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How One Apartment Community Introduced Residents to Smart-Home Technology

Smart-Home Technology

An interactive tech event allowed attendees to play with smart-home technology. It also provided the property management company with valuable amenity data. Here’s how.

Technological advances continue to come online that make everyday life easier and more convenient. But how much might residents be willing to pay for these types of technologies?

That is the question ZRS Management proposed to residents of the Beacon Clarendon Apartments in Arlington, Virginia. The company hosted a “tech experience” at the property to introduce people to new technologies, from smart thermostats to keyless entries to pet gadgets. The evening event served as a test case for collecting data on what technologies residents prefer and how property owners might incorporate such amenities in their properties in the future.

“A lot of the new things that are coming out are connected through apps and people are installing them homes, but people don't think to install that into an apartment since they're just rentals,” explained Michael Bailey-Tonini, property manager at the Beacon Clarendon Apartments. “We kind of staged it like a trade show. We had iPads on every table, and you can kind of play around with different things and see how they connected, and turn off lights with this and turn on a fan with this, and a lot of cool things.” 

The expo included roughly 15 products, including Nest Learning Thermostats, Amazon Sonos wireless speakers and Phillips Hue personal wireless lighting, to gauge customer interest on the technologies and relevant price points. A pet fitness tracker, for example, may only cost around $20, while a Nest Learning Thermostat retails for $249. The apartment community plans to make these products available for sale through its resident portal, which was also on hand at the event to help walk residents through the process of signing up and using it.

“We're completely paperless,” Bailey-Tonini noted, as the portal allows residents to pay bills online and enter service requests. The platform also serves as a social forum. “In two weeks, we've gotten the whole property registered and they're posting Halloween costumes and all sorts of fun stuff,” he added.

Overall, the event attracted between 200 and 250 people to the 187-unit property and will provide the company with feedback to help facilitate similar events at other company properties in Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Texas. 

“This was a way for us to try to get some real feedback from real renters and what they are doing,” explained Jeremy Brown, vice president of marketing at ZRS Management. “So we're doing this across multiple properties in multiple markets to really understand what renters not only want, but what they're willing to pay for.”

This will be helpful not only in new construction, but in retrofitting apartments as well. Brown said the right investment should see strong returns on investment as more new apartment communities begin to feature these types of amenities.

Feedback from these tech experiences could also provide insight into the convenience components renters want to see at their communities.

“If we can kind of mold our management style around that, we can start to introduce ways that people can have convenient lifestyles at home as well,” Bailey-Tonini said, adding that the Beacon also features services such as grocery and pet food delivery. “But I think it’s kind of like a trickle-down effect. If we can change the way we manage properties, we can start to change the way we affect the residents, which is the biggest thing for us. It's exciting.”