Here Come the Beacons: How Will Proximity Sensors Impact Multifamily?
Imagine having the ability to see how many of your renters are using your apartment amenities, how frequently they do so, and even which times are the most popular.
Such knowledge would inform your budget allocation and help you understand how to make your renters happy by meeting and exceeding their needs. Luckily, this level of insight is now available through the implementation of beacon technology.
What is a beacon?
Simply put, a beacon is a small, proximity-based transmitter that communicates with apps on your smartphone. In the Apple ecosystem they are known as iBeacons. In the Google ecosystem they are called Eddystone.
Roughly the size of a soda bottle cap, beacons employ Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and have a battery life of up to 3 years — or up to 8 years if they integrate a solar cell. When placed in the built environment, the beacon can deliver a hyper-contextualized user experience and unlock hidden opportunities for revenue. Take beacon use in Museums, retail and transit.
How are beacons being used today?
Brooklyn Art Museum has implemented beacon technology to connect visitors with archaeologists, anthropologists and art historians via live, one-on-one texting. Just walk up to a piece in the collection and ask away. The Art Institute of Chicago deployed 300 beacons that activated when visitors connected to Wifi. Through crunching data to produce heat maps, travel paths and dwell times, the institute noticed that a small installation was an unexpected hit. They decided to promote it and saw ticket sales increase dramatically. In fact, paid attendance increased from $14.8 million in 2015 to nearly $20 million in 2016.
Retailers are also turning to beacons to tailor specific information and even sales based on your shopping or browsing history — which greatly increases the probability of a purchase. Of course, they will enable stores to collect data on when a customer enters, how they interact with the layout or mechanize and how long they stay.
In transit, beacons are keeping customers in the loop about current travel circumstances. For example, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) recently installed beacon driven countdown clocks at stations on several subway lines in New York. The clocks provide information about delays and emergencies – all in all, helping commuters feel more informed and at ease.
Beacons in multifamily
By now, you probably have a few ideas for how beacons might be used to enhance the renter and property management experience. For starters, prospective tenants will soon be able to set-up real-time alerts for when they pass by a property with an open listing. Those properties can push over availability dates, rent rates, floor plans, photos and information on amenities. Once this transitions into a tour of a model unit, things can get even more hyper-contextualized. When a prospect walks into the kitchen, for example, a beacon could push a notification to their phone giving information about the appliances or where the granite countertops came from.
Regarding renter benefits after moving in, beacons could let them know if there is a free treadmill or if there is a free washing machine on their floor. Beacons could also see when a renter walks in the building and deliver a customized welcome home greeting or let them know if they have received a package. While beacons aren’t necessarily fixing any dire problems, the additional convenience factor and ‘cool’ factor could be enough to draw them to your building over the competition.
Of course tracking this level of property usage creates a whole host of data that benefits property owners. Information gathered from beacons could help decide when to turn capital into amenity enhancements. If you learn that renters tend to work out while doing laundry, you might want to move some machines closer to the gym. If there is a particular day when the pool area use is slow, you can schedule cleaning then.
What does the future look like with tracking tech?
In the future, beacons will be used for far more than marketing. People already using the technology for the sole purpose of making daily life easier. Nick Lee, an early adopter of tech, is using beacons to automate his morning route.
“I decided to plant my beacons in two strategic locations. The first beacon is in my mailbox in my apartment building’s lobby. My phone detects it just as the elevator doors open, which is the perfect time for ordering my daily Uber to work. The second is “discreetly” mounted underneath a phone booth in front of the Starbucks near my office.”
As you can see from the video above, the beacon technology is only limited by your creativity. And like many forms of new technology, it might pay off to be an early adopter.