How to Future Proof Your Community

How to Future-Proof Your Community

Hi,  welcome everyone, thanks for joining. This is a webinar on how to future-proof your community hosted by Dwelo. I'm one of the founders of Dwelo. My name is Eric Wood.

Great to be with you today and I appreciate you taking some time out of your day to join us. Hopefully, you will find this helpful. We will be going through some things that are hopefully relevant and answer questions that you might have on your mind about some of the emergent technology and how it might impact your business.  

Just to start here's what we have in mind for the agenda today.

  • Some of the emerging technology and why future proofing really matters.
  • What is the impact for multifamily owners and developers?
  • Key things you need to know about what technology exists and some of the installation requirements, connectivity requirements, managing the technology and integrations.
  • Supporting and maintaining any smart devices or technology that you implement in your community.

It's meant to be high-level, kind of lay the groundwork. We will do additional webinars where we get into more detail about what's out there but this one's supposed to be a little more on the high-level side to give you a general idea.

Let's get into what some of the emerging technology is and why future proofing really matters. As you all have probably seen there's a lot happening inside of the home, it's kind of the next big wave of technology. In fact by 2022 ,that's just four years away, it's expected to be $120 billion market and a third of that is going to be inside of rentals and apartments. It's a big movement that's happening and lots of companies are creating technology that can impact both what residents want, who live inside communities but also impact the way operations are performed to improve efficiency.

The Impact of Smart Communities

There are two things:

What does this do for residents?

Some technology can be used as an amenity. Surveys were recently done by NMHC and NAA. Here is data being pulled from residents.

  • Residents can bring their own technology that they're accustomed to, for example, Google Home, some of these voice devices, can be incorporated into a smart apartment and continue to be utilized in new ways. You're building on what they're already accustomed to. 
  • 80% of residents want some type of smart home feature in their apartments.
  • Those who are utilizing this technology are seeing $30 a unit a month premiums nationally. Their premiums are above apartment buildings not utilizing this technology.
  • Over 75% of residents who lease at a community with smart tech cited as a reason for choosing to live there

What this means for managing and operating your apartment community. A couple of things to consider here on where this could impact:

  1. Staff at an average community spend 400 hours a year dealing with keys and managing their vacant units. Digital locks and connected thermostats can dramatically reduce that time. Almost eliminate the need to actually walk the property to simply to shut it down for the end of the day. Some of this technology gives you that access right at your fingertips
  2. The average community spends $90,000 a year on utilities. It's often the third highest operating cost. Automated controls can cut that in half.
  3. Rekeying locks and dealing with after hour lockouts can be an expense almost entirely avoided by bringing some of these devices and some of this technology into your building.

What do you need to know as this technology grows and continues to emerge?

What smart apartment technology and devices are out there?

The most common things that are starting to expand in the apartment space are:

  1. Lighting
  2. Access (which includes both unit access, on door access, as well as perimeter common area access, getting in and out of the building and in and out of common areas)
  3. Thermostats
  4. Water metering

The good thing is that these devices are built to be easily installed and retrofitted. It typically goes over your existing system. There is not a lot of major changes that need to be made. No additional wire to run or modify building plans in any major way. If retrofitting, it is really as simple as swapping out the devices. It's pretty straightforward and somewhat simple to do. There are some exceptions to that. There are some compatibility issues to consider with the types of thermostats you're using, things to consider when you're installing locks on the door and types of door you're getting but generally, these are really built to be easily installed in retrofits. There are other devices outside of this but focusing on these tend to be the most common in the multifamily space.

Connectivity for Your Smart Community

There are three ways to connect. Now obviously there are devices that do not connect. We're not discussing those (there's programmable devices and things like that). We're talking about devices that are actually connecting to the internet which is what a smart device would be considered. There are three ways to do it.

  1. Partly connected approach. This is utilizing some type of system to transmit data. Some types of devices, in this case, I've shown here, locks often use a system like this where the data will be sent to a main fob reader. When someone scans that fob reader it's actually transferring data on to that fob and then when they scan that against a lock it's being transferred to that lock. There are other ways to do this as well but the lock itself is not connected to the internet or any cloud system. Its data is being moved by some type of channel like a card.

  2. Direct connection to the cloud. The device is connecting to a Wi-Fi system or potentially being connected through an Ethernet connection and then that device goes directly to a cloud management system so it's directly connected to the Internet.

  3. A system connected via a hub. Where the hub is speaking to the cloud and this can happen over Wi-Fi, cellular, or be directly plugged into an Ethernet system. We know many communities do not do campus-wide Wi-Fi so that may be a question or concern for some. There are solutions out there that allow you to connect the hub straight to the Internet through a cellular connection so you're not having to worry about that. That hub is then connecting to different devices over a different protocol. A common one is z-wave but you may have heard of Bluetooth or ZigBee. These are different wireless protocols that the hub uses to communicate and control the different devices.

Those are the three general ways to connect to these devices and create a smart system.

Managing and Integrating Your Smart Community

There are really two general things to consider.

  1. One type of systems is what we call the closed platform or a single point solution. These are systems that are built to operate on their own. They are stand-alone systems. They generally don't integrate with other types of devices or software but they're managed independently with their own software and own interface which means that you could have a handful of different systems you're having to manage. That's been something that's been somewhat common but it is starting to change especially given the needs of apartments where you're dealing with devices in hundreds of units and high turnover as residents come and go. It can get very complicated, very quickly, as you might lose track of who logged in last and what devices need to be reset. Stand-alone systems just require an additional amount of attention to manage them.

  2. The other approach is an open platform approach. Which is connecting to multiple devices and bringing them into a single platform and then it can allow you to control those through different applications web or mobile but it's centralized onto one platform which makes management much easier. The open approach also allows for things such as integrating with other software's. In the case of multifamily development or an apartment, integrating with property management software is going to be something important to consider as it'll reduce the administrative burden and managing the additional systems. There's data it can pull straight from there to make sure that the systems are in sync. An open platform can integrate with multiple devices and bring them to one location and then it can also speak with different software's that it needs to interact with.

How to Support and Maintain Your Smart Community System?

There are four things to consider:

  1. Implementation. Getting these things installed and then also connected is something to consider. As I talked about earlier, the installation is not very complicated. In most cases, if you're building a new building you can spec out a smart light switch and the contractor/builder performing that work will be able to install just like normal. There's there's nothing unique about them so in most cases you're just spec-ing it out as it is being built. In a retrofit situation, your maintenance team may be capable of doing the installation. Again nothing really complicated but getting it connected and actually allowing you to have that control or offering it to residences as an amenity does require some implementation depending on how you're connecting it.  If you're connecting it to Wi-Fi you may need a Wi-Fi system to actually connect with it. If you're putting in a hub, installing the hub and getting the devices talking to that that hub is something that you need to perform.

  2. Training and education component. Staff is going to have to run the system. They're going to have to know how to run it. They’re going to have questions about it so they need to be trained on how to do use it and as new leasing agents come and go they need a way to easily access that education and training so that they can stay in a position to manage and support. The other is residents, as residents move in, you may start marketing the fact that you have a smart apartment or it may be part of why a resident moves in. Well, they will need to know how to use it and how to get connected with it. Is the thermostat on my wall a Wi-Fi thermostat that I need to connect to my own Wi-Fi system or is that something that you do for me? These are things you're going to want to educate your residents on so that they can move in and then confidently know how to actually connect and utilize the features.

  3. Support component. Both staff and residents are going to have questions that come up. Potentially some issues may come up and you'll need a way to resolve those so to provide that support to them or, a service like Dwelo that can do that for you, but answering those questions on an ongoing basis is important for continued utilization of the system.

  4. Supporting the different devices and maintaining the system. Typically this runs on software. The software needs to be updated as various versions of new phones are released. It does take continued maintenance and some devices will do that already with their own applications. Other systems are going to require a little more maintenance. Different devices may require updates or replacement if needed and it's just important to be aware of what devices need what. For example, connected locks. A lot of connected locks run on batteries and being aware of that and when to replace them is an important thing to consider.

Getting the Most of Your Smart Community

I want to summarize with some of the key takeaways.

Understand what benefits you really want. These questions will help you to start creating a strategy or approach:

  1. What are you looking to achieve?

  2. Do you have a community that you feel you need to be more competitive with and you need to utilize the amenity aspect?

  3. Are you really just looking to get better control over your utility expenses or improve the way you are managing access?

This will help tell you what you actually need to go out and connect.

  1. What devices should you be utilizing?
  2. How am I connecting this device?
  3. Do I need to consider a Wi-Fi system?
  4. Am I able to utilize the cellular hub that will help me avoid the cost and expense of setting up a Wi-Fi throughout my community?
  5. Will I let the resident connect independently of anything that I do?

How am I going to manage and support it?

  1. Do I have a centralized system I can manage it through?
  2. Do I have the staff, team, or access to resources available that can support it or troubleshoot it if needed?
  3. Can I maintain it on an ongoing basis?

We appreciate you joining. As I mentioned earlier we are going to have more of these that will build on what we talked about here and get into some more details of the systems. We encourage you if you have any questions or would like to discuss further you are always welcome to contact someone from our team. You can visit us online dwelo.com is our website. We are happy to have a further discussion if you have any questions about what we discussed today. Have a wonderful day and we'll look forward to talking.

How Dwelo and ProdataKey are Providing the Smart Community Experience

BLUFFDALE,UT/SOUTH JORDAN,UT, April 16 - Dwelo, the industry-leading provider of simple, seamless, smart apartments, and ProdataKey (PDK), an innovator of cloud-based networked/wireless access control products and services, have entered into an integration partnership. This partnership will offer owners, managers, and residents a more complete smart community experience by connecting in-unit device management with smart access control for every door in the community. The Dwelo platform currently allows apartment dwellers and managers the ability to control lighting, thermostats, and door locks in the units. With the PDK integration, residents and managers will now be able to control common area access points for entry gates, clubhouses, gyms, and laundry facilities with the same app they use to control and manage their smart apartment.

With the PDK integration every door is internet-connected to Dwelo’s cloud, enabling benefits that enhance security and convenience:

  • Managers can instantly grant and revoke access to residents and vendors from anywhere via the Dwelo app. No special desktop terminal or visits to the lock are necessary.
  • Staff and residents can use the Dwelo app to open doors, which streamlines their access and provides a backup in case they forget their credential.
  • Staff and residents can remotely unlock doors (“buzz” people in) right from the Dwelo app, for easy access to trusted vendors or guest, no convoluted call box required.
  • Managers have access to real-time activity logs in the cloud. No more visiting the lock or downloading a report from the desktop terminal to resolve disputes or identify bad actors.
  • Cloud-to-cloud integration via Dwelo with your property management system keeps your resident rolls in sync.
Dwelo is thrilled to be partnering with such an innovative company as PDK. PDK is a technology leader in the electronic access control space, and Dwelo and its customers are already benefiting from their forward-looking approach to access. The consolidation of smart home control and perimeter and common area access control in one platform is a powerful marriage for multifamily owners. We look forward, with PDK, to crafting more solutions that address the specific needs of multifamily customers.
— Mike Rovito, CEO at Dwelo
PDKs solution has been embraced by customers in the commercial sector for its simple ease of use and platform flexibility. Our wireless and PoE options allow for a cost-effective takeover of legacy equipment while supporting new construction projects with all the benefits derived from leveraging the network. Our mantra, simplicity without compromise, dovetails perfectly with Dwelo’s corporate mission to enhance apartment living through easily accessible IoT technology. Our partnership will bring tangible benefits to all stakeholders involved within the multi-family residential market sector.
— Evan Tree, CEO at ProdataKey

About Dwelo

Dwelo provides simple, seamless, smart apartments to the owners and managers of multifamily communities. Dwelo connects popular smart devices from Z-Wave, Nest, Kwikset, Yale, and others to proprietary mobile and web applications as well as voice platforms like Amazon Echo and Google Home. Dwelo's platform enables residents to enjoy the benefits of a smart home in a rental setting while helping managers run their communities more efficiently.

About ProdataKey

ProdataKey (PDK) is a leading innovator of cloud-based access control products and services. The company’s pdkio cloud platform allows for complete system management and control through any web connected device, with the flexibility of networked, PoE, and its WiMACTM (Wireless Mesh Access Control) technology that communicates wirelessly between doors for up to one mile, saving up to 75% over traditional wired systems. For more information, visit www.prodatakey.com

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Dwelo + Yardi: A Manager’s Best Friend

Dwelo is now better for property managers! At Dwelo, we are dedicated to improving the experience that owners, property managers, and residents have with our smart apartments. As we listened to feedback from our customers, we knew we could offer them a more streamlined dwelo management experience. With that focus, we are excited to announce the Dwelo + Yardi integration!  

Streamlining resident turnover in Dwelo

With Dwelo smart apartments, residents get a simpler, higher standard of living. But now with our Yardi integration, so do property managers. Yardi + Dwelo allows you to simplify your operations by automatically syncing residents as they move in and out. This eliminates the need for double entering resident information and ensures that residents have the right access at the right time.

Not a Yardi user?

Don't worry! Dwelo is committed to simplifying operations at every community and is working on full integrations with every major property management software.

“Alexa, make my apartment smarter.”

Dwelo + Alexa: A magical pair

At Dwelo, our mission is to make living and working in rental housing more magical, efficient, and connected. We are excited to announce another step towards that mission. Dwelo is now integrated with Amazon Alexa!

Dwelo residents can now pair their Alexa devices, such as the Amazon Echo and Amazon Show, with the Dwelo platform. After a quick set up, residents can control lights, locks and temperature simply with their voice. Talk about a magical experience!

Abracadabra, here is some magic residents can do with Alexa and Dwelo:

  • "Lock the front door."
  • "Turn on the kitchen light."
  • "Set the thermostat to 72 degrees."
  • "What's the temperature in here?"
  • "What's my thermostat set to?"
  • "Is the front door locked?"

A full list of commands that Alexa understands can be found on Amazon.com

A leasing opportunity

Dwelo + Alexa not only benefits residents but gives communities a competitive edge in attracting those residents.

“Adding an Alexa integration is a huge sales tool for us. It shows that as a property we are forward thinking.” Mike Caplovitz. Vp of Innovation at The Howard Hughes Corporation

Dwelo customers are also leveraging this integration for leasing incentives. Giving away an Amazon Echo can be a low cost alternative to campaigns like “first month free” or discounted rent, when engaging new prospects. Can you say “Alexa, sign more leases for me”?

Interested in Google Home or Apple Homepod voice assistants for your properties? We are working on those integrations as we speak!

5 Ways to Future Proof your Smart Apartment

Implementing smart technology in rental communities can be a bit nerve racking. The investment can be significant, and you are making a choice that must last at least a few years. How do you ensure that your investment won’t be obsolete by the time it is installed? You don’t want to end up like those hotels that installed iPhone chargers in their rooms, only to learn 18 months later that Apple was changing their charger connection.

Technology undoubtedly changes rapidly, but following a few simple rules can help you stay ahead of the game and ease your nerves. Here are 5 ways to future proof your investment.

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1. Lay a Good Connectivity Foundation

The backbone of all smart technology is connectivity. The devices you are installing need to talk to the internet. So before you even start thinking about the devices you’ll put in, you’ll want to think about how you will address connectivity. During new construction the opportunity is there to address this for today and the future. For example, if you’re pulling one CAT5 ethernet cable to a unit, you should pull multiple even if you’re not sure you’ll need them - the only cost difference is the wire itself. You might even, for more high-end projects, want to run fiber. " Every MDU and Commercial project we have in the development stage today is being architected with fiber optic based service delivery to every unit. Today’s fiber optic technology can scale up to 1 Terabit of throughput and is easily capable of delivering data, voice, and video services for decades into the future", says ave Carlson, CEO of Summit Technologies, a provider of connectivity infrastructure. 

Regardless, the number one thing you should absolutely positively do if you cannot justify pulling extra wires now: oversize your conduit and run it to every single unit. Pulling wires without conduit is extremely expensive, but simply putting conduit in place can make that a substantially less costly investment if you can’t get yourself to pull the trigger today on extra wires.

2. Invest in Open Platforms

Innovation and technology moves exceptionally fast. Buying into a proprietary or semi proprietary system leaves you tethered to the innovation capabilities and advances of one company. This is a dangerous place to be. You are better off partnering with an open platform that excels at integrating and adapting the best others. That platform will give you access to the full innovation of the market and allow you to build onto that platform. A hallmark of this is an open API and cloud-to-cloud integrations with a range of partners.“We’ve invested in an open API, which is unique in our line of work, because we believe our partners will do really interesting things with the data from our smart metering system. We make cutting edge hardware, but they’re better able to come up with user-facing software innovations because they are closest to their customers,” says Mike Clements, CEO of NextCentury Submetering. 

When it comes to consumer devices, an even greater level of openness is required around the communication protocols. Lutron has an open API AND makes top of the line lighting hardware, but they have their own proprietary communication protocols, which limits the devices that can connect to their hub. Going with a platform that is capable of speaking multiple protocols means you have access to a far larger universe of devices. Furthermore, you will be able to add devices over time that speak different protocols to the same units without having to replace the communications hub you already invested in or add a second hub.

3. Invest in Truly Connected Devices

Just as important as choosing an open platform is investing in truly connected devices. Some platforms or devices are semi-connected or more offline than online. Think about “data on card” lock solutions like those offered in hotels - the locks themselves are not connected to the internet, with the data carried on the card.This is often referred to as a “sneakernet” because your sneakers are moving the data! If your devices aren’t connected, you will miss out on some cool innovations. 

“Without real-time or connected locks, not only can software or firmware updates from the manufacturer not make it to the device very easily, but you are completely cut off from innovative integrations from third party software vendors,”
— Evan Tree, CEO of ProdataKey, a cloud-based commercial access provider.

Take for example Amazon Key. Amazon Key allows packages to be safely delivered by granting delivery personnel access into a home, but it only works with a connected lock. Unconnected or partially connected solutions, while often a great leap over “dumb” technology, will ultimately leave you stuck with last decade’s feature set.

4. Choose Timeless Designs

With all the changing tech in our homes and apartments we often miss that at the heart of these devices is mechanical or electrical functionality that doesn’t change that much. Devices primarily function to turn on or off, lock or unlock, and heat or cool. Look at Nest - the fundamental function of the actual hardware device has changed almost not at all since their first version nearly a decade ago; aside from software updates, they’ve really only changed the colors. And light switches are subject to even less change over time. The fact is that the innovation is in the software and in the cloud. Because of this, you should resist the temptation to make a statement with device designs. If you pick something that says “modern” today, it might say “dated” tomorrow. With a timeless design, a device that is open and connected will stay relevant for a much longer time.

5. Give Your Residents Choice

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There is a constant battle being waged by consumer tech giants and smart tech is a front in that war. Don’t pick sides where you can avoid it. If something is in the walls, well, you’re forced to make a choice. “Luckily, very few people have brand preferences for light switches and locks - after all, they have pretty basic functionality when you think about it,” says Mike Rovito, CEO of Dwelo, “but certain devices, such as virtual personal assistance or voice controllers essentially dictate which tech world someone is living in.” Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple Homepod are all devices that work better if you are personally invested in the associated ecosystem, such as iPhones if you have a Homepod, or Android devices if you have a Google Home. Invest in platforms that allow your residents to choose the products that they want in a category like voice controllers. Avoid pre-installing devices that make that choice for them. This doesn’t mean you can’t buy and advertise the latest in voice controller tech; if you want to provide a voice controller for residents, offer it to them as a move-in gift or a leasing incentive and let them choose, which one.

Not so scary after all, right? Implementing a smart apartment doesn’t have to be hard, and it won’t be, as long as you start with a good plan and the right tools. The key takeaway? Choose devices and platforms that are open and connected. Do that and you will stay nimble and avoid the iPhone charger trap.

What is a Smart Apartment?

As a rental housing professional, you’ve probably heard the term Smart Apartment by now. The concept earned an entire segment at the strategy sessions at this year’s National Multifamily Housing Council Annual Meeting. And the National Apartment Association ran an article this January touting the smart home as a top technology priority in 2018. Owners have, for awhile now, leveraged smart technology to manage rentals more efficiently. What is novel about this recent push around Smart Apartments is that it is primarily driven by resident interest and is signaling a new era of tech-enabled amenities.

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According to PlumChoice’s IoT Adoption Benchmark Report, 86% of all renters have at least one smart device, which is up from less than 20% in just 2015.

Resident’s rapid adoption of smart home technology is forcing owners’ hands. A huge driver of that has been the adoption of voice controllers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. Those voice controllers work best when they control smart home devices such as light switches, thermostats, and locks to simplify everyday tasks. With most of the most common smart home devices being installed right in the wall, owners are increasingly responsible for providing a technology layer to their residents that complements their already connected lifestyle.

What is a smart apartment?

A Smart Apartment is a rental unit that is outfitted with common smart home technology such that it can be easily connected to a resident’s preferred mobile phone or voice controller upon move in and disconnected upon move out. The most common smart home devices employed by consumers today are:

  • Smart locks that allow residents to remotely lock and unlock the door, monitor door status and activity history, and receive notifications about lock activity

  • Smart thermostats that allow residents to remotely control comfort settings and save energy through automations

  • Smart lights and outlets that enable residents to enjoy convenience

There are of course a thousand other devices from smart TVs to smart blinds to connected cameras. The above represent the core of any smart home, with an emphasis on those devices that have to come with the unit because they are built into the walls.

There are a few key additional concepts that that make a smart home into a Smart Apartment. First, a Smart Apartment must be able to unify the devices that come with the unit with those devices such as voice controllers that a resident commonly brings themselves. Second, a Smart Apartment requires enterprise features that facilitate the relatively rapid turnover of rental housing and the many stakeholders, such as maintenance teams, who have a need for the control and data provided by smart home devices. Finally, a Smart Apartment must cater to the wide range of technological capabilities that will walk through the door of a leasing office: a dead simple solution is critical.

The value for residents

Residents value Smart Apartments for a number of reasons. First, residents value the security and peace of mind offered by smart homes. Connected locks provide the ability to lock the door remotely, see who is coming and going, and ensure that the people who should be able to get in such as visitors and vendors can do so with ease. Finally, smart locks provide redundant forms of entry beyond a simple keyed lock, which has led to a 40% reduction in lockouts according to a survey of 50 managers at our communities.

Smart homes also provide the ability to manage comfort while minimizing utility costs. Nest claims that owners see on average a 10-15% drop in utility costs across both their heating and cooling bills. Perhaps equally as valuable to some: the ability to ensure comfort by having the air conditioning or heating running before they come home or roll out of bed.

In that same vein, convenience is another major driver. While lights and outlets might not pack quite the same energy-saving punch (though they do save at the margins), they can provide a more satisfying and exciting response to remote commands. Residents are able to move about the house verbalizing light on and off commands and watch the space respond to their whims. Lights are the most used technology device in the entire house, providing a frequent point of engagement for residents with their Smart Apartment.

The value for owners

That all sounds fun, right? But what’s it matter for the bottom line?

Smart Apartments create an opportunity for forward-thinking owners to capture premiums and to position their product in the marketplace. A resident survey Dwelo performed puts this in perspective: residents prefer Smart Apartments to gyms and pools and put Smart Apartments on par with updated kitchens. If a unit has these features and its comps don’t, it creates a strong differentiator for an owner’s product. For new construction it seems like a near no-brainer; furthermore, our retrofit communities have seen consistent premiums and many have seen enhanced lease rates from putting in these devices on turn. And while this discussion focuses on Smart Apartments as an amenity, if deployed properly, owners can see significant operational savings and risk reduction from these rollouts, as well.

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Technology continues to evolve and disrupt industries; rental housing is no different. With residents living increasingly connected lifestyles and rapidly adopting smart devices, owners need to facilitate their residents choices by employing complimentary technology in the walls of their communities. This creates opportunities and challenges, but owners are increasingly faced with the inevitable reality that they are technology providers, too, now.