Inside the Smart Community Experience
A technology provider and two managers of smart communities explain why a preference for tech amenities has nothing to do with age.
Having a smart home or improving one with smart amenities that allow controlling the lights while lying down in bed, setting the temperature while out of the house or using an app to open the door has become a popular choice among Millennials and even Baby Boomers. These technologies can save owners and residents a lot of time and money, Mike Rovito, CEO at Dwelo—a smart home technology provider—told Multi-Housing News. Rovito together with Natasha Mackey, community manager at The Woods of Five Mile Creek in Dallas, and Erika Noe, business manager at Montoro Apartments in Irving, Texas, discussed how integrating smart upgrades into a community impacts property managers and residents.
What do residents in a Dwelo community get to experience?
Rovito: Residents of a Dwelo community get to experience the benefits of a smart home. They can control all of their home devices—the lights, locks, thermostat, etc.—from the Dwelo app or from their favorite voice controller like Amazon Echo and Google Home. With that power, they can turn their lights off from bed, let their dog walker in when they’re on vacation and get their apartment to be the right temperature on their way back from work. These features can save time and money, plus it’s pretty cool to talk to your apartment and have it turn the lights on.
How common is this kind of amenity now and how do you see things going forward?
Rovito: It’s definitely taking off. We’re in more than 100 communities at this point. In our first market, Salt Lake City, we estimate that more than 50 percent of all Class A and B properties under construction are putting Dwelo in. It took a few years to get there, but we’re starting to see that pattern from other markets we’ve expanded into, like Dallas, Denver and Austin. As voice controllers take off, people are starting to really experience the benefits of smart home convenience and the demand is growing.
As we saw in Salt Lake City, at a certain point—only a couple years from the first smart apartments in a given market—having this as an amenity starts to become a competitive necessity. I think we’re only a few years from every single new construction project having smart devices built in. This is a cycle that’s played out with other amenities, such as stainless-steel appliances, that came to be expected even in mid-level rentals.
Is this technology considered a luxury amenity?
Rovito: Dwelo has communities in all asset classes: A, B and even some C. In places that don’t have pools and gyms, this is a relatively easy upgrade. By comparison to granite countertops and big lounge areas, smart home amenities are super economical for the owner to invest in. On top of that, it’s not just an amenity. Managers report major time savings from digital access and save tons on utilities in vacant units. The combination of value and the relatively low price point has driven owners to invest in this technology up and down their portfolios.
How do you stay competitive in the tech amenities market?
Rovito: We have an open platform that enables us to take advantage of the innovation offered by the best-in-class devices across every category. By leaving the heavy lifting of device design and manufacture to the experts—the folks at Google, Nest, Amazon, Z-Wave, Kwikset etc.—we can offer owners more choices and can focus on layering on software and service value that is purpose-built for the multifamily sector. Owners get to deal with one vendor, managers get features and services specific to them, and residents get one application to manage their entire smart community experience.
Why should property managers use this technology?
Rovito: Our property managers see incredible benefits from implementing Dwelo. According to a survey of 50 of our managers, at the average size community, simply having digital credentials available saved over 200 hours per year of time that would otherwise be spent trekking to and from the KeyTrak machine. Managers report a 40 percent reduction in lockouts due to the digital locks.
They can also achieve incredible efficiencies in vacant units, eliminating those surprise bills. Leasing agents can prep units for visiting by turning on the thermostat and lights right from their phone. And unit turnover and vendor access becomes a snap with easily revocable, real-time digital access to units.
What are your predictions regarding the future of smart homes?
Rovito: We started in one unit, essentially packaging a smart home and putting it in an apartment. From there, we listened to our customers—owners and managers—who showed us all the ways that smart technology can help them do their job, both inside and outside the unit. We can share information with property management software that will supercharge operations and vice versa.
There are more smart opportunities throughout the community, as well. We’ve begun integrating smart metering from NextCentury Meters and common area access via ProdataKey. That is where we see this going, with more and more of the digital features of the community becoming integrated and consolidated to ensure maximum benefit for all stakeholders.
Mackey: I see this growing into something bigger than we think. This idea Dwelo has already had other amazing ideas branch out because of it—alarms, cameras, etc. The possibilities are endless when it comes to convenience and smart features.
How do residents react to smart amenities?
Mackey: Residents are wowed when we demonstrate the features and are even more in awe when the benefits of the features are explained. Convenient is the first word we hear.
Noe: They love smart amenities. It’s another added feature to make it feel more like their home and not just another apartment. Anything that can make life more convenient will always be a hit for residents.
What are the benefits of using smart tech amenities?
Mackey: Convenience and energy efficiency are the major benefits. For lights—in the event of not wanting to walk into a dark apartment or turning them on at night to deter thieves when the resident is not at home. The locks benefit the residents as well as management. Having your own code helps with time immensely. Management doesn’t have to stop to grab keys on work orders or inspections. Contractors can set up their profiles and their own codes to access apartments. Management can revoke and add as needed.
Noe: It gives residents an added sense of security—they can log into the app to make sure they remembered to lock the front door. Or they can open their door with the push of a button if they misplaced their keys or are juggling bags of groceries. Residents also enjoy having the ability to adjust their thermostat settings remotely. Aside from comfort, it’s also economical. You can save electricity and money by ensuring the lights are turned off and adjusting the thermostat to a higher/ lower temperature while you are away.
Which generation—Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen Z—is more attracted to use smart tech amenities?
Noe: I’m not sure you can pinpoint that to one specific generation. I have a diverse demographic, age-wise, at my property, and this feature spans the generational divides. So much of our lives, these days, are geared towards technology, no matter our age, that this is just another piece to that puzzle. Everyone can benefit from technology that makes life more comfortable and convenient.
Image courtesy of Dwelo