I recently wrote about smart apartment providers in response to a question on Quora, and I thought I’d share these insights here as well.
What is a “Smart Apartment”?
A smart apartment is a unit that offers home automation features such as a smart lock, smart thermostat, or smart lights. It may also include security features such as door contacts or a motion sensor.
These are usually managed by the resident with a smartphone app that allows them to control the devices and be notified of any sensor changes. It may also be integrated with devices such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, allowing the resident to control their devices by voice.
Today’s residents are more connected than ever, and they’re increasingly looking for a more connected apartment experience. Smart apartment technology for apartments is a great way for communities to differentiate themselves from competition, receive higher rents, and increase resident loyalty.
Top Smart Apartment Solutions in 2019: My Recommendations for Consideration
Here are the main players in the market at the moment:
SmartRent: Their main claim to fame is that their key management and investors come from real estate backgrounds—which, of course, helps boost their installation numbers because many of those installations are in their own properties. I’ve heard that the rush to grow and scale the company may have resulted in some technology hiccups and oversights that they’re still working on, but overall they have a pretty good solution.
Dwelo: They’ve got some great thinking behind their product, although I’ve heard some people express frustrations about working with them. They’re more focused on smart devices in the unit rather than an overall resident experience on the property, but that focus hopefully (eventually) results in solid performance.
LittleBird: One of the newer players in the market, but they’re already providing a surprisingly robust all-around solution that includes integrated access control (with telephone entry) as well as community and neighborhood features. (Also interesting is that their hub is based on a professional-grade security panel instead of the usual Raspberry Pi or similar device, making it far less prone to hacking attempts.)
Runner-Up Smart Apartment Solutions
Vivint Smart Properties: Probably the biggest company in the space, although their apartment offerings are still somewhat limited. They’re trying to take their smart home solution to the multifamily property market, but it sounds like they’re having a hard time because things are so different there.
Zego: They seem okay. Don’t know much about them yet. When I talked to them, they claimed to be the only provider focused on the multifamily apartment space, which obviously isn’t true.
Stratis: These guys have an unusual platform that relies on a property-wide network instead of hubs in the units. They have wild claims about how many units they’re installed in, which I heard is actually based on some other work they did for a major lock manufacturer (which they’re claiming as their own smart apartment installations).
Iotas: I’ve heard they’re having struggles getting the technology working right when implemented on site. Not sure how accurate that is, but worth looking into. Their app seems a bit more complicated for residents than most of the others, since they’re focused more on the power users who want scenes, automations, etc., instead of just turning stuff on and off. Cool stuff, but may be too deep for most residents.
Parakeet: I believe they started in the vacation rental space and are trying to take the technology to the multifamily apartment space. They seem flexible and willing to make a deal. (They claimed to be the only one with a hub that does cellular connections, though, which was weird because pretty much everyone on this list offers that.)
PointCentral: A spin-off from security company Alarm.com. Their main claim is that they have the most secure network. Not sure how good the resident experience is yet. They don’t seem to have done many installations yet, since they keep referring back to their parent company’s customers as their main credential.
What to Watch Out for when Evaluating Smart Apartment Solutions
First, look for solutions that focus on the resident experience, not just hardware/software. A lot of those “features” might actually be a pain in the ass to your residents.
Second, understand that most providers seem narrowly focused on hardware in the units (lights, locks, thermostat), but you should try to focus on the whole resident experience, which includes things like common area access control, property features, neighborhood features, etc.
Third, assume everyone’s claims about how many units they’ve installed are just B.S. It’s a new industry, and everyone’s trying to look established by inflating their numbers.