Thursday, December 21, 2006

New Media Keeps Consumers Connected

Looking at BIGresearch's Simultaneous Media Studies, today's consumer feels a need to stay connected and that need is driving the adoption and usage of new media.

Consumers' usage of TiVo/Replay TV, Satellite Radio and iPod/MP3 Players lead the way with regular usage for TiVo/Replay TV up 88.1%, 79.9% for Satellite Radio and 72.1% for iPod/MP3. Meanwhile, traditional media usage has declined as consumers seek to integrate new media options into their busy lifestyles. Joe Pilotta of BIGresearch concludes "What should be apparent... is that the mobile, intermittent and attentive lifestyle is a fact and connectivity is key to this lifestyle." BIGresearch (Click on Complimentary Top Line Findings.)

So why do you care as a property owner? Because most apartment buildings hinder, much less help to enable, the connected lifestyle. TiVo has all kinds of great features, and most people that own one don't know how they ever watched TV without it, yet many buildings aren't optimized to let residents make full use of the technology. It's just been in the past few years that buildings have been wired for data services, and most owners still subject themselves to the limitations of partnering with a single service provider. NMHC surveys show that poor service affects retention, so it's important to know both what your residents want and how your communities need to be wired to provide quality services.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tech Forecast '07

For their December issue, Multi-Housing News interviewed executives from some of the industry's leading vendors to get their thoughts about what technologies and software capabilities will be big in 2007. Companies offering their input included London Computer Systems, Saflok, First Advantage SafeRent and PropertyBridge. Multi-Housing News

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

AT&T Accuses TWC of Network Sabotage

AT&T is alleging in a lawsuit that Time Warner Cable employees conducted a "methodical invasion" of AT&T's network facilities in apartment buildings. Time Warner had no immediate comment on the suit, which alleges millions of dollars in "willful, wanton and systematic" damage. Houston Chronicle

...And the saga continues. Although the names might have changed, we have noted this fight before, and it's something that is likely only going to get worse as long as apartment owners allow it to happen. If you're going to allow multiple providers onto your property, make sure that you have a plan and that you understand who is responsible for all those wires, especially if you're the one who owns them. Ideally, each provider should ride on their own network so no two companies have to share at the property level. Otherwise, stories like this one will persist, and your residents will be the ones that suffer because of it.

New TVs Lead to More Home Parties

To the chagrin of movie theaters everywhere, more than half of all Americans say they are staying home more than they did two years ago to enjoy high-tech entertainment. And new technology such as wide-screen and HDTV has turned TV-watching into a social event, according to research conducted by Synovate. Marketing Daily

TVs are only getting cheaper and better, which means this trend will continue to increase and we need new ways of thinking about living unit design and materials. Flat-panel televisions are good-looking, and essentially serve double duty as entertainment devices and status symbols. As more residents come home from Best Buy with their new 50" LCDs, it's important to be thinking about how living room walls may need to be reinforced at locations near TV outlets to accommodate for hanging of these behemoth beauties. Also, as more people stay home and invite friends over to enjoy a game or a movie, improved sound dampening will become increasingly important in dense communities.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Save Energy and Space

As energy management systems become increasingly popular, it will be important for multifamily property owners to utilize those systems that give them an increased level of control not only at the appliances themselves, but from leasing offices and corporate offices.

We'll have more on remotely-manageable energy management systems in future posts, but for now, I want to mention the tax credits available to owners that install tankless water heaters in their communities. Last year, the government approved a credit of up to $300 per unit on tankless heaters like those offered by Rinnai to promote the energy savings of these heaters. Besides conserving energy, these water heaters conserve space, too - a typical apartment unit can gain 16 square feet of living space by replacing a conventional water heater with a tankless model!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fast Stat: Video Quality

84% of online households consider video quality to be important in their home entertainment system.

From CEA Market Research, Home Theater Opportunities, September 2006.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fast Stat: Energy Management

32% of new home buyers who did not purchase an energy management system say they regret not purchasing one.

From CEA Market Research, New Home Buyer and Technology Purchases, 2006.

More Phone Customers Cutting the Cord

Harris Interactive released the results of a nationwide online survey of adults conducted in August, which focused primarily on consumers' attitudes toward receiving advertising messages on their cell phones. Wireless advertising is growing, but is still a long way from mass acceptance by consumers or any relevant uses for our industry. Harris Interactive

More interesting, though, was the fact that 38% of wireless subcribers say they now consider wireless to be their primary form of communication, and 36% believe that cell phone service is more direct than land line phone service. Granted, this survey was only given online, but considering the fact that there are over 200 million cell phones in the U.S., it certainly means that more and more consumers are cutting the cord and going wireless only.

This trend hits the multifamily industry in a number of different ways. Owners can't cut the expense of wiring for land line phone service yet, but cellular network boosters are increasingly becoming a reasonable investment at most properties. Don't stop there, though - fewer land lines mean changes to access control and security systems, intercoms, and even some TV networks. Do your homework to find equipment that doesn't rely on hardwired phone communications, and you'll find your building will be the one dialed in to your residents' lifestyle.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Blurry Line Between TV and Web

Broadcast and cable networks are moving shows between TV and the Web platforms, seeking ways to make money from downloads and online advertisements. "This is definitely the Wild West in some ways," said Adam Berrey, VP of marketing and strategy at online video company Brightcove. Washington Post

In one of the experiments fusing TV and Internet, "iVillage Live" is a daytime talk show premiering today that is giving viewers the chance to see their homemade videos on TV. The videos will be selected from among the most popular submitted to the show's companion site. MediaPost

This melding of technology platforms could have a number of possible implications for property owners. Besides an ever-growing need for bandwidth to accommodate HDTV programs and streaming Internet downloads, this trend could mean that traditional agreements with service providers will get increasingly sticky. Programming distributors now will not only have to provide quality telecom services, but also will have to offer an appealing mix of multi-platform programming deals. Any provider not offering the right mix of both service and programming choices will be at a serious disadvantage, but property owners will have to do a lot more to keep themselves educated about the options their residents want most.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Shopping for the "Verizon Experience"

Companies including Verizon and AT&T have recently have opened stores that let customers browse, handle the products and ask questions. "The big proposition here is to experience the product and try it," said Robert E. Ingalls Jr., EVP and CMO of Verizon Communications. "Seeing it, touching it and feeling it gives them a better opportunity to make a decision." NY Times

A byproduct of increased competition, service providers that are vying for your residents' business are reaching out to them in many different ways like this to win them over. These stores can be great learning tools for your property staff, too. They're an easy way to keep up on the latest technologies available, and they'll give you a good idea whether your property is offering competitive service or whether you have some catching up to do.