Interactive services: technology & the future in the multifamily housing industry)

Ask anyone. What people talk about most these days is time. Mostly they talk about the lack of time, the desire for more time and the daily demands of a busy schedule.

Every day we read about and experience the increasingly frenetic pace of daily life. As technology steps up productivity in business, it takes away coveted leisure time. But fortunately, technology also offers solutions to the chronically time-strapped consumer.

New solutions to new problems also are being offered in the multihousing industry. In fact, much of the new building taking place in the market today is designed for the growing family market, with amenities that complement the busy lifestyle of families headed by two working parents or single working parents.

Even now, at the beginning of the technology revolution, service providers dedicated specifically to the multi-housing industry are offering tailored services that complement the market position and demographic profiles of multihousing properties.

There is little doubt that technology, in the '90s and beyond, will become the "standard equipment" of the digital age. just as the well-appointed kitchen and bath became the standard equipment of the '80s, so too will technology become one of the must-haves in the multihousing market.

Today, cable and telecommunications services offered by single providers are the beginnings of the new "smart" buildings. By offering services associated with good hotels, residents are beginning to understand and reap the benefits of technology. Along with full-range cable and telephone services, operators are beginning to provide everything from electronic home monitoring security systems to remote paging. They are installing on-sight transactional kiosks that allow residents to sign up for cable and telephone service, set up bottled water service and even order a pizza.

The next steps on the road to true connectivity and in-home interactivity are: transactional programming, on-line link-up, video-on-demand, and in-home access to local goods and services -- from grocery shopping to laundry service, car rental to day care.

Becoming the gatekeeper to the information superhighway, controlling access to the information, entertainment, goods and services, is the opportunity that technology offers service providers and property owners. Providing access, rather than forcing residents to find access via outside service providers, allows property owners and service providers the ability to capture a percentage of every dollar spent on goods and services. Some even predict that these electronically and digitally generated revenues will surpass and even replace traditional rent payments.

Distance learning and business centers are now being developed for multifamily residences. Offering value-added service for all income brackets, these property-specific centers also offer revenue opportunities via access fees.

Learning centers for lower-income housing will provide a variety of educational and informational options. Programs offered will include educational courses for young people and employment courses for adults.

Business centers, for telecommuting and general usage, will be equipped with fax machines, personal computers with modem hook-ups, on-line access and data terminals like those in airport terminals providing shopping and other transactional services.

Property owners and managers also can benefit from the new technology. Market-specific service providers are now offering marketing support and productivity enhancement tools to property owners. Marketing services can range from a national service network to training programs for property management staff. These value-added marketing and sales tools should help management fill vacancies, maintain occupancy, create economies of scale, develop uniformity, offer branding potential and maintain quality of service.

Significant revenue benefits and lower operating costs are the property owners' rewards for embracing technology now.

Technology is forcing everyone to move faster and work harder. There is no time like the present to champion technology, harness it and begin reaping the benefits today -- even as we can only imagine what its scope might be tomorrow.

-- Andrew Adelson and Gary Adelson are founders, co-chairmen and co-chief executive officers of Los Angeles-based ICS Communications, a privately held telecommunications company specializing in services for the multifamily housing industry. -- Andrew Adelson began his career in feature film marketing and moved into production for television. Among the miniseries and telefilms he produced are "Out Of Darkness," the Humanitas and Golden Globe Awards nominee, "I Know My First Name is Steven," top-rated and four Emmy nominee and International Emmy Award winner; and the futuristic series "Max Headroom." Mr. Adelson sold his production company, Andrew Adelson Company, to ABC in 1990. In 1993 he co-founded ICS Communications in order to dedicate himself to home applications of new technologies.

Gary Adelson is a well-recognized feature film and television producer. Prior to co-founding ICS Communications, Mr. Adelson was a partner in the production company Adelson-Baumgarten Productions which was involved in such productions as: "Hook," "Universal Soldier" and "It Could Happen to You." He began his career at Lorimar Television producing series and miniseries including "Eight is Enough" and the Emmy award-winning "Sybil."

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