Technology companies are rolling out new products that carry a promise of making a real difference for multifamily residents.
“We are probably on the cusp,” says Rick Haughey, vice president for industry and technology initiatives for the National Multifamily Housing Council.
For years, apartments experts have looked forward to new Internet-enabled smart technologies that would enable residents to control aspects of their residences remotely. But aside from a few smart thermostats, some property managers have struggled to find secure Internet of Things hardware that residents would find useful.
That may be changing as companies roll out technology that make new connections to equipment that residents already use—like a telephone or the intercom panel by their property’s front entrance.
Technology opens the door
For example, new technology can allow residents to let guests or delivery people into their apartment community by adding new connectivity to the existing intercom system.
Not every building has a doorman or a leasing office that can receive packages or allow guests onto the property. These apartment communities face a constant challenge as package deliveries arrive. UPS or FedEx drivers often leave with packages undelivered.
Technologies like Doorport can get the delivery person securely through the front door. The technology places a touchscreen panel by the front door of the apartment property, replacing the old panel of doorbell buttons for the existing intercom system. Using the touchscreen, delivery people or guests can follow the prompts on to identify themselves and what apartment they are visiting. A camera records a short video of the visitor and immediately sends a notification to the smartphone of the apartment resident, who can respond to let the visitor into the property.
“Your smartphone becomes your building intercom,” says Ben Taylor, founder of Doorport.
Doorport is currently being beta tested at two buildings in New York City with a total of 100 apartments. The company is currently in negotiations with several large landlords in New York and New Jersey to apply the technology to thousands of midrise apartments and garden apartment communities.
Doorport plans to create more complicated solutions in the future that will open individual apartment door. But for now, Doorport’s strength is in it simplicity. Doorport’s fits neatly into the buildings existing system – and shouldn’t even require any new wiring to work.
Technology gets to work orders
Another technology allows residents to place work orders with a phone call to a voice-recognition technology similar to Amazon’s “Alexa” service. Technology company TRAVTUS, based in New York City, calls its new digital property manager “Adam.”
Residents that use the service can complete many of the basic interactions with property management. For example, residents who need repairs in their apartments can start the process with Adam, which can route the work order to the people who will carry out the repair and even begin the process of procuring supplies.
“We trying to deal with a day-to-day, so that your property manager is only dealing with the genuine escalations,” says Tripty Arya, founder of TRAVTUS. “The property manager can then focus on the 30 or so that really need attention.”
Fitting technology into the lives of residents
These new technology companies hope to succeed by fitting their ideas into the activities that residents perform every day.
Moderately-sized, class-B apartment properties can probably benefit the most from this latest wave of technology innovations. That’s because many of these services effectively fill in for a doorman, and allow management companies to stretch the limited staffing resources farther.
Property managers are also now thinking about how to coordinate services that require access to an apartment property, like dog walkers, dry cleaners and grocery deliveries. Property managers may soon not only open the door for these services, they may also help arrange them. For example, if an apartment community could arrange a dog walking service, that amenity may be provided more efficiently, and the property could potentially make some money from the transactions.
“Everyone is trying to figure out how to monetize and control these features,” says Haughey.