Innovations That Will Change Everything

February 12, 2020 |

Updated August 4, 2021

3 minute read

Get ready for augmented and virtual reality to firmly establish their presence, the rise of autonomous vehicles and for 25 percent of all maintenance requests to be submitted by machines.

During the previous 10 years, many tech innovations transformed from far-fetched ideas to industry standards. For instance, the use of resident portals, mobile apps, review management software and smart home devices are now commonplace.

What will disrupt the sector in the next 10 years? Get ready for augmented and virtual reality to firmly establish their presence, the rise of autonomous vehicles, and for 25 percent of all maintenance requests to be submitted by machines. That's according to the "Multifamily 2029: 10 Innovations That Will Change Everything" panel at NAA's Apartmentalize in 2019.

Here is a snapshot of some of the forthcoming innovations explored:

Augmented and Virtual Reality

3D Tours and self-guided online tours will carry several benefits for prospective residents and onsite teams alike. As AR and VR become more prevalent, online applications will increase, the need for models will be eliminated and onsite teams will save time.

"These are marketing tools that can really help us lease," said Guntram Weissenberger, President of The Westover Companies. "More and more prospects will continue to rent without ever having seen the community."

Autonomous Vehicles

In addition to convenience, autonomous vehicles can be a space-saver. An optimized AV parking lot can accommodate up to 62 percent more AV cars than a conventional parking lot.

"If you look at cars moving forward, they are going to be the largest smart object we'll have at our communities," said Jennifer Staciokas, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Training and Pricing for Pinnacle. "And they'll have to be fully networked to be beneficial."

But don't just think cars. Flying vehicles and drone delivery are not that far away. While a San Diego McDonald's recently rolled out drone delivery, apartment communities are starting to employ drones to drop off light bulbs and other needed supplies to residents.

Battery Power

Many communities have adopted electric-vehicle charging stations, but with the rising prevalence of electric scooters, Onewheels and other short-term transportation devices, charging and docking stations will become a must.

New Money

Cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin and Ehtereum, is still somewhat obscure in many circles, but apartment communities might soon have to adapt and accept "new money" for online rent payments, peer-to-peer payments and Fintech (financial technology).

Artificial Intelligence

Forward-thinking apartment operators are already using AI in some capacity in the form of chatbots. The primary benefits include the ability to provide 24-hour service, instant responses and quick answers to simple questions. In addition, facial recognition scanners in common areas can help prevent or alert to the presence of known criminals from entering the building.

On-Demand/Gig Economy

Independent contractor arrangements continue to increase in the form of dog walkers, rideshare drivers and many other freelancers. Apartment communities will have to adjust income requirements for gig workers and make more accommodations for home-office professionals. 

Voice Activation

Residents who can use Alexa and other voice assistants to schedule appointments, service requests and mundane tasks are happy residents. The panel predicts most residents will be doing so in a decade.


Sensors that detect leaks, perform elevator maintenance checks and can turn advertising off and on based on occupancy will help eliminate much busywork from the leasing team. Smart devices capable of submitting their own service requests will do the same.

The panel also discussed social media as a customer service—blending a human touch with automation and knowing when to override the bot—and the further evolution of smart-home devices to help with concepts such as mitigating water usage.

This list is not an exhaustive one. Undoubtedly, several more unforeseen innovations will work their way into the industry landscape in the next decade.