When the “Internet of Things” Impacts the Apartment Industry

September 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm 1 comment

An interesting article on Wired.com looks at how the ‘internet of things” could impact landlords in New York City in the immediate future:

To guard the safety and health of tenants, New York and many other cities require landlords to keep inside temperatures above a certain level from October until May. But not all building owners and managers follow the rules. Each year, heating complaints are either the number one or number two most frequent complaint to New York’s government services and information line, 3-1-1, says Tom Hunter, the spokesperson for a volunteer effort called Heat Seek NYC, citing data from the siteNYC OpenData

Tenants can sue landlords over this, but historically, they’ve had to rely on their own hand written records of how cold their apartments get. And these records haven’t always held up in court. Heat Seek NYC hopes solve that problem by building internet-connected heat sensors to monitor the conditions of apartment buildings in order to provide a reliable, objective record that tenants and advocacy groups can use in court…

Heat Seek NYC founders William Jeffries and Tristan Siegel met earlier this year atThe Flatiron School , one of many “code bootcamps” popping up around the country to teach students the basics of programming in a matter of months. As he said in a recent interview, Jeffries thought a web app for recording and reporting apartment temperatures using a programmable sensor device called Twine would make a good class project, and Siegel jumped at the idea…

One of the obvious limitations to such a scheme is the need for internet access. The team overcame this limitation by creating a system that depends on two different devices: cells and hubs. Cells are distributed throughout the building, and report their data back to the hub, which then transmits all of the data to the web. The cells can all connect locally with each other and to the hub, so only one tenant needs to have access to the internet to provide connectivity to the hub. In cases where there’s no one in the building that can provide internet access for the hub, Heat Seek NYC will provide a free WiFi hotspot.

While this story doesn’t have direct relevance to the apartment industry here in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina, the technological concepts will very likely become applicable soon. We’ve been hearing about the “internet of things” for several years now, but it’s mostly been theoretical. Stories like this highlight how quickly that can change and it doesn’t have to be radically expensive.

Think about the practical applications that the technology in this story could have if you simply thought of it as a management tool versus an enforcement tool. A property manager could use something like this to monitor temperature swings in their communities, and if they noticed exceptionally high or low temps they could have maintenance check to make sure the thermostat in a unit is working correctly. If it is then they can make a necessary repair and if it isn’t they can work with the occupant to make sure they understand how the thermostat works and how they can save money if they use it differently.

It doesn’t take much imagination to think of other applications that could benefit manager and resident alike, and it’s probably a matter of when, not if, we’ll see these new technologies coming on line.

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Entry filed under: Management, Technology. Tags: , , , .

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