Ten years is not a very long time in the multifamily world. But in technology, ten years is an eon.
One of the greatest challenges in real estate today is reconciling these two very different timelines. Real estate leaders need to make technology choices that are smart and strategic today, but also prepare their properties for the decades ahead.
If this describes you, then you’re in luck: You’re entering Smart Apartment 2029, an open house from the future. In 2029, technology has impacted virtually every piece of the multifamily business, from construction and renovation to leasing and retaining residents. Things will look familiar to you, but also very different.
Have no fear. We’ll show you around the place, along with how to bridge the gap from here to there. After all, the best time to start preparing for the future is today.
Taking a Tour of Smart Apartment 2029
Welcome to the future. The year is 2029, and you just scheduled a self-guided tour of our community (most walkthroughs are self-guided these days).
Walking in the demo unit, the first thing you notice is how familiar it feels. Sure, the design has evolved, and people are carrying around cooler looking smartphones. But all-in-all, you feel comfortable and at home in the smart apartment of the future.
That is, until the apartment starts talking to you.
“Hello, what can I help you with today?” it chimes from a small speaker in the ceiling.
Smart Apartment 2029 is equipped with a digital concierge that can turn on your lights, rent a vehicle from the car-sharing port downstairs, or help you find a movie on Futureflix. The AI is so good that you can talk to it naturally.
Digital assistants first became popular in the late 2010s and have become must-have amenities by 2029. Residents love the convenience of getting anything done with just the sound of their voice. Of course, every resident has control over their privacy and can choose how to engage with the voice assistant.
You decide to order a car to take you home after your visit.
The next thing you notice is the appliances. The refrigerator has a digital image of all the food inside of it. You click on the pork shoulder on the top shelf and a list of recipes appears, all based on the food you have in stock. Missing an ingredient? There’s a one-click buy option to have it delivered to the unit within hours.
Looking around, you realize that virtually everything in Smart Apartment 2029 is, well, smart. From the windows to appliances, light bulbs to locks, there are dozens of IoT devices in each unit.
This shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Way back in 2019, Ericson predicted there would be 29 Billion connected devices by 2022. Today (in 2029), there are likely 50 billion devices or more.
“Geez, the electrical bills around here must be astronomical,” you say to yourself. With all the connected devices, it’s a fair assumption. But you’d be wrong. You look at the utility costs from the last 12 months. Not only have they not increased, but they’ve actually gone down.
How? Thanks to the ubiquitous adoption of smart windows, PoE lighting, and fully-integrated smart building systems, Smart Apartment Building 2029 is at least 50% more efficient than buildings from 2019.
One last thing catches your eye. The utility costs are not displayed on a paper bill, or even the utility company’s website. They are in a mobile app called MySmartApartment2029. The app is essentially a remote control for the apartment: it allows residents to pay rent and utilities (including wifi), remotely lock their doors, schedule their lights, and order on-demand services like dog walkers.
As you leave Smart Apartment 2029 to catch your ride, you reflect on what you just witnessed: Apartments themselves have not changed, but the living experience has.
Preparing for the Future of Smart Apartments Today
It’s easy to brush off the promise of future technology as something you’ll get to later. But by the time that day comes, it might be too late. Even though Smart Apartment 2029 is cutting edge by today’s standards, it will soon be the norm. And no property wants to just be “the norm.”
Multifamily communities that start adopting new technology today will enjoy first-mover advantages for the next decade or more. Plus, adopting the right technology first will save you money and headache in the future.
Here’s what properties should do today to prepare for the next decade of innovation:
Start with Network Infrastructure
Currently (we’re back in 2019 now), cellular carriers are racing to become the global leader in 5G. What’s the first thing they do? No, they don’t start by releasing new 5G-enabled smartphones. First, they are building the infrastructure to support devices.
Makes sense, right? Yet most properties that try to be “smart” start with buying IoT devices like thermostats and locks. Instead, you should start with the network infrastructure: Property-wide wifi, Bluetooth, and sensors. Network infrastructure allows devices to work seamlessly together, making the entire building more efficient and convenient.
For example, to achieve the 50% reduction in energy usage like we saw in Smart Apartment 2029, the building’s HVAC system needs to communicate directly with the lights, thermostats, and windows in the building. That’s not possible without network infrastructure in place.
Install a Building Operating System
Remember the MySmartAmartment2029 app from our tour? That is an example of a building operating system in action.
The building operating system runs on top of the network infrastructure. Properties can install new devices and services as easily as you download apps to your smartphone. It also creates a simple user interface for both residents and managers.
With an operating system in place, residents can control all of their devices from a single app (like MySmartApartment2029). Additionally, managers can collect building-wide data from these devices. All of this data allows properties to find opportunities to run more efficiently and create a better resident experience.
Most importantly, a building operating system will allow you to adapt to new technologies more quickly. Devices can be swapped in and out without having to rebuild the connection from scratch.
Adopt the “As a Service” Mindset
The most significant innovation we’ll see this decade is the rise of concierge services. More and more people are choosing to rent instead of own. With that, residents expect a new level of service from their properties. We saw this trend play out in Smart Apartment 2029: the digital assistant, smart appliances, and the self-guided tour.
To stay ahead of the curve, multifamily communities should continuously ask themselves, “How can we provide more things ‘as a service’?” From dog walkers to wifi, residents want amenities that make their lives easier. Hospitality and multifamily are converging, and it’s unlikely to stop anytime soon.
2019 to 2029: The Smart Apartment Decade
If you’ve been following proptech news lately, then nothing we saw in Smart Apartment 2029 should surprise you. We’re still in the early years of the Smart Apartment era, but the path forward is clear:
The rise of IoT, AI, and proptech will inevitably lead to apartments that are more autonomous, convenient, and efficient.
The only question is, will you be ready? Don’t wait until 2029 to prepare. The time to start investing in this technology is today. Lay the foundation with network infrastructure and a building operating system. Then adopt the “As a Service” mindset so that you’re always a step ahead of your residents’ wishes.
It’s time to think big. 2029 might feel like a long way off, but the future of living is already here.