For this week's Mobile Doorman blog feature, we sit down with Matt Greene - Vice President of Marketing for the smart apartment technology innovator IOTAS. It's no secret smart home features are quickly becoming the hot ticket item for apartment communities. A recent study noted that smart home features are a top 10 most wanted feature for residents, with millennials, in particular, willing to spend more money to live at a property that boasts smart home functionality. But how will this rapid adoption affect the resident living experience, and apartment communities as a whole? We sit down with Matt to discuss.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am originally from San Diego and prior to joining the IOTAS team, I worked in sports marketing with teams and agencies on the sales, sponsorships and business development front before taking the entrepreneurial route, founding three companies and eventually selling two of them. I’m an avid traveler, longtime suffering Padres fan, and currently live in the Portland area with my wife, two sons (3 years and 4 months old respectively) and our French bulldog, Meatball.
What is IOTAS?
IOTAS is a Portland, Ore.-based software company that delivers a fully-connected smart home experience for apartment residents that integrates upwards of 20 smart devices on a single app, is voice controlled, and provides automated intelligence. This allows multi-family owners and operators to attract new tenants at premium rents, while lowering utility and management costs. The IOTAS platform can currently be found in multifamily housing communities across 40 national markets and is entering Canada in the fall of 2018.
What’s your role at IOTAS, and what brought you to the company?
I was intrigued with the vision of our CEO and with the opportunity of the space. After missing the Dotcom wave after college due to my decision to focus on making no money working in sports, I knew I didn’t want to miss the next technology wave, IoT.
I joined IOTAS in January of 2016 as the company’s VP Sales & Marketing. As one of the team’s first hires, I was actively traveling the country meeting with the real estate community discussing the benefits of smart technology for multifamily and launching our tech in the first 30+ markets. I also built and actively managed our marketing, brand, content, public speaking and PR strategy to purposefully educate the industry and deliver IOTAS as an industry thought leader. I have recently directed my focus to the marketing side of the business.
How is IOTAS disrupting the multifamily industry?
I’d like to say that disrupting and enhancing go hand in hand! Offering a comprehensive platform for the residents to control their entire apartment, instead of just having a few devices with remote control capabilities, is huge. A few does not make a smart apartment. Our platform supports upwards of 20+ devices per apartment and we average nearly 15 per unit at the moment. Thermostats, locks, lights, outlets, sensors are all part of the ecosystem. However, the automation of all devices communicating with each other and learning resident behavior is key.
The ability for the property management side to assess usage, energy savings, labor savings, resident transportation usage, access control and other behaviors will all assist in their ability to create more intelligent solutions for future properties.
How do you see smart home tech improving the resident living experience?
New renters are always looking for a connected lifestyle and have lived their lives at their fingertips with mobile technology and now voice. Peace of mind is first and foremost. The understanding that you have control of your devices, can save energy, let friends or dog walkers in when you’re not there, as well as engaging your neighbors effectively to and ensure the community experience desired. Having your day to day experience/behavior be somewhat automated and learned inside your home adds a level of comfort and connectivity most have not experienced before.
What type of successful resident case studies have you witnessed using the IOTAS suite of smart home tech?
I think the one that sticks out the most is when we were doing an over-the-air software update where the system was down for 10 minutes or so, and one resident in Southern California that had automation dialed in for her daily living, forgot where her kitchen light switch was as she hadn’t used it in a while. She was trying to manually turn off the lights and just was spinning in circles. The automation from her smart tech had basically controlled her home life to an extent.
We’ve seen others really dive into Alexa and customize added skills to mesh with the IOTAS options, and that has really enhanced their routines. You can wake up in the morning and Alexa will turn on the news, dim your lights on, turn on the coffee maker, provide traffic updates and wish you a great day as you pass the motion sensor on your way out the door and then everything shuts off behind you.
How can both a renter - and operator – assess the value proposition when installing smart home technology into a building?
I believe the renter will soon value smart tech in the way the value an in-unit washer/dryer. Back when I was graduating college, that was not a given in most apartments. The ability for the renter today, and especially GenZers, to save on energy, have a sense of sustainability, and have all aspects of their life controlled at their fingertips is important. It fits with their already busy and connected day-to-day lifestyle. We are seeing renters pay an additional $30-$50/month on average for this technology today.
The operator values smart tech differently. We have numerous case studies of sizable rent premium increases, quicker lease-up velocity, vacant unit energy savings, and labor savings. Each impacts property value. Properties that adopt the right platform of smart tech today will also have a few other ‘difficult to measure’ aspects like future-proofing their community, marketing differentiation, and the cool factor. The long-term play for the properties regarding value prop will be surrounding the data they are gathering from their properties, from the smart tech but also the resident experience software options in play. There will be tremendous monetization opportunities for the communities strictly from data in the next few years.
Do you see voice-enabled tech becoming a major component in the resident/management connection?
Voice-enabled tech is becoming a major component today. However, I truly believe that with machine learning, behavior automation and artificial intelligence, you’re going to see a transition away from voice in the near future as the “it” item. I’m not saying that voice will go away, far from it, but behavior-based intelligence will redefine the “smart home” to a truly “intelligent home.”
Other thoughts on the multifamily and smart home industry as a whole?
There’s a lot of noise in the space with many companies offering ‘a’ solution, but perhaps not the ‘best’ solution to communities. Understanding the value proposition now and projecting 3-5 years from now is going to a constant struggle for larger ownership groups.
You have a rapidly evolving technology ecosystem where multifamily industry executives are still wrapping their heads around what they want/need for their properties from device to software, all while trying to understand the smart technology capabilities. But you have this interesting dichotomy of a historically slow-moving industry when it comes to making decisions combined with a rapidly evolving and constantly changing technology space. The executives are finally grasping the opportunities they have at their fingertips but instead of being settled on 3-5 items of integration, they now want the other 100 devices or software integrations they’ve been hearing about, all in one app. Thus, they are slow to decide but quick to adjust what they’re looking for. This makes adoption rather slow.
Where is smart home tech heading in 1, 5, and 10 years?
The space and technology are rapidly evolving and everything will center around the home and smart home technology. However, what you will see in 5 – 10 years will be a fully connected ecosystem where home, auto (most likely not your own) and office will be connected through IoT and blockchain technologies. You will also see items like toilets testing your health and auto-sharing potential issues with your doctor of choice, and fulfilling your meds automatically. Your kitchen will become much smarter as appliances will all be connected, intelligent, and your behavior and purchase patterns will be automated and you will have auto shipping of household goods to your home without personally ordering or going to a store. I could go on, but the scenes in Back to the Future 2 or the Jetsons are not really that far-fetched.
When I hear the word ‘intelligent,’ I think of a device thinking for itself. Most ‘smart’ devices now need commands and are more remote control than smart. We will see a complete transformation in the way we live once we see largescale strategic partnerships combined with the industry moving away from presenting singular device/software solutions to the consumer. Automation, behavior-based intelligence and machine learning will change the game in the next 5 years.