Thursday, December 22, 2005

NMHC Wants to Set the Standard

For the benefit of all, check out the NMHC's MITS website.

NMHC and NAA are supporting an industry-wide initiative to establish a standard data architecture that should enhance and support the development of systems solutions for the apartment industry. This initiative is called the "Multifamily Information and Transactions Standard" (MITS) project. To date, the standards initiative has established seven separate transactions-based standards, including marketing/ILS, leasing, property maintenance, property physical asset, resident screening and several others.

As the MITS website states, "A single data standard will enable apartment firms to improve their operations and reduce their costs by making systems integration and data exchange technologies more effective and efficient. The final product envisioned from this effort is a data dictionary and extensible mark-up language (XML) schema that will collectively facilitate data exchange and transmission." (Find more information on XML here.)

MITS has the potential to become an extremely important standard if and when it is embraced by the key players in the industry. The data standard will allow property owners to streamline their operations, integrate more building systems and offer more services to their residents than ever before. Stay tuned to NMHC for more details...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Pondering the Apartment of the Future

Industry executives took some time out with Multi-Housing News this month to muse about their visions for the apartment of the future. (View the full article here.) A number of various themes were discussed, including security, access control, wireless services, and even digital artwork. Even with the hodgepodge of viewpoints, the overriding ideas seem to be increased differentiation and site control for owners, greater customization and services available for the resident, and a greater effort to promote connectivity between the two.

And thinking of customization, what will rents look like in the future? If a resident will be able to configure their apartment to their preferences, and they will be able to select various upgrade packages for in-home electronics and other amenities, doesn't it make sense to move toward a variable rent model? Allowing residents to upgrade their apartment will make it feel more like a home, and create great opportunities to increase rental income per unit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Thou Shalt Not Steal Thy Neighbor's Internet

As wireless Internet becomes more readily available, it's quickly becoming much easier to log on for free wherever you go, especially in urban areas. In an article on CNN/Money, Steve Hargreaves covers the increasingly popular activity of logging onto a nearby WiFi connection. (View the full article here.)

Legally, there are many questions still unanswered about this kind of "theft." Federal prosecution is decided on a case by case basis. Local laws can sometimes offer more clarity. In any case, it appears like it will be difficult to determine what liability issues exist. It should be noted that a man in Florida was arrested last month for stealing Internet from a home while sitting nearby in his parked vehicle. (More on this here.)

One interesting point for the multifamily industry: one expert cited in the article specifically mentions that cases in multifamily communities may be handled differently, and with less regard, than those in single-family neighborhoods. As an owner, it will become increasingly more common to offer ubiquitous wireless access as an amenity in units and throughout a property's common areas. It will also become increasingly more important to ensure that your provider offers access that is properly secured and restricted to residents and staff members. Fusion Broadband is one such service provider that offers secure WiFi in the unit as an add-on to their regular high speed Internet service.

Monday, August 08, 2005

DirecTV Just Got Easier

DirecTV announced last week that they have introduced a simplified system to deliver their television programming to apartments and condominiums. (View the release here.) This new receives over 225 channels from multiple satellites and distributes them over a single wire to the living unit. The resident can still get all of their national, local and high-definition programming as well.

Previously the DirecTV system required multiple wires running to each apartment, which increased installation costs and limited service options. MDU Communications, a leading provider of DirecTV services to multifamily communities, was the first dealer to utilize the new technology in a 274-unit property in lower Manhattan.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Building Security: For Best Results, Use Layers

An article by Maxwell Stevens of RTKL that was recently published in Buildings Magazine covers some of the designs and equipment being used in today's access control and intrusion detection systems. (View the full article here.) The article suggests utilizing a multiple-layered design - he refers to these layers as "rings."

Rings of Security
In a multifamily environment, security is an important issue to consider for any property. Using this ring concept, the perimeter security ring at an apartment community might include a boundary fence, an access gate controlled by a card reader or a toll-style RFID reader, and a telephone intercom system to allow guests to request entry into the community. Surveillance cameras could be mounted to record activities at the gate and around the property.

The second ring might include more card or RFID readers at garages, individual buildings, and any common areas like a clubhouse that the owner may want to restrict access. Parking lots and outdoor common areas should be well lit and can be monitored by more security cameras.

A third ring of security would include cameras that monitor interior hallways and electronic door locks on individual unit doors. These electronic door locks offer powerful reporting tools for property owners. Also, they do not need to be rekeyed when residents move out, and they can still be used when the power goes out. (See an example here.) Individual monitored security alarm systems can also be installed in the property's offices and each living unit.

Student Housing
An extra ring of security is also appearing, particularly in student housing communities. With the popularity of the lease by the bed leasing format, many students could possibly be living with suitemates that they don't know and don't necessarily like or trust. For this reason, some student housing developers are adding electronic door locks at each bedroom door. And rather than a set of keys, residents only require a single card to access their suite, their room, and all the property amenities such as the fitness center and laundry facilities.

Mixed Use/Lifestyle Centers
The "Lifestyle Center," or mixed-use development - a community-centric development that usually incorporates a mix of residential, retail and commercial spaces into a pedestrian-friendly setting - has gained incredible popularity in recent years. Security and access control play an important part in the planning of any mixed-use project: residents need to maintain their privacy and feel secure, but they do not want to be completely secluded from the activity in the rest of the community. And because smart design is such an important feature of these engaging projects, the security systems need to do their job without detracting from the overall aesthetic appeal of the building.

As the article states, security systems are becoming a "key element in protecting life and property" for building owners and their residents. Do your residents feel secure? In the current age of heightened security almost everywhere, what else can be done to thwart would-be criminals? Should security systems be integrated into the initial design planning process, right along with the mechanical and electrical systems? After all, aren't they just as important to your residents?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Will I Need to Reboot My Home Theater?

Digital packets. Everywhere.

This is the new face of how we produce, distribute and consume media in today's "digital lifestyle." Essentially any information or content that can be recorded - movies, music, books, magazines, television, radio, phone conversations - is being stored and distributed as digital packets of information. And as consumers get more acquainted with the Internet and newer technologies such as IPTV, RSS feeds, and podcasting, they'll be looking for simpler, more convenient ways to access all of their media when and where they please.

An article from MediaDailyNews discusses how the personal computer is emerging as the device of choice for consumers looking for a centralized hub for all of their personal media. (View the full article here.) Some of the statistics reported by the market research firms cited in the article seem to indicate a growing familiarity and interest in these "digital media hubs." (It does seem that the studies were conducted primarily online, which could possibly skew the data toward those with a higher propensity to be interested in such technologies.) And with Microsoft and others putting big dollars into software development for these systems, its easy to see that this interest will continue to grow.

As interest grows in these media hubs, progressive real estate developers should be thinking about the capabilities that become possible with a media server in every home in a community. Cable/satellite TV and high-speed Internet are becoming common amenities at many properties, but what's next? Maybe on-demand videos or XM radio in your unit. Maybe you could access your iPod from the billiards room in the clubhouse. How about content packages customized for each resident. (It's not as far off as it sounds.) Really, who wants to wait for Netflix when you can download a movie from the leasing office anytime in a matter of minutes? Developers who are interested in such options should be looking to partner with those who understand how the techology is progressing and being used. A smartly designed property and great partnerships with your content providers will go a long way to make your community stand out in the eyes of today's tech-savvy buyer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Home Improvement Sees Benefits of Smart Homes

From the Associated Press:

Builders See Smart Homes as Intelligent Decisions for Homeowners

New homes with a mind of their own may seem futuristic to homeowners but not to the nation's home builders.

According to a survey of more than 1,000 home builders, the reality of the "smart home" is here and now.

A majority of builders -- nearly two in three -- say they already construct homes with an eye on "smart home" technology as it exists now and how it may yet evolve. The idea of ordering your oven to preheat as you sit in an office or turning on lights and adjusting thermostats as you're stuck in traffic will be commonplace, along with dozens if not hundreds of other in-home possibilities.

The survey, by home center retailer Lowe's, is a sign that high-tech homes are going mainstream in the housing sector.

According to David Steed, senior vice president of merchandising for Lowe's, that builders have warmed to creation of homes in sync with laptops or programmed for household functions is evidence that homeowners best be aware of more than bricks and mortar as they build their next home or undertake a major home renovation.

"Builders are keenly aware of how their business is changing and being driven by technology considerations," says Steed. "It's not a trend as much as it is simply the way home building is going."

Yet homeowners aren't in the dark about the enlightened possibilities. Some 51 percent of builders say their customers ask for the technology now.

And the pace of smart home technology seems poised to rapidly gain greater steam. The majority of builders see smart homes as having already arrived or just a few years away from catching on across the housing spectrum. Only 14 percent think the concept is five or more years away from widespread acceptance.

Right now, smart home technology centers on preparing a home to accept -- or be ready to accept -- various technologies.

Scott Goodelle, of Pass and Seymour, a supplier of what is described as high function junction boxes that bundle phone, broadcast and Internet technology through one spot in the house, says houses today offer "structured wiring," meaning that builders run high-capacity cables throughout the home to link rooms, appliances and entertainment devices. He suggests builders include additional wiring capacity during construction or remodeling so the home is ready to adapt as technologies and needs change.

Just how and when those changes occur is anyone's guess. Steed of Lowe's says that while beefed-up wiring in a home seems simple, having it centralized with easy access for upgrades and adaptations is the linchpin that will allow a home to change along with technology."

Although the cost to adequately wire a home -- Goodelle pegs cable costs at a nickel per foot -- adds incrementally to construction costs, homeowners would do well to take a long term view that their home will be in a state of readiness as technology becomes available. A so-called smart home can also be viewed as a plus by potential buyers during resale. One-quarter of builders say homeowner perception that the added cost isn't worth it may be a significant barrier to smart home technology.

For their part, builders think homeowners will gravitate to smart homes over time. One-third of builders say the concept will take off as consumers see smart home technology featured in show or display homes.

The survey was taken among attendees at the International Builder Show in Orlando, Fla. (January 2005)

Friday, July 22, 2005

High-Speed Internet is a Must Have

Following a trend that we have certainly been seeing for a while now, Multi-Housing News reported last month that more and more Class B and C properties throughout the country are offering high-speed Internet access and business centers as amenities for their residents. (Read the full article here.)

High-speed Internet is definitely becoming a must-have amenity, almost another utility in some cases. People are consuming more media than ever, and broadband Internet service simply rounds out the basic communications package of TV and phone - you'll see this often referred to as the "triple play." Wireless Internet access in common areas is another common amenity, and more properties will begin offering wireless access in units, either as a service to complement the existing wired network or as a stand-alone alternative to wiring altogether. (Either way, wireless has its pros and cons, but that's a topic for a different day. At some point we'll have to cover broadband over powerlines too.)

Designing a building with high speed data services in mind is more important than ever, especially considering what the major telecom and satellite companies are planning for the near future. Eventually all of your services will be delivered over data networks; just look at newer technologies like VoIP and IPTV. Even security systems can being monitored over data networks instead of the traditional phone line.

The fight for your business is quickly turning into a race to offer the most services at the highest speeds. Verizon and SBC want to run optical fiber into your building so they can get into the TV business and increase the speed of their Internet service. DirecTV isn't known for their Internet service, but they're trying to keep up by pledging to offer over 1,500 channels in High Definition over 5 or more different satellites.

With all the players vying for your business, this technology stuff can get messy in a hurry. And who knows what new technologies and methods of delivery the future holds? Could the next resident amenity be satellite radio or online gaming? If your building is designed to grow with these things in mind, you'll be far ahead of the game when the next hot trend hits the market.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

MHN Technology Choice Awards

Multi-Housing News Magazine is recognizing the top technology product and service providers as part of their Technology Choice Awards. Log onto the Multi-Housing News website or click here to cast your vote today. Voting ends on July 31, and the winners will be announced in their September issue.

Residents On The Go

Mobile content has been a hot topic lately in the media world. There's lot of talk about new applications such as mobile gaming, text messaging, and mobile office connectivity. The hardware includes smartphones, camera/video phones, Blackberries, and iPods and other portable media players. There seems to be no end to the list of features they're trying to cram into your pocket. But you're probably asking why any of this applies to the apartment world.

Well, it could be a great way to keep up with the fast pace of your residents on the go. is one company that is incorporating mobile technology. They currently have a program that will notify you (via email or text message) whenever an event is recorded by your home's security system. Imagine if the multifamily industry harnessed these features: residents can now monitor what is going on in their homes; residents could opt in for offers and account updates from property management; and corporate management companies can keep their management and maintenance staff updated on current building conditions. Communities could partner with local retailers to offer special deals redeemable exclusively by residents. Mobile devices are always with you, and the possibilities are endless. Many properties are already adopting these technologies in one form or another.

It's your turn to get creative. If you've seen a great idea for apartments, or if you have one that you haven't yet seen implemented, let us know what you think. If you work for a property management company, let us know what you've seen that works and what still has room for improvement. And if you're really on the cutting edge, you're probably forwarding this to a co-worker from your Treo right now.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Write for Us

Are you an expert in your field? Do you have a lot to say and want to reach an incredibly targeted audience of apartment professionals? Do you want to write for Multifamily Technology? Then look no further.

We are always on the lookout for experienced writers who are passionate about any aspect of technology and its applications in the multifamily industry. We'd love to have you on board as one of our talented contributors.

Guest Writer Guidelines

  • * Posts must be original pieces written for Multifamily Technology.
  • * Guest posts may be republished on your own site after the post originally appears on Multifamily Technology. Any post that is republished should provide a link back to the original post on this site.
  • * Posts must be non-promotional. However, in return we will provide you a 20 word promotional by-line and author page with an extended bio.
  • * Guest posts are unpaid.

How Do I Apply?

Please email Nancy Kendrick and provide the information listed below. If we feel you are a good fit, we will reach out to you to discuss guest writer opportunities.
  • * Full name
  • * Email address
  • * Link to your blog/website
  • * A brief personal bio
  • * Your areas of expertise
  • * Links to at least three relevant posts that demonstrate your expertise and writing ability
  • * What would you like to write about?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Welcome to Multifamily Technology!

Welcome to the Multifamily Technology web log! This is your place to learn and provide feedback about all things technology in multifamily developments such as apartments, condominiums, and student housing. We encourage you to bookmark this page and check back frequently for new postings.

If you live in a multifamily development, tell us what interesting technologies you've seen, what you like or dislike, and what you'd like to see incorporated into your complex. If you work in the multifamily industry, tell us what works and what still needs some work to improve residents' lives and make your job easier. Stay tuned...!

About Multifamily Technology 360°

Multifamily Technology 360° was created to start a conversation about the issues pertaining to technology and telecommunications services in apartments, condos, student housing, mixed-use developments and master-planned communities. MT 360 is brought to you by InfiniSys -- our goal is to bring you the best in new technologies, general news, service provider updates and analysis about the future of multifamily communities.

It is an exciting time in the world of technology -- be it tangible or online -- and it is our job to cover all of it as it relates to multifamily communities. If there is anything that you think we should feature or that we should change, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us. Remember, this is a conversation, and we want you to be a major part of it.