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.