Thursday, August 27, 2015

Smart apartments get real

Forbes is highlighting two instances where smart apartments are becoming real. First, it looks at utility metering company NWP, which has helped apartment owners keep a tab on gas, water and electric use in the past. The firm is now testing certain smart devices, such as locks, thermostats and automated lighting at some of its clients’ apartments in California to see how residents respond. CEO Ron Reed tells the magazine installing the smart devices can help owners save money by being able to turn up or down thermostats when residents move, or eliminate the need to switch out locks. Meanwhile, Greystar Management is working with tech start up Iotas in Portland to install $900 worth of sensors in some of its apartments. It plans to use data from those sensors to recommend ways residents can save money on utilities, as well as market future smart home devices. Seems like two solid steps toward making the much-talked about possibility of smart apartments a reality sooner rather than later.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A DVR and Apple TV included in the rent? Yes, please!

GlobeSt.com has a great article on the history of the amenities arms race in student housing, and how it has evolved since the 1990s. In an interview with Brent Little, president of Dallas-based Fountain Residential Partners, previewing the RealShare Student Housing Conference in Dallas Sept. 1-2, the real-estate investment pub explores how student digs went from austere to over-the-top in just a few decades. Today, we’re at the point where 50-inch flat-screen TVs, DVRs or an Apple TV box – and often all three – are standard offerings for students, included in the rent. But the real rub of the article is Little’s assessment of why these amenities are important, especially in low-barrier-to-entry markets. Basically, for the cost you put into them, they help you compete in an outsized way. When you evaluate the cost of technology amenities, including a robust Internet infrastructure, you’re looking at a very small percentage of the overall budget of a building – a couple hundred thousand bucks on a $40 million project, for instance, or less than one half of one percent. That’s a return even a freshman econ student can understand. Read the full article here.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mediamageddon, NFL Sunday Ticket, and the importance of your apartment building's Internet pipe

Tech guru Shelly Palmer – one of MDU Geek’s favorite bloggers -- put out an interesting piece this week regarding Mediamageddon. The term refers to the recent sell off in media stocks, which is presumably tied to declining traditional TV viewership.

Then, on the heels of AT&T buying DirecTV, the companies announced that apartment residents and college students who can’t subscribe, er, directly to DirecTV (in situations where their building isn’t wired for it, or landlords won’t allow them to have a dish installed on their balcony) can now buy the flagship NFL Sunday Ticket programming package a la cart via live stream. To boot, they’re offering two-tiered pricing – $49.99 a month for four months for apartment residents, and a “student friendly” price of $24.99 a month for four months for students.

Could the confluence of these events be a sign of things to come? Some popular pay services – HBO Now comes to mind -- already have paid, direct-to-consumer streaming choices that cut networks and cable TV subscriptions out of the loop.


For apartment owners, it’s just another indication that the Internet pipe going into your building is the most important amenity pipe you have, and may well soon be the only one. That being the case, it’s important to wire it right, and get the most from it that you can. We’ll be looking at just that in an upcoming feature, How Much Fiber is Enough, Part 2. In the meantime, check out Part 1, here. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 06, 2015

What’s on your back-to-school tech list?

The Houston Chronicle has a tech-oriented back-to-school shopping list for college students: Bluetooth headphones, a Roku or Apple TV box, and a 5 GHz WiFi router. The headphones are presumably for tuning out your new roommate as they recount every episode of Game of Thrones they watched on their Apple TV. But the last item is interesting in the way the article suggests students use it: to create their own private WiFi network, using the 5 GHz router plugged directly into a wired access point. That way, they won’t have to compete with other students trying to sign onto the dorm’s general WiFi router. The lesson for apartment owners? No matter what you install in your property to connect your residents, some will invariably try to set up their own little network within the network to leapfrog others, especially if the access points in your building cause a bottleneck. So next time your wondering who set up the new WiFi network in your building’s lobby, just look at the guy, or girl, next door. Read the full article here.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cable sees the importance of the Internet. Do apartment owners?


You know you’ve reached a tipping point when even the cable company starts looking past set top boxes. 

For the first time, cable giant Comcast reported it had more high speed Internet customers than cable TV subscribers, according to an Engadget report. The same article noted that Comcast launched its “Stream” online video service just in time to capitalize on the trend. 

That’s notable, of course, as more and more Americans become “cord cutters,” and choose to watch streaming video over an Internet connection rather than subscribe to cable.

But for apartment owners, it also highlights an elephant sitting in the middle of multifamily’s living room. Namely, while residents have been saying for years that a reliable, high-speed Internet connection is the most crucial amenity for any apartment, the industry as a whole still doesn't seem to have heard that message.

That’s the gist of Broadband Communities’ latest MDU Survey, which found that less than 39% of apartment owners were familiar with the term “fiber to the home.” Of course, that's the phrase pros use to designate high quality, high-speed Internet delivered to residential addresses, such as apartments, over fiber-optic lines. 

The magazine concluded, “In general… perceptions of MDU owners and managers toward broadband-related issues, and particularly ultra-broadband issues, continue to lag the perceptions and needs of their own residents.”

For years, multifamily owners have loved to complain about cable providers being inflexible and hard to work with, as well as deaf to their residents’ concerns about customer service, which often ended up at the apartment manager’s door.


But with the combination of these two pieces of news, it’s time for multifamily to start listening to what cable is saying, loud and clear: high quality, high-speed Internet actually is kind of important, after all.