has to offer at the tap of a touchscreen. Unfortunately, the convenience of the smartphone often stops at our physical environments. Until now, our buildings have been dumb. Both office and residential buildings sometimes struggle to handle the flow of tenants, couriers, and packages that are streaming in and out, at odd hours, or during the holiday rush.
However, the upside to loading-up our built environment with smart features and sensors is growing. For landlords, the technological sophistication of their buildings can play a role in how much rent they can charge, according to this CoStar report.
But perhaps the greatest driver pushing buildings to become “smarter” have been tenants, who are demanding the benefits that technology, specifically cloud-based building applications, can provide.
The catalyst in this space was the Nest thermostat, which facilitates energy conservation and comfort because it is Wi-Fi enabled, remotely programmable, and self-learning.
Today, every aspect of building design can reap the benefits for the Nest “playbook”: convenience, security and cost-savings.
Smart technology is being implemented in just about every corner of apartment spaces. There are smart locks, thermostats, elevators, package lockers and building entry platforms. On top of that, we rely on various mobile apps to make our lives easier. Seamless or GrubHub for food delivery, RentPayment or Cozy for paying your monthly rent. If you are a property manager, you rely on property management systems such as RealPage, Yardi, Entratra and MRI.
The explosion of this technology ties back to our demand for convenience – and it’s our belief that this will only continue. The really exciting part of this is integration and seeing all of the different pieces of technology work together.
Security continues to be a top concern for multifamily properties but fear not – technology is also helping to provide peace of mind in a way that was not possible in the past. For example, cloud-based software, with time-stamped records of various building “events” with photos and videos, can create an added layer of security, giving landlords and tenants the confidence that only the people who are permitted in various spaces actually gain entry.
Unlike a physical key, that can be passed from trusted person to someone less so, building entry software is constantly updated and verified, so that permissions of various kinds are only granted to the person for which they were intended.
Adding cloud-enabled features to a building creates an immediate wow-factor. If the software or app runs on a hardware interface inside the building, be it the elevators, package room, or parking garage, the visibility of sophisticated, glossy technology affords a property a distinct competitive edge, a peek into the future, helping with leasing and tenant retention.
But the true value is to create an ecosystem, in the cloud, where all the software governing all of a building’s functions, from temperature, to lighting, bike storage, event programming, and food delivery, can interact with and learn from each other. That’s when artificial intelligence can use machine learning to shine a light on all the data these applications and building management systems generate and put it to productive use.
Data consolidation yields answers to questions like: Where is the most energy being wasted? Which rooms get the most usage? Do we need to build a larger package room? And should we hire an additional doorman to handle Valentine’s Day deliveries? It also enables you to optimize energy consumption to take advantage of off-peak utility rates and be proactive with maintenance and repairs.
In the future, all commercial building owners will likely incorporate some form of smart technology into their properties. In our hyper-competitive world, this is no longer seen as a luxury – it’s becoming a necessity.