The rise of remote and hybrid work lifestyles, along with the expanding smart tech spectrum, has created challenges and opportunities for multifamily, mixed-use, and commercial buildings. The proptech (property technology) industry is scaling to address these developments by delivering new technologies, systems, and services that increase energy efficiency, lower operating costs, and improve occupant experience.
In a 2022 survey conducted by Allbridge, more than 300 decision-makers in the multifamily, hospitality, and student housing industries weighed in on the top proptech priorities that were driving building upgrades and renovations to meet occupants’ changing needs in this year. Here are the top five.
1. Network speed and reliability must match demand.
The network is the backbone of an evolving technological ecosystem in a building. Without a robust network, most other building technologies will be unable to connect and perform necessary functions. Several mixed-use and multifamily buildings need to re-evaluate and upgrade their networks to match the increasing demand of connected devices and occupants. According to survey responses, property managers rank Wi-Fi higher on their priority lists than amenities such as entertainment options. Meanwhile, more than half of respondents said they plan to upgrade their network in 2023 to remain competitive.
With each household subscribing to an average of 4.7 streaming services, the ability to support streaming on top of video teleconferencing is increasingly important. Consistent with this trend, our survey respondents ranked network speed and reliability as more important proptech priorities than network security or workforce management.
Property managers wondering whether their networks need upgrading should start with an audit. The audit collects information about the property’s network hardware, software, upload/download speeds, reliability, cabling type, and IT support system. Collecting occupant feedback is also valuable, which can be done through incentivized surveys that ascertain resident satisfaction with the network speed and reliability, how they are using the network (for example, for video conferencing, streaming, email), and identify network strengths and areas for improvement. Property managers can use audit and survey results to compare with, for example, standard Wi-Fi performance targets of 60 MB per device, up to 200 MB per unit with low (less than 30 milliseconds) latency.
2. Convenience tech is top of mind.
Tech amenities were among respondents’ highest priorities, particularly with the rise in contactless technology and the increasing integration of smart devices in daily life. Motion-activated lighting, access control systems, smart locks, and smart plugs not only increase occupant satisfaction, but also increase building security and energy efficiency.
For existing buildings, surveying the low voltage electrical infrastructure will help identify where new integrations and upgrades can be made. For full-building technology scenarios, this process should include assessments on interoperability, flexibility, scalability, user experience, and intuitiveness. For new builds, designing a technology foundation before the floor plans are defined is recommended.
Tech amenities were among respondents’ highest priorities, particularly with the rise in contactless technology and the increasing integration of smart devices in daily life.
In these cases, many providers will offer individual point solutions. However, a complete property technology provider can partner with construction teams. By doing so, they can deliver professional new construction planning services from inception to completion—from design and build to support. Further, they can ensure a fully integrated, scalable ecosystem for all property technologies. These teams are knowledgeable about the latest trends, system requirements, and future demands to ensure maximum performance. Early preparation will ensure new and future building technologies won’t be limited by the available bandwidth, coverage, cabling runs, or access control.
3. Energy management is a key concern.
According to survey respondents, energy management ranks at the top of the priority list for properties. Driven by occupants’ climate concerns and ballooning energy costs, property managers are looking for ways to integrate technologies such as smart meters, smart appliances, and smart building management systems to increase energy efficiency. A strategic approach to energy management can lower operating costs and increase property value while increasing marketability to potential occupants. In particular, a robust network is critical for connecting the front-end room technologies to the back-end building management systems to ensure everything is working in concert.
4. TV remains a top entertainment source.
Streaming is augmenting—but not replacing—television. According to our survey, 44% of respondents plan to offer both TV and streaming for their occupants. Few survey respondents plan to cut the cord in favor of streaming. Providing both TV and streaming or casting can satisfy occupant wishes for the full spectrum of entertainment options.
This can be achieved in a variety of ways. Some buildings have implemented systems that deliver traditional TV services through existing coaxial cables, with streaming services or casting apps delivered via Wi-Fi or ethernet cables. Others may choose to outfit rooms with smart TVs that rely on Wi-Fi or ethernet and include traditional TV programming apps.
5. Property managers want to simplify tech vendors.
Properties can have more than 30 different tech systems and vendors, complicating an already complex ecosystem. Consolidating this array down to fewer providers can reap rewards for a building’s proptech structure. Working with a partner that approaches technology holistically and can support owners and their end users throughout the entire building lifecycle can bring distinct advantages, such as newfound interoperability, speedier troubleshooting and issue resolution, simplified support services, and more consistent resident experiences. Property managers should follow a proptech strategy that engages solution providers early in the design phase to deliver a strong infrastructure and the best tech to meet the needs and expectations of today’s occupants.
Property managers should follow a proptech strategy that engages solution providers early in the design phase to deliver a strong infrastructure and the best tech to meet the needs and expectations of today’s occupants.
Partnering with a managed services provider (MSP) to oversee and operate a building’s vast tech ecosystem, including Wi-Fi, telecommunications, entertainment, and security, offers many benefits. An MSP can own and maintain all equipment as well as own the whole process from pre-installation design to post-installation support. Contracting with a partner that provides cloud-based services can future-proof property infrastructure with cloud-delivered updates that eliminate the need for cumbersome on-site updates and scale with property growth. Monthly contracts can also help simplify budget planning for equipment. With an MSP, equipment and installation costs are covered in the monthly cost, removing the need for management to request unbudgeted expenses or to scour the budget for funds to reallocate toward the latest tech projects.
Given how occupants’ changing lifestyles have created new demands, building managers should develop proptech blueprints and upgrade plans that address priority needs and create room for future growth. Proptech will continue to evolve and increase efficiencies. The key is establishing a foundation that allows buildings to evolve alongside it.