For as long as I’ve been covering real estate, the rap against the industry’s approach to technology is that it is a slow adopter. Yet in reviewing the articles that comprise MHN’s annual technology issue, I couldn’t help being struck by the variety, ingenuity and enthusiasm exhibited in these pages.
The thirst for innovation clearly emerges from the roundtable conducted by MHN Contributing Editor Amanda Marsh with five leading technology executives. For anyone with a stake in the applications of technology—and that means everyone, of course— this virtual panel session will reward multiple readings.
The notion of taking a virtual-reality tour of a multifamily community still comes with a pinch of science fiction for those of us who remember rotary telephones, yet it is becoming a widely used tool. Meanwhile, stakeholders are finding fresh ways for technology to improve the business itself. A platform recently launched by Camden Realty Trust provides a forum for employees of the geographically decentralized REIT. Fifty votes from colleagues for an employee’s idea earns a response from management.
Multifamily takes on the Digital Age with ingenuity, enthusiasm and a dose of caution.
At the community level, it’s a time of transition for smart apartments. Devices that program and remotely control lighting, heat and air conditioning would certainly seem to be catnip for tech-savvy residents. Maybe so, yet it’s intriguing to read in Nancy Crotti’s update that the smart apartment movement is proceeding by fits and starts. Installing the needed infrastructure often poses one hurdle.
Major progress often comes with big headaches, and the spectacular advances in connectivity are no exception. As Camden Realty’s Kristy Simonette characterizes the Internet of Things: “Seriously big potential; seriously big security concerns.”
In his report on cybersecurity, Dees Stribling points out that the standardization that enables software to communicate can also let hackers steal residents’ personal data. Fortunately, guidance on safeguards is available, such as the white paper on cybersecurity published in July by the National Multifamily Housing Council and the National Apartment Association.
The multifamily sector will encounter its share of bumps in the road as it explores the brave new world of technology. A healthy dose of caution is warranted, of course. But after you’ve read the accounts in this issue about what’s already out there, I’m confident you’ll feel all the more curious, challenged and excited about what’s on the way.
Originally appearing in the November 2016 issue of MHN.