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EXCLUSIVE: Multifamily proptech and the intelligent building

Building with blue sky in background - intelligent multifamily proptech

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Robert Gaulden, Go-to-Market Director of Multifamily Access at Allegion discusses advances in smart proptech solutions.

With apartment construction at a 50-year high, more and more renters are becoming acquainted with multifamily living and they are developing a greater appreciation for what they want and expect from property owners. In short, residents are now demanding seamless and convenient experiences powered by the latest technologies.

Fortunately, the apartment boom coincides with major advancements in proptech. An ecosystem of solutions has emerged that addresses every aspect of modern shared living, explaining the eye-opening $6.7 billion in venture capital investments on multifamily proptech in 2021. These solutions do not just provide conveniences for residents, they also enable property owners to achieve operational efficiency.

Multifamily buildings today can be outfitted with a number of tools and technologies that lower costs while also increasing productivity. Property owners and managers need only to decide how intelligent they want their buildings to be. When developing a roadmap for proptech adoption, multifamily properties should, at a minimum, consider the following solutions and implementations, which are likely to become the industry standard.

Connecting the property

In-unit laundry, on-site storage and parking are no doubt vital amenities, but none equal the importance of Wi-Fi access. As residents rely on the internet for work, education and entertainment, property owners are essentially obligated to make apartments internet accessible. Most multifamily buildings have ties with traditional internet service providers to supply internet to units. Some modern apartments, on the other hand, are taking Wi-Fi access a step further through community-wide distributed offerings.

Distributed solutions unlock Wi-Fi connectivity across the entire building, giving properties the ability to control staff networks and offer Wi-Fi to residents within a basic technology package. A distributed service not only consolidates the number of providers linked to the property, but also cuts out unnecessary intermediaries, so that residents do not have to worry about setting up utilities when moving in or using an unfamiliar network when occupying common areas.

Depending on the distributed Wi-Fi provider agreement, properties could potentially boost revenue beyond increased rent in the form of monthly subscription payments. Owners can offer a tiered subscription internet service, defining pricing and speeds while the vendor automatically collects payment.

When choosing a distributed Wi-Fi provider, property owners must first consider the security of the network, making sure that there are security precautions in place for data privacy. Wi-Fi access is the key to resident entertainment and can be a foundational communication platform for smart apartment technologies that optimize the rest of the resident experience.

Protecting property

Safety and security are fundamental needs that transcend generations. According to our national survey,1 however, only 26% of millennial residents feel secure at home. Many are willing to pay for additional layers of security to change that.

Building entrances and common areas have long been a primary concern of property owners and managers. It is typical for common areas such as lobbies and gyms to have controlled access and constant surveillance, either through video cameras or on-site staff. While these precautions can be effective, modern multifamily buildings can extend their security to the unit by deploying smart locks for keyless access, audit trails and mobile credentials.

That means no more rekeying locks during unit turnover or tracking down keys for service and maintenance. Bringing all of your access control systems, from the perimeter to each unit, under one system also provides operational efficancy. Minimizing the number of databases required to create and revoke access will help ensure a seamless credential experience. Finally, deploying mobile credentials layers in additional security with higher levels of encryption and two factor authentication.

Buildings can introduce benefits and experiences by integrating access control systems to proptech smart apartment and smart building providers. Ideally, you can start to create resident experiences centered around a single application that allows seamless access to the building, environmental controls, visitor management, payments and apartment communications. For the operators, these integrations can provide major benefits to the daily operations of the building. Overall, this reduces the amount of time required to manage vacant units, maintenance issues and security concerns.

Furthermore, with the right solutions in place, multifamily complexes can begin to offer self-guided tours, where prospective residents can book and tour residences without a leasing agent or property representative present. Self-guided tour technology allows managers to show their properties at the convenience of the prospective resident.

For example, mobile credentials provide seamless access to the building and unit, smart apartment features turn on the lights and heat or cool the unit to the optimal temperature prior to the showing and then turn them off after the showing. Way-finding capabilities and communication tools can help guide prospects and facilitate questions along the tour. Finally, integrations back to the property’s customer relationship management (CRM) tools can be used to manage the tour and analyze data.

Self-guided tours can automate an important function of property management, but it does require some manual intervention. Property owners and managers must design a tour route that optimizes the experience.

Managing the property

Almost every large multifamily complex already has a property management system to operate different functions. Leasing and rent capabilities have evolved over the past decade. Now, property management software has tools for move-ins and move-outs and can manage rent payments and even prorate charges. When money is involved as it is with rent and leasing, management solutions can generate cost-saving efficiencies.

Management software is most productive when managers and their staff can use it with ease. Many proptech providers provide property management system integrations, which enable future ease of use and labor efficiencies by reducing or eliminating the number of systems or databases needed to manage the property and resident experience.

For example, the most robust proptech solutions on the market have an integrated user app that permits residents to access a one-stop-shop for everything they need regarding the property and multifamily living. Through the app, residents can pay their bills, access their own unit and common areas and control their smart devices. They can also manage their packages and food delivery.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, package management has been a thorn for property staff. Increased deliveries only made delivery rooms more vulnerable to disruptive piles and worse, theft. Chaotic delivery rooms are not a trend that will end anytime soon. Millennials have become a dominating presence in multifamily residences and according to surveys, they are not shy when it comes to online deliveries, including meal orders.

Whether it’s a package delivery or food delivery, properties must manage a delivery person’s access in a manner that simplifies and secures the process. Property owners and managers can consider several proptech solutions to better accommodate deliveries, including intercoms or access control tools such as those that can generate one-time codes for entry.

Multifamily residences are more than just housing – they are active communities that require systems designed for convenience and security. The future of intelligent buildings starts with connectivity and interoperability. Newly constructed and retrofitted multifamily buildings have connected infrastructure that is propped up by proptech solutions.

Many of these solutions can respond to commands in real time, ensuring the temperature is always right and there is always optimal light. In the near future, buildings will be able to perform these and more sensitive functions automatically. Smart apartment devices and solutions that can update remotely to add new features, fix bugs and improve performance will help multifamily property owners future-proof their systems. The goal is to be prepared for the next industry standard.

This article was originally published in the April edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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