Whether it’s to monitor their property, remotely control their appliances or deliver voice commands to their smart speakers, people are increasingly obsessed with smart home technologies. In fact, the global smart home market is already $83 billion, and Juniper Research expects it to grow to $195 billion by 2021. And the growth is the greatest in the U.S.; Forrester Research predicts that 70 percent of U.S. households (93 million) will have a smart home device by 2020.
Providing strong network infrastructure
To capitalize on this trend, attract new residents, and avoid losing existing ones, managers of multifamily properties are focusing on ensuring their buildings have strong network infrastructure to support all the smart home devices and platforms. One option, which is quickly becoming popular as it is not expensive or disruptive and equips properties with ultra-high-bandwidth, is to upgrade to the new technology, DOCSIS 3.1. This is a new data transmission standard that enables the delivery of broadband speeds up to 1 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps), but it does so over existing coaxial cable networks – meaning it requires no more equipment than an updated modem. Many property managers consider this to be the best option as it ensures the faster speeds residents want, but without the costly disruption of a full renovation. DOCSIS 3.1 adoption is rapidly expanding across the country.
Alternatively, some property managers opt to install new fiber optic cabling, especially if it coincides with other major renovations. The new wiring enables the building to provide high-bandwidth broadband speeds up to 1 Gbps. It is fairly common to see this occur at new properties as well as older locations with dated wiring. Property managers will want to keep in mind that installing fiber is costly and doing so in existing buildings requires an extensive renovation.
A third option is making simple updates to the existing hardware and equipment, such as upgrading switches or wireless access points. Occasionally, this is all it takes to improve the network enough to support smart homes.
Creating smart buildings
With adequate networks, multifamily properties can support each resident’s smart home technologies, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a seamless experience. Fragmentation is a major pain point – regardless of the network capabilities – making it a leading barrier to smart home technology adoption.
As described by Smart Cities Dive, “It’s pretty challenging to get over the high level of fragmentation that exists in the smart home industry. There are tons of different devices with different manufacturers, operating systems and features. Nobody wants to deal with the hassle of trying to learn multiple devices and platforms and not being able to combine features and resources. Until integration is improved, adoption of certain devices will be capped.”
This is why multifamily property managers are increasingly leveraging new smart community solutions that allow them to integrate a wide variety of smart home devices during the building process. As a result, property managers can provide their residents with move-in ready smart homes – smart buildings – enabling residents to leverage many leading smart home technologies all within one platform, eliminating the hassle of fragmentation.
Residents can use a mobile app to remotely control their smart home devices, including smart garage door openers, door locks, security cameras and other home security gadgets as well as smart thermostats and lights. Because the devices are all integrated, residents who have voice remotes for their entertainment systems can also control their devices that way. Clearly, the benefits are broad, ranging from convenience and luxury to energy-efficiency and safety. And there’s also potential to incorporate additional, preventative safety devices into these smart community solutions, such as sensors for leak or smoke detection. This would bring even more added value to multifamily properties.
“Consider that in multifamily, if a resident doesn’t immediately catch an incident of fire or water damage, that incident will affect other units,” said Felicite Moorman, CEO and co-founder of STRATIS, during her presentation at the recent Building Cities of the Future conference in Tampa, Florida. “Leak sensing and smoke detection are tremendous opportunities to mitigate those damages and reduce loss.”
Multifamily property managers are becoming increasingly aware of these benefits. According to a recent Xfinity Communities survey, 58 percent of them are planning to implement environmentally-friendly technologies, and 49 percent are looking to install smart building solutions. Furthermore, 87 percent reported that technology plays either an extremely or very important role in keeping residents satisfied.
Providing a strong technology infrastructure will continue to be essential, but property managers can’t stop there anymore. Just as we have all embraced smart phones and now smart homes, they need to embrace smart buildings, by leveraging smart community solutions to create the best experience for residents.
Michael Slovin is the vice president of national sales for XFINITY Communities, Comcast’s business unit focused on bringing XFINITY services to the multifamily industry. In this role, he is responsible for national sales, sales operations and developing programs that improve the community and resident experience. Michael previously was the director of business development for Sprint and general manager for Winstar. In these roles, he was responsible for building and leading sales organizations focused on the enterprise market. He brings more than 20 years of sales, operations and marketing leadership experience in the telecommunications and cable industries and has additionally held senior sales leadership positions with MCI Communications (now Verizon Communications).