Reimagining the Concept of the “Smart Apartment”
Welcome to the first installment of the Episense Blog Series. Years ago the former Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, said, “Connectivity will soon be all around us, like oxygen – you won’t even be aware of it. Put simply, the internet we know today is about to disappear.” Today, his words seem like nothing revolutionary, and the first movers in the “smart technology” space did, in fact, attempt to capture the allure of these connections. But as time has passed and we’ve grown a deeper understanding of what truly constitutes connection and what it could allow us to do, we’re beginning to reimagine what is actually possible.
The Difference Between Digital & Smart
Remember when hotel rooms had toothed metal keys attached to a huge “17” placard? Yes, some boutique hotels still feature these, but more commonplace are RFID scanners paired with credit card sized access control “keys”. Do we consider these new “keys” “smart”? I’d argue many people believe they are. But are they really? Think about it. The new “key”, while not made of metal and attached to a giant plastic number tag that is sure to jab you in the thigh when you sit down, doesn’t have any more intelligence associated with it, save reprogrammability. In the hospitality industry, where the turnover rate is extraordinarily high, there is good reason to warrant the adoption of this technology.
In the MDU, however, does this provide enough value to really position the unit as “smart”? As “intelligent”? My answer is a resounding no. Black plastic keys, credit card size keys, key pads and the like are all simply digital realizations of a metal toothed key. The real value in a “smart lock” comes from its complete functionality without existing as any physical form of a “key”. In other words, a real “smart key” and “smart lock” shouldn’t be tangible. It shouldn’t be one more carry-on item you have to worry about misplacing. A lock and key should no longer exist as two separate entities, but rather as one interconnected system.
Unlocking Untapped Intelligence
Now, let’s talk about “smart locks”. A truly “smart lock” should be usable from anywhere, at any time. Plain and simple. If you are required to be at the door at the time you are using the lock, it shouldn’t be considered “smart”. After all, it doesn’t contain any “intelligence”. Imagine if a purely digital HVAC unit was left on, and you were to leave for an extended period of time. That unit would run and run and run, skyrocketing your electric bill. Think of that in regards to the lock. While in the same scenario you left your digital lock unlocked, it would remain unlocked until someone with knowledge of the lock changed its status. When adding intelligence to these devices, you’ve added control from anywhere. Turn off the HVAC system, lock the door, and have the peace of mind that you’re always in control of your home.
Management’s Daily Routine, Uninterrupted
Residents, empowered by the management staff, feel ownership of their units. We refer to the apartment as “your home” when speaking with the current lease holder. With these concepts widely accepted, I’ve never met a resident that didn’t believe what they wanted to talk to me about wasn’t the most important matter in both our worlds at the very moment. Willfully interrupting a prospect’s conversation about what they’re looking for was commonplace, and there MUST be an easier resolution than to leave the prospect waiting in order to address a resident’s issue.
The solution? Automation. When residents have been thoroughly educated on the intelligence of their homes, there will be less additional need for interruptions to a leasing agent’s daily routines. Work orders for HVAC, or even propped doors as we spoke about in the last blog entry, can be automated as one would expect in what we like to call a “brilliant building”. This means less time being reactive and more time being proactive. And this reverberates throughout the entirety of the everyday.
Imagine not sending your leasing agents to spend the last 45 minutes of each day “closing” vacant units. Imagine, as a community or property manager, not having to interrupt your report creation, PO submission, close-out procedures, etc. to go out on the “floor” and cover for a leasing agent scrambling to find the proper keys to the proper units to “close” them out in the proper way!
Inside Episense’s managerial dashboard there is a configurable “open” and “close” workflow to accomplish ALL of these things immediately. That’s right. No, I am not making this up. Instantly, make sure all the doors are locked, all the thermostats are correctly set, and, if you so choose, all the blinds are closed. Now 45 minutes, and probably a leasing agent’s renewed positive attitude, later and you’re still rocking through your revenue generating activities instead of simply “closing” the community. If that’s not enough to investigate smart technologies then I may have the wrong audience. But I’ll add one additional piece to the puzzle.
The Net Effect
The monetary impact of inefficient time use should be clear. Elevating the resident experience with smart thermostats explains itself. The increased resident satisfaction from fewer work order submissions is intrinsic to this kind of implementation. And being able to say, without question, that this will save the resident AND the ownership group money is as plain as day. Adding all these pieces up should prompt fireworks, red carpets, bottles of champagne and John Williams conducting a symphony for all adopters. A little much, yes, but that’s how we try to make our residents feel, and now you’ll have yet another way to get them feeling more at home then ever before.
VP, Business Development