NMHC Special Report: IoT Innovation Returns Control to Residents

6 min read

The 2016 NMHC OPTECH Conference & Exposition explored the on-demand economy, package management and other issues affecting multifamily.

Dallas–The National Multifamily Housing Council gathered the leading property managers, financiers, technology entrepreneurs and service providers to discuss where the industry is headed. Below you’ll find compelling takeaways from last week’s lively discussions, panels and exhibits.

Rachel Botsman (above) suggests that efficiency and trust underpin the collaborative economy.

1. The on-demand economy reflects a natural consumer behavior shift from ownership to access.

OPTECH opened with a thought-provoking presentation by Rachel Botsman, author of What’s Mine Is Yours and frequent TED speaker. In her session, Botsman challenged the audience to consider how technology is shaping the collaborative economy. She led with a few questions to engage audience members, who overwhelmingly agreed that access to experiences is more important than owning the technologies that deliver them.

“You have millions of ‘haves’ with millions of ‘wants,’ and they can find one another through marketplaces and networks,” Botsman said. “This is really starting to transform how products and services are delivered to market.”

Disruptive and efficient technologies that unlock the value of unused assets, especially in the realm of mobility, were at the center of many of the conference discussions. Take WeLive, for example, a co-living space provider that designed its business model for a more asset-light generation of travelers looking to lay down roots in socially engaging, furnished micro-apartments. Currently WeLive operates two such residences in New York City and Crystal City, Va.

Botsman introduced the concept of “SoLoMo, social, mobile and location-based networks (that) create this perfect synergy to give people exactly what they want, when they need it.” Increasingly, technology providers like JustPark, which matches drivers with unused parking spaces, are integrating “SoLoMo” into their offerings. In doing so, JustPark eliminates the need to own or rent a physical parking space, instead enabling users to quickly access trusted, reliable parking.

Similarly, Trov, an on-demand insurance startup, addresses the questions of “how consumer behavior is changing, how we need to restructure insurance to meet that and how to insure behaviors instead of fixed assets.” By cataloging belongings, Trov enables an individual to select which items to insure and specify the timeframe for coverage, all with the swipe of a smartphone.

From dry cleaning pickup and delivery to pet-sharing, the collaborative economy offers a litany of options for residents to take control of their creature comforts and enjoy a service experience most relevant to their lives.

Felicite Moorman
StratIS CEO Felicite Moorman (pictured) discussed how her company navigates access and security issues when installing smart locks in multifamily and campus housing environments.

2. The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming increasingly more accessible and user-friendly, giving properties that securely tap into IoT a competitive edge in today’s rapidly changing multifamily landscape.

Throughout OPTECH many speakers emphasized an amenity-rich living experiences for residents, but what about the building managers, owners and operators responsible for enabling these experiences? As indicated in many sessions, property managers who implement technologies and services catered to the unique needs of their residents tend to enjoy happier customers and healthier operations.

Capitalizing on the IoT can drastically impact operating costs and improve efficiencies in multifamily communities, a fact that Felicite Moorman, CEO of StratIS, knows well. Her company provides access, energy and automation for multifamily and campus communities.

In analyzing a portfolio of 10,000 units, Moorman discovered one of the main causes of inefficiencies to be “the lack of control of energy management systems. When you have a resident with a thermostat that you can’t control,” she told MHN, “you don’t control the efficiencies of that unit when it’s vacant, when there’s turn(over) or when maintenance comes in before a new resident.” StratIs faced the obstacle of delivering cost savings to the property managers it serves.

When it came time to re-key doors, recode electronic locks and change out internal cylinders, the most time-consuming challenge became apparent to Moorman. “The return on investment can actually be even faster by decreasing the operating cost for access, (rather) than energy, so that was a surprise for us.”

According to Moorman’s analysis, the future of IoT value drivers lies in insurance mitigation opportunities. “What if you could get an alert on your phone if smoke or a leak was sensed? That’s where we’re going as a company…because that’s yet another return on investment for your property owner or manager. When they see a decrease in their insurance costs, that’s a tremendous opportunity to change the industry.”

Chris Moreno (pictured) urged attendees to retool the ways they manage and design their communities.
Luxer One VP of Multifamily Partnerships Chris Moreno (pictured) urged attendees to retool the ways they manage and design their communities.

3. Package management services are altering how residents interact with their belongings–and taking a load off maintenance.

A handful of package delivery solutions providers were in attendance at OPTECH’s bustling exhibit hall, enabling attendees to interact with futuristic, mocked-up mailrooms equipped with infrared sensors and smart lighting. These innovations made it clear that space is no longer the main hurdle to implementing a package delivery solution. By incorporating wall-mounted shelving and gathering analytics on the length of time a package sits unclaimed, managers of these systems can more efficiently handle relationships with couriers and expedite package delivery to residents.

Position Imaging’s Smart Package Room uses position imaging technology to improve courier efficiency and give residents full control of picking up packages. Each courier gets a PIN or key fob identifier which grants entry into the package room via a kiosk. After placing a parcel inside, the room locates it and notes the delivery time, if the package was moved or dropped, the pickup time and who picked it up. Smart Package Room combines scalable smart solutions, enabling implementation in new or existing rooms. It also includes a portal for users to access a record of every package entered into the system.

Luxer One, whose package locker system was profiled earlier this year by MHN, was also on display at OPTECH. A meaningful value driver for Luxer One’s packaging solution is that it relieves property managers of the responsibilities and time commitment involved in handling packages. Surveillance features add security, while the lockers eliminate clutter from package rooms or lobbies where parcels are commonly left.

As echoed by Luxer One VP of Multifamily Partnerships Chris Moreno, returning valuable time to building managers and staff and putting control of lifestyle experiences in the hands of residents are two key benefits of successfully deploying smart technologies in multifamily properties.

Stay tuned for ongoing coverage of the hot topics and major players of NMHC OPTECH, and be sure to get the scoop on last month’s NMHC Fall Meeting.

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