Posts filed under ‘Technology’

When the “Internet of Things” Impacts the Apartment Industry

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.

September 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm 1 comment

How is Tech Changing Your Customer Interaction Experience?

There’s an interesting piece making the social media rounds right now. It’s about a Craigslist post by the management of a New York City restaurant who were trying to determine why their service was so much slower in 2014 than it was in 2004 despite a simplified menu and increased staff. They were able to find security tapes from 2004 and compare them to their current security recordings and here’s part of what they found:

26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.

14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.

27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.

Given in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones it took an average of 20 minutes more from when they were done eating until they requested a check. Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.

8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the Restaurant. 

In the end the restaurant’s management found that in 2004 the average customer was with them for 1 hour and 5 minutes. In 2014 that time had increased to 1 hour and 55 minutes, an increase of about 77%. No wonder they were seeing slower service times and an increase in complaints about slow service.

In the apartment industry we spend a lot of time talking about how technology has changed many aspects of the business – the impact of mobile on the leasing process, how to respond to online reviews, etc. – but we haven’t talked a lot about how these new technologies are changing how we interact with customers on a daily basis. I’d love to hear from you about changes you’ve noticed in your daily interaction with your customers and prospects, and how that’s impacted how you do business. Feel free to email me with any stories or observations you have about the changes you’ve seen as a result of the boom in mobile tech.

July 15, 2014 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment

Is a Text Legally Binding?

AOL Real Estate has an interesting piece on the use of text messaging in landlord-tenant communications. Here’s an interesting tidbit:

Q: What if tenants notify a landlord via text that they plan to move out. Is that considered “written notice?”

A: Yes, Saint Louis attorney Leonard Komen wrote on Avvo.com in response to the question. “Electronic communications in most commercial situations are now considered the equivalent of written communications. You will be hard-pressed to argue you did not get written notice.”

Read the full post for questions related to benefits offered by text, notifying tenants via text of lease changes, etc.

June 24, 2014 at 9:38 pm 2 comments

Internet Trend Report

For your Friday reading pleasure, Mary Meeker’s latest Internet Trends Report:

May 30, 2014 at 5:41 pm Leave a comment

Every Room With a View

Ever have a window without much of a view? Now there’s something you can do about it:

April 24, 2013 at 3:11 pm Leave a comment

Google+ Local

Over at the NAA blog there’s an informative piece on the new Google+ Local service that has replaced Google Places:

The most game-changing feature is the new Google ratings and reviews feature. For several months, users have been able to leave reviews of companies that would show up on the business’ Google Places page. After the revamp, these reviews are front-and-center. As soon as a potential customer puts your name into the search engine, they will be able to see what others have been saying. Google’s star ratings have also been replaced with a Zagat style scoring system. When a user writes a review, they are asked to rate the business on a scale of 0-30. Once enough reviews are compiled Google assigns a score from 0-30, 0 being very poor and 30 is approaching perfection. This number is in a prime location directly under your company name. Because of this, it is VITAL to keep track of your online reputation.  Several bad reviews will mar your image, and will influence prospects to take their business elsewhere. 

Thankfully, Google has also implemented a feature we have often requested, the ability to apply to reviews. Once a review is posted, the owner’s of your page can respond to the post. This gives management the opportunity to shine by offering to right any wrongs that may have been committed in the past.  The more reviews your receive, the easier it is for your page to appear higher on Google.

If your team hasn’t already looked into Google+ Local it should definitely do so quickly as it is likely to become an important part of your company’s/communities’ online reputation management.

February 27, 2013 at 3:52 pm 1 comment

Fast Company Interview with RentHop Founder

Fast Company interviewed one of the founders of RentHop that contained an interesting take on understanding your market:

I just got a New York apartment with a broker and had to fork over an infuriating 15% of the annual rent.
In 2009 we thought maybe brokers are commodities–that they’re not adding value, and maybe the site could help replace them. One of the bigger pieces of advice Paul Graham gave us at Y Combinator was this. He said, “If you really think that’s the case, if you really think you can go automate these guys away, you need to go and be brokers for a while. Simulate the life of a broker, and if you think you can automate that away, great.” He told us to fly back to New York and be brokers for a couple of weeks. So that’s what I did. I flew back and took a bunch of tenants around, and that’s when I realized, “Wow, this is tough work.” It’s a lot harder than people think…But I realized the most important part of brokering is that there’s a huge human trust component in the whole thing. A really good broker makes the whole process a whole lot less painful for the renter. The big takeaway was that brokers are not commodities at all. I didn’t think they were adding value, but now I’m convinced that a great broker does add value.

Then there’s this nugget:

It took us a while to discover the current business model we have now–that this is really a big data problem. We have four years of data and profile building with landlords and brokers. Now we know which ones are the good ones, and which are the bad ones. That became our eventual pivot. A good broker is valuable, and a good landlord is also valuable. Anyone responsive and good we want the site’s visitors interacting with, and anyone nonresponsive and bad we don’t want the site’s visitors interacting with.

Being responsive and good sounds like pretty solid advice.

October 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm Leave a comment

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