By Les Shaver
This is the fifth article in Chief Executive Outlook, our series predicting industry trends in 2018.
Advancements in business intelligence, artificial intelligence, back office technology, home automation, package storage and many other things is giving apartment operators more and better options. It also leaves them with the quandary of choice.
“There are so many new and interesting technologies that are available,” Ansel says. “The biggest challenge is to select the one or two solutions that will have the greatest effect on what you are doing with the least amount of disruption, because managing platform changes can be costly.”
Gables is nothing if not ambitious. The Atlanta-based firm is piloting many enterprises backed by new technology, including property management software, learning solutions, sustainability initiatives, associate recognition and resident rewards programs.
But what really intrigues Ansel are technologies in development, such as blockchain technology, which she thinks could revolutionize back office functions.
For Campo and Bolton, technologies offering remote access to apartments could be a differentiator for their portfolios.
“We are increasingly thinking about home automation and how technologies can allow renters to take greater control of their home when they are not there,” Bolton says. “It could be through apps on their phones that allow them to lock and unlock doors, or turn on and turn off lights, set the temperature and monitor their home.”
Operators additionally see these technologies as a way to cut energy usage.
But it is possible to go too far. With tech giants such as Amazon, Apple and Google offering competing smart-home products, AMLI is carefully letting peers take the lead.
“The technology is changing so fast,” Mutz says. “We don’t want to hard-wire for a lot of stuff that will be obsolete in two or three years.”
The apartment industry is aiming to be more progressive with its design and construction methods. Emerging design trends include flexible floor plans with movable walls, which allow apartment owners to turn one-bedroom homes into a two-bedroom model, depending on market demand.
In construction, modular systems, such as creating kitchen and bath areas offsite and installing them as one piece can reduce time and costs and in turn, make rents more affordable.
“If you can change the speed at which you deliver something or change the cost to build it, affordability will improve,” Ansel says.