High-Tech Amenities: More Than a Trend

Xfinity Communities’ Adrian Adriano shares his views on how residential tech products and services can not only keep residents happy, but also help them lead better lives.
Adrian Adriano, Vice President, Xfinity Communities
Adrian Adriano, Vice President, Xfinity Communities

As more and more residents demanded modern, state-of-the-art amenities in their homes and communities, property managers have taken note. While amenities such as Wi-Fi have now become standard in multifamily assets, there are other technologies which could greatly improve the experience of residents—and the operations—at a property.

Adrian Adriano, vice president of strategic initiatives at Xfinity Communities, shared his insights on the use of technology in a range of multifamily asset types. Adriano talks about how property managers can keep ahead of the curve and how the growing trend of working from home is impacting communities.

How much of an impact does technology have on resident retention?

Adriano: Technology is a top priority and an essential amenity for most residents, and our survey, Networking with Residents, affirms this: 87 percent of property managers and owners believe that technology plays an important role in keeping residents satisfied. Furthermore, 75 percent of respondents reported that the majority of new and prospective residents ask about communications services (i.e. internet, phone and TV) in their building prior to renting. This research along with conversations with property managers and owners clearly demonstrate that technology has a major impact on resident retention.

What is the best way for a property manager to keep pace with ever-increasing technological demands?

Adriano: Partnering and maintaining a positive relationship with a technology provider is the best way for property managers to keep pace with technology demands. Not only do technology providers help with move-ins and scheduling maintenance visits, but they also inform property managers of technology trends and help ensure that their equipment is up-to-date.

Looking ahead, property managers should be looking at how they can further enhance the resident experience, whether it is through common-area Wi-Fi or the implementation of smart home and building technologies. These connected living experience solutions help communities stand out in the crowded multifamily market.

For example, at Xfinity Communities, we are upgrading cable boxes and remotes with voice activation technology, providing customer-facing portals so residents can schedule move-ins and report and track service issues themselves, and are even developing an app that will allow residents and property managers to monitor their thermostat and lights remotely. Such updates are essential in keeping your residents happy and helpful in simplifying property manager tasks and saving time.

What types of smart building tech give property owners the best return on investment?

Adriano: Energy efficient smart technology will, by far, offer the best return on investment. Because smart building technology has the ability to remotely monitor and adjust surroundings like heating, cooling and lights (and even open locks), residents and property owners alike can benefit from the savings that come with smart tech: Residents will save on their utility bills and property managers will save on energy costs through lighting and HVAC control in common areas and vacant units.

And while cost efficiencies are important, it is the time-saving aspect of the remote-controlled solutions which will be the most popular among property owners and managers. For example, rather than having to walk through their entire property to check if lights have been turned off, ensure trash was picked up or inspect utility rooms for leaks, managers can do this all from their office or smart phone. As a result, they have more time to engage with residents, market new units and simplify their daily tasks.

Lastly, the appeal of smart technology will help property owners lease apartments quicker—and at higher rates—and reduce costs that stem from re-keying resident apartment doors. By using energy efficient smart technology, property owners can realize significant savings and receive a good return on their investment, especially in the long run.

Given that more and more renters are working from home, what are the best ways a property manager can accommodate the needs of these residents?

Adriano: The work-from-home (WFH) culture is definitely increasing. According to the Networking with Residents survey, the majority of property managers, owners and developers (75 percent) foresee an increase in the number of residents working from home in the next three years. But still, many (30 percent) are concerned that their properties are not fully equipped to support a WFH culture.

Because multifamily properties need a high-performance network to handle the traffic, property owners should work closely with providers to install new technologies, such as DOCSIS 3.1 for gigabit speeds. Only then will property managers be efficiently equipped to ride the WFH wave.

Tell us about the growth of tech amenities in the senior living sector.

Adriano: The past few years, much of what we consider tech amenities have really just become standard amenities, regardless of the age group. We’ve seen that reflected in senior living communities’ managers; their primary concern is often associated with the high speeds and bandwidth necessary to support their residents and visiting families. When everyone’s parents and grandparents are on Facebook and know how to Google something, features like internet connectivity and Wi-Fi are really the baseline expectation. On top of that, connected, smart home devices require proper bandwidth to operate, and we’ve consistently heard how critical voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home have become to many seniors that prefer or require speech recognition technology.

Aside from internet speeds and access, the main senior living focus is on entertainment offerings. For seniors with declining hearing or eyesight, features that many people take for granted, like the on-screen channel guide, can present challenges, and senior living communities need providers that can address them. Comcast and Xfinity Communities have a long-standing dedication to accessibility for all and, as such, have implemented tools to allow everyone to enjoy its X1 offerings, including adjustable text size, voice guidance, voice description, enhanced closed captions and the X1 Voice Remote.

With several major markets experiencing an abundance of new units delivering, how can a community best set itself apart from competitors?

Adriano: While outstanding internet service is the jumping off point to compete in a world that’s so online-focused, it’s what communities can offer on top of it that will set them apart. A big part of that is providing top, traditional entertainment options.

Despite doomsday cries about the end of television, our Xfinity On Campus viewership data shows that even the current college generation of Millennials and Generation Z watch live TV at traditional primetime hours, so giving residents that option is key.

What’s really at top of mind in the industry though, is smarter living and smarter communities. Today, people expect a connected experience across all elements of their lives, and that’s especially true of their homes. Residents want to be able to go on their phone, open an app and adjust their heat and air conditioning or turn the lights on and off. New builds that can offer potential residents that level of control will not only benefit from happier residents, they’ll ultimately save time and money themselves. No longer do property managers have to conduct manual checks of empty units to ensure lights are off and doors are locked: They can do it all from a screen. These abilities are transferred solely to the resident once the unit is rented, of course, but aside from attracting residents, these features just make business sense.

What is the most surprising thing that Xfinity Communities’ Networking with Residents survey found?

Adriano: The team was pretty surprised to learn that having access to high-speed internet and Wi-Fi were more important amenities to residents than even having clean laundry. According to the survey, 34 percent of respondents ranked Wi-Fi access as the most important amenity, followed by high-speed internet (25 percent) and in-room laundry facilities (13 percent).

How can faster internet speeds and more widespread Wi-Fi coverage enhance the more traditional amenities in a community?

Adriano: Having faster internet and more widespread Wi-Fi truly enhances almost every aspect of the resident experience. For example, if a community has an outdoor space like a dog park, swimming pool or jogging trail, residents can FaceTime their friends while walking the dog, blast jams during a pool party and listen to their favorite tunes while lifting weights a lot easier with more widespread Wi-Fi and faster internet speeds.

And as the work-from-home culture increases, increased internet speeds will provide even more purpose to residents as they’ll use it as both a source of entertainment and productivity: In addition to empowering residents to surf the web and watch shows, the internet will help residents send work emails, share files, and join video chat meetings from home.

Lastly, as essential as this amenity is to residents already, the emphasis on connectivity will only increase as innovations like smart home and building technologies continue to gain momentum. Soon, the internet will connect residents to smart lighting, heating/cooling and remote technology that will save residents (and property owners) money on utilities, automate tedious tasks and simplify their everyday processes.

In other words, internet speeds and widespread Wi-Fi coverage have, and will continue to, enhance every aspect of multifamily living, but soon they’ll do so much more.

Image courtesy of Xfinity Communities