BY MICHAEL SLOVIN
Since the term “Internet of Things” was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton of MIT’s Auto-ID Center and LG announced its first Internet refrigerator plans, it has come to be part of our everyday lives. From smartphones to exercise machines to home electronics, staying connected to the Internet is a must for every individual and family. The number of household items using Wi-Fi networks will only continue to rise. So it should be no surprise that multi-family community association boards are starting to pay close attention to high-speed networking in an effort to meet the ever-growing needs of their residents.
Condo residents are purchasing innovative gadgets at an increasing rate, driving widespread adoption of the Internet of Things. Acquity Group’s 2014 study, “The Internet of Things: The Future of Consumer Adoption,” stated nearly two-thirds of individuals had plans to purchase IoT devices for the home in the next five years and that wearable technology will reach a 28 percent adoption rate by 2016. What this means is more and more devices will be connecting to the Internet. The board must ensure that their buildings’ networks can handle the rising demands without slowing down or crashing.
Building owners can future-proof their condo units and facilities by ensuring that a reliable and scalable Internet and Wi-Fi network is in place. And not only will it ensure current residents remain happy, but it could also become a strong selling point and competitive differentiator in the multi-family market. Another survey of multi-family residents, this one by Broadband Communities, states that high-speed fiber-based broadband access is among the top amenities for both owners and renters.
Three network services considerations
It is clear from these surveys as well as in conversations with community association board members that the Internet of Things has changed the technology landscape for multi-family properties for good. Board members must proactively take the following three steps to invest in network services to ensure their properties can handle the level of traffic required well into the future.
- Careful consideration of the Internet provider
The Internet provider of choice should be considered as an extension of the property management team. This provider will represent the team in its dealing with residents and must be able to provide a reliable Internet and Wi-Fi service to common areas as well as individual units. And regardless of whether these technology services are part of the monthly assessment or are an optional amenity that residents can select, the network must be able to scale up to gigabit speeds. Even if the units do not need that bandwidth now, it is only a matter of time before it is required. Additionally, when selecting the provider, it may be best to choose one that offers Internet, communication and entertainment services – a one-stop shop for residents.
- Customer service by that provider
The management team is not usually the most qualified to handle technology requests as it is not their area of expertise. Thus, it is imperative for the technology provider to have a dedicated customer service team ready and available for residents. These “communication concierges” can assist with installations, billing issues, service changes and a host of other residential concerns, saving board members and association managers valuable time in troubleshooting these issues. Residents receive quality services, and board members can focus on larger tasks related to property maintenance and service.
- Communicate clearly with residents
Make sure to spread the word far and wide of the high-speed Internet and networking access available in your association. Not only should current residents know about these upgrades so they have the confidence to purchase a smart home thermostat or washer, but this will also help differentiate the property within the real estate market. Highlight how the services stand out from others in the area to ensure that there is a waiting list to get into your community association.
Making sure your building and units have the latest in communications technology may not seem like a big thing, but it is a fundamental element in getting the most value for your property. There is a misconception that high-speed Internet is available everywhere and that each multi-family property provides this amenity, leading to disillusioned residents when this proves not to be the case. Prevent residents from souring by making the investment now in network services and stay a step ahead of your real estate competitors.
Michael Slovin is the vice president of XFINITY Communities, Comcast’s business unit focused on bringing XFINITY services to the multifamily industry.