Consumer Insights

Can Beacons Make Luxury Apartments More Luxurious?

Depending on your persuasion, millennials’ generational lack of interest in buying real estate can be chalked up to their inherent indolence, their preference for communal and urban living arrangements or their lagging finances. Whatever the reason, the luxury apartment has become the new McMansion of the millennial rental market, but as more of the same high-rise, glass-paneled, open-floor-planned buildings dot city skylines, property managers are finding themselves pressed to identify ways that differentiate their luxury apartments from the herd.

It might not be what they were expecting, but a beacon network and a white-label app from one Chicago-based startup might be just what they need.

Mobile Doorman has offered apartment owners turnkey app functionality since it launched in 2014, but in an interview with Chicago Tribune, Cofounder Bob Matteson explained that the startup’s newest venture — support for iBeacon integration — could link together all the amenities of modern luxury apartment buildings (the gyms, the laundry rooms, the business centers, etc.) through residents’ smartphones. All property owners need to do is outfit the relevant parts of their buildings with dirt-cheap beacon sensors, and Matteson believes analog complexes can be transformed into connected ones, allowing renters to check everything from how many people are using the treadmills in the gym to how many washers are empty and ready to be used at any given moment.

“Our mission is for you to feel like this app on your phone represents your apartment building,” Matteson told Chicago Tribune.

While the ability to jack into and monitor an entire luxury apartment’s worth of amenities might seem appealing to the average millennial renter, Mobile Doorman might see more interest in its beacon integration move from property managers themselves. As complexes try to lure renters in with bigger gyms, higher-tech media centers and whatever else they can think of, keeping sight of the return on those investments will become progressively more difficult. Matteson outlined a particular example with a partnering property manager who was tinkering with the exercise equipment installed in the complimentary gym of a building. Though it had all the machines and gizmos one would expect in a luxury apartment, a beacon sensor network allowed the manager to see that a handful of inexpensive stationary bikes were actually being used the most.

It’s this data-driven insight that property managers have never had before that could redefine how living spaces are arranged for the best effect on their residents.

“The more they can understand what’s being used, the smarter they can be about how they’re investing money into the property to improve it,” Matteson said.

The ability to know where and when to turn capital into amenity enhancements is likely to become a skill that defines the adults from the children in property management. As The New York Times reported, signs are beginning to show that even the Big Apple’s notoriously pricey luxury housing market may have finally hit a ceiling on its skyscraper-esque rental rates, and if the high end of the luxury retail market is going to see declining rents soon, the property managers in the rest of it will be even harder-pressed to keep themselves and their complexes in the black, while still attracting and retaining tenants.

And unlike the sometimes sticky issue of beacons in retail settings — where customers still haven’t made up their minds on whether their privacy is being violated — if Mobile Doorman can show, through the resident-facing side of its app, that there’s plenty to like about a luxury apartment outfitted with beacons, then property managers won’t have to worry about throwing them in all the common spaces their budgets allow.

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