In today’s multifamily landscape, the demand for 100% connectivity is as ubiquitous as running water. Here’s how owners and operators are keeping pace with their connectivity infrastructure and predictions for what’s to come.
We’ve all felt the frustration: You are working from home, streaming a movie or plugging your electric vehicle in for an overnight charge, and the internet connection you need to make any of it work is barely there—or not there at all.
The number of factors contributing to slow and unreliable connectivity in multifamily communities is extensive, including antiquated delivery systems, construction materials that inhibit Wi-Fi and cellular signals and bandwidth limitations.
Moving forward, multifamily housing communities will have the most difficulty confronting system limits: From too many devices to too many users, there’s only so much bandwidth that can move through the system and only so much Wi-Fi can handle. The increase in remote working, the rising interest in smart tech and the escalating number of linked devices creates connectivity issues that may only worsen as demand increases.
The absolute necessity of uptime and connectivity cannot be overstated and relying completely on Wi-Fi and cellular technology is not a hassle-free solution.
Electric vehicle trends drive additional demand for wireless connectivity
Concern for the environment is high across all generations, according to a report by Pew Research Center, with at least 55% of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z all ranking it as their top concern. Millennials (71%) and Gen Z (67%) ranked it the highest, with many even placing its importance above employment and health care.
The same report showed that the two younger generations were most in favor of phasing out fossil fuels and gas-powered vehicles. Electric vehicle (EV) charging stations will be of greater interest to Millennial and Gen Z renters—the demographics driving apartment leasing.
In the United States, more than 5% of new car sales are now all-electric, which hits a major global benchmark indicating a mass market shift. The combination of current EV ownership, EV demand and the number of rental housing residents puts a greater emphasis on the need for communities to install charging stations. However, the 2021 Plugin America Survey showed that 54% of drivers reported chargers being non-functional for daily use. And according to Cisco’s study on IoT, 95% of non-functional charging stations are because of connectivity issues.
The U.S. Department of Transportation proposed new rules for EV charging in early June, with the goal of creating a network of EV charging stations that are as easy to locate as traditional fuel stations. The rules also address the issue of connectivity, requiring that states must make sure the networks have a minimum of 97% connectivity.
The desire for smart tech continues to climb
Smart tech amenities were once lofty goals that could provide a community with a competitive edge. Environmental, safety and pandemic-related concerns have pushed smart tech to the forefront of consumer preference and demand. Smart thermostats, leak detection technology, smart security systems, surveillance tools and keyless smart locks are among the most requested and installed smart tech features.
All smart technologies require consistent, reliable uptime. Any lapse causes inconsistencies in functionality and unhappy residents. Failures in connectivity remove smart home protections and expose communities to water leaks, surveillance and theft issues, and the inability to access your own front door. Other community features, such as community-wide Wi-Fi and co-working spaces could cause a further slowdown in connectivity.
Reputation and competition are on the line
No owner or operator sets out to make connectivity difficult for residents, and many times the issues stem from causes outside their control. Many building materials are unfriendly to Wi-Fi and cellular signals. Aging internet infrastructure and a lack of upgrades are the culprits for others. Even the newest Wi-Fi and cellular upgrades can have issues when using a central server.
A growing number of people need to be connected almost 100% of the time for their everyday tasks, including grocery delivery, package management, fitness tracking and charging electric vehicles. When a lack of connection or spotty service occurs in any community, it reflects poorly on resident satisfaction. Complaints to onsite staff and expensive trips from service providers can cause some residents not to renew. There’s also the potential for negative online reviews, regardless of where the issue stems. It’s always in the best interests of owners and operators to avoid uptime problems. Residents have a high interest in smart home tech. Any community that can appeal to tech seekers is going to have a jump on the competition. However, if the connectivity can’t handle it, the tech can actually backfire.
Smart tech providers and communities should explore alternatives
Wi-Fi has functioned well for the last couple of decades, and there’s no chance of it going anywhere anytime soon. However, the increasing number of smart devices and the change in living habits is placing a drag on the system that easily turns high-speed internet into slow internet. Even when owners and operators have upgraded to fast connections and capable infrastructure, problems can arise as the information travels to larger, central servers that are more vulnerable to failure.
New technologies are being deployed to solve real-time connectivity issues. Distributed token and ledger technology utilize smartphones as an asynchronous mesh network to maintain “uptime,” regardless of network latency, bandwidth or availability issues. Multifamily has already started implementing this technology for EV charging. For communities and commercial sites using EV charging stations that function on token and distributed ledger technology, connectivity has not been an issue, and they’ve reported 100% uptime, according to data released by Xeal.
Because of decades-old internet design and infrastructure, as well as the rapid changes in technology and increased usage, owners and operators are best served by exploring all connectivity options and creating a system that provides the greatest opportunity for 100% uptime.
Kevin Juhasz is Content Manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing.