The Smart Social Home

By Rowley Maggs, SmartRent - on 26/05/2020

The notion of a smart home may sound futuristic; however, home automation is becoming more common and already improving the homeowner experience by enabling access control, climate management, lighting, and the emerging benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) that automate tasks normally handled by humans.

Today’s smart home trend may become tomorrow’s expectation for renters across housing associations, private rented sector and the build to rent markets.

A smart home is made possible through the power of the IoT.  British computer scientist, Kevin Ashton, is known as “the father of the Internet of Things”. He named the computer revolution from his cubicle at Proctor & Gamble in Staines in 1999 to describe a system where the internet is connected to the physical world via sensors.  Ten years later he wrote using these sensors to gather data without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost.[1]

Twenty years on from coining the phrase, the world of IoT is exploding with estimates of more than 64 billion IoT devices by 2025, up from about 10 billion in 2018.

IoT sensors have evolved to become IoT smart devices – a tool we can interact with to do work on our behalf – by voice command, using automated sensors or from our mobiles. Just think of how you interact with a Smart Home Digital Assistant (Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri or Google Home) or your mobile phone using mapping apps.

Smart technology platforms have evolved to enhance the way we live. SmartRent.com was conceived as a way to bring the Smart Home experience to the renter using an enterprise technology platform connected to z-wave IoT devices, while bringing economic and operational benefits to the landlord and property managers.

The benefits of smart home technology for renters include:

  • Single App.  Using one app to connect to the smart hub to monitor and control smart devices in their smart home. SmartRent devices are able to be manually adjusted without the app, and can work if there is a loss of internet. 
  • Keyless door locks.  Digital access simplifies everyday living for renters. It creates flexibility in providing access to visitors and service providers. Each family member has their own code, so Mum knows when the kids come home after school. Or, they can provide temporary access with a timebound and limited code to the GasSafe engineer attending to the annual compliance inspection.
  • Temperature control.  Smart thermostats enable heating schedules and comfort settings with remote automation and management controls. From a budget perspective, efficient climate control is a significant economic factor for renters with savings of up to 30% per year in costs. Dad may not want to return to a high heating bill after being away with family over Christmas with the heating left set on high.
  • Asset protection. Smart sensors keep watch for smoke or water leaks in the home and raise the alarm when a problem is discovered. The system can notify both the resident and the landlord. Speed to protect the people and the property is important to both save lives and restrict the potential damage. For example, the leak sensor detects water for a minute and the alarm is not silenced by the resident or remote property manager, an automated work order is sent to the plumber for an emergency call out.
  • Self-viewing.  Limitations in staffing and office hours create a barrier for those looking to view a home on their own time.  Offering a self-guided tour of a vacant home is an efficient way to keep prospective renters engaged and turn a lead into a resident with an efficient online booking process and real-world viewing experience.
  • Customisation. Renters can choose to personalise their rental experience with their own personal devices to the smart home automation platform. A range of approved z-wave IoT devices can be added by the renter. This could include smart lighting and plugs, digital home assistants, and smart doorbells with cameras.

The benefits of smart home technology far outweigh the cost of its implementation. In a social housing context, the payback is under three years and in private rented with increased rental for a smart home the payback is under 2 years.

As social landlords and build to rent operators consider which solution will deliver the most value, they should also consider the risks of a smart home investment. Landlords will inevitably raise information security concerns. The two most common concerns are cybersecurity vulnerabilities and obsolescence. These valid concerns are best addressed by a high-quality solution provider with a vigorous information security program. Sensible information security protocols and a sound technology foundation are critical to the home automation decision.

It’s also important to select established technology providers that have created an IoT ecosystem that is robust, open and secure. If good choices are made early in the adoption cycle, there is an opportunity to drive increased revenue, decreased costs, and substantial value.

Housing landlords and property managers have an opportunity to create value by adopting these technologies earlier than their competitors. Home automation is here to stay, and renters will enjoy the significant benefits that will increase over time.

SmartRent is an enterprise home automation company developing software and hardware to help landlords, property managers and renters, now available in UK residential housing. Our technology platform provides landlords and managers a single view to better monitor and protect their assets, and create operational efficiencies all while enabling their tenants access to a smart home experience.

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