Community Connectivity: Filling the Technology Foundation

By Morgan Dzak |

6 minute read

With so many new PropTech and smart home solutions in the marketplace, the apartment industry must now focus on matters of connectivity and optimization.

Multifamily housing has certainly become a tech-empowered industry, from the emergence of innovative PropTech tools to smart home solutions. But while the industry is more efficient than it’s ever been, new tech and bandwidth gaps have surfaced. Apartment operators have realized that apartment communities lack the seamless and robust connectivity platforms required to not only run, but also optimize modern tech solutions.

The traditional tech stacks of multifamily aren’t working in the new connectivity-demanding environment replete with self-guided tours, work-from-home, streaming services and mobile maintenance technologies. The one-to-one solutions cable companies have developed to offer service for single apartment homes or common areas can be dated and incapable of offering seamless service and eliminating widespread cell service dead spot issues. Modern multifamily needs a full-scale community connectivity stack to empower the entire experience, from resident desires to maintenance tech needs.

“All of the new technology in multifamily has moved very quickly and the desire to implement and create change and new opportunities in the tech space has been accelerated,” said Josh Gampp, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of UDR. “Right now, there are many products that require digital connectivity. Ultimately, our industry needs to connect all these different tech components and optimize them to provide the most value. This will build the digital foundation by connecting all of these new things.”

It’s time to rethink how we’re powering multifamily tech solutions and implement systems that offer seamless connectivity for prospects, residents, guests and associates alike. The following are some things to consider when it comes to implementing new solutions built for a post-modern tech stack.

Connectivity Gaps in the Rapid Tech Evolution

New PropTech and smart home tech have elevated experiences for residents, prospects and onsite associates alike, but all of these new solutions need connectivity to function. PropTech and smart home tech require either a cell signal, Wi-Fi or z-wave to operate. However, one of the biggest issues with modern multifamily is the terrible cell reception.

“Bad cell service in buildings is a common problem in multifamily,” Gampp said. “It’s challenging from a resident and business standpoint. There are more and more things we want to be able to do with smart devices, like smart building controls, hallway thermostats and boiler controls, but to really advance in these areas, you need constant, reliable connectivity. All these tech solutions rely on Wi-Fi or cellular, and if your cellular is bad, you’re kind of stuck.”

New ubiquitous Wi-Fi technologies can alleviate the dead spot burden by providing community-wide Wi-Fi access, from inside individual apartment homes to all common spaces and all the places in between. This allows residents, prospects and associates to boost reception with Wi-Fi calling. Having reliable, seamless connectivity can not only provide quality service to residents, but it enables onsite teams to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

New Resident, Onsite Needs

The influx of new tech tools for multifamily communities has been accompanied by some massive lifestyle and operational changes. Tech isn’t nice to have anymore, it’s a must-have.

“With a huge shift in the way people work now, we definitely see more residents expressing the desire to have highspeed internet connections in all our common areas,” Gampp said. “This has really accelerated our thoughts and efforts on the need for better internet service and we think that push from our residents is going to continue to become louder. The industry is increasingly going to hear this as a need.”

According to an NMHC and Kingsley resident preferences survey, 91.7% of modern residents say high-speed internet is important and 69.3% noted communitywide Wi-Fi is also a major amenity. Cell phone reception is also a deciding factor for residents, as 91.2% of residents said reliable cell phone reception is important and 44% of residents won’t lease an apartment without it.

“There are also a lot of advantages of community-wide connectivity that extend to the onsite teams as well,” Gampp said. “UDR has been very aggressive in the rollout of smart home technology and these products require a hub that connects to all of the devices in the apartment. The smart hub, in turn, needs to be able to communicate to the internet, but right now they mostly utilize cell signals. With bad cell reception at some of our properties, it’s possible to have a lot of offline hubs. If the hubs are offline, we can’t update locks and we can’t do a lot of things without manually intervening.”

Self-guided tour technologies are another new multifamily innovation that requires a connection to function properly. Some companies like UDR only offer self-guided tours now, and internet connectivity is critical to the customer experience.

“When prospects take a self-guided tour, they check in with their phones upon arrival, and you really want to provide that seamless experience,” Gampp said. “Prospects need to have connectivity throughout their tour as they’re learning about the community and touring the apartments and property. They might also have questions for our centralized teams, and we want to make sure they’re able to connect with us no matter where they are in the building.”

New mobile maintenance technologies also allow technicians to do all their work via cell phone during the day. Providing a ubiquitous internet connection allows maintenance technicians to connect to the network and streamline day-to-day tasks and work logging, which is really valuable and powerful for operations and resident experiences.

“By partnering with a provider that can offer that seamless connectivity, you’re really meeting resident, prospect and onsite needs all in one package,” Gampp said.

Fixing the Connectivity Issue

Much can be said of finding the right internet provider with a solution built for the modern needs of multifamily tech solutions. An increasing number of supplier partners are elevating operations and customer experiences for operators and optimizing tech solutions built for multifamily.

“The value proposition is the ability to connect on a network, no matter where you’re at in the building or property,” Gampp said. “You can leave your phone on Wi-Fi calling and it’s going to work in the hallways, a parking garage, the gym and all the other common spaces. That’s a big piece of the current tech foundation that’s really missing from multifamily.”

With an abundance of new PropTech, ideas and innovations being implemented at apartment communities, constant connectivity is a must. Modern multifamily has become a truly tech-powered industry, but the next step in optimizing these new tools is providing the proper framework to connect all the pieces and ensure the tech is functioning at the highest level.

“When connectivity in your building isn’t good, you don’t get the full benefit,” Gampp said. “We’ve got to solve the connectivity problem and ubiquitous Wi-Fi is proving to be a really solid solution for that.”

Morgan Dzak is Account Manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing.