By Cristy Boucher
Many of you probably took notice of the recent webinar “Paradigm Shift: Can Bulk Internet Finance Smart Buildings?” from Joshua Tree Conference Group sponsored by Cox Communications. The topic not only piqued my interest, but the well-respected panelists from Mill Creek Residential, Davis Craig, PLLC and Catalyst Innovation Lab who were set to talk. If you weren’t able to attend this informative session on whether implementing bulk Internet/Wi-Fi at your community could in fact fund your new technology initiatives, then here’s a brief glimpse into this much talked about topic.
RealtyCom has many clients we’re working with on bulk Internet and Wi-Fi implementation and enjoy talking with thought leaders and clients about their strategy in this ever-changing space. You can find the full webinar recording and summary online at https://www.aimconf.com/blog-aim/bulk_internet.
Jeff Kok, Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Information Officer at Mill Creek Residential Trust started by reviewing the resident experience. I think we all can agree this is essential to implement any type of bulk Internet strategy – if the service provided by the owner isn’t a better-quality product, that’s not only reliable, but fast and affordable, no matter how much you try it just won’t work.
From an owner’s perspective there are immense benefits from an income-generating point of view, in addition to meeting sustainability initiatives, opex savings, convenient smart home integrations within the apartments, plus upside for the property team. Ubiquitous internet connectivity can be a bridge for the owner to offer a valuable amenity to residents and ease property staff burdens enabling things from access control, water and temperature monitoring, self-guided touring and automated leasing, and more. But how can owners mitigate the business risks of providing internet and becoming the defacto service provider, and turn them to an income stream to finance technology innovation strategies?
By carefully navigating some known risks upfront, the owner can ensure adoption, compliance, and less headaches down the road, if they consider:
- Resident-first mentality – will this make the lives of residents better? What is the transition for residents like and is the service opt-in or mandatory?
- Why are you doing it? – are there valid reasons besides the financial opportunity you’re solving for?
- Why are you choosing the provider you are? Could you only do a modem solution or is Wi-Fi necessary?
- Building audit – a specific Smart Building Audit is essential to review wiring, ownership and use of that wiring, existing contracts, or pathways for a new internet service provider to build, each is imperative to make the network reliable and mitigate potential legal risks (a little self-promotion, RealtyCom can arrange these site visit audits and has a template with the right questions to ask!)
- Contracts – using an experienced telecom attorney is our best advice here. Provider experience is also a must to ensure you’re working with an established provider for long-term customer service, and to avoid technology obsolescence –
- Smart building contracts – review data ownership, privacy, insurance, and indemnity
- Internet contracts – include defined systems, SLA, workman-like manner, technology to stay competitive, ways to adjust the speeds without large rate increases
- Cost – as Jeff Kok pointed out, a breach can potentially cost millions of dollars so be cautious as many providers are not willing to uncap breach of data/confidentiality issues, also include certification to protect data properly, or confirm they audit systems frequently
- What other mitigation do you have in place, like insurance or more specifically, cyber insurance?
There are many ways to implement a connected building strategy with traditional cable or phone operators, new ISP’s or those specializing in bulk Internet-only models – those adopting bulk internet just for the financials should consider if it’s accretive to their short or long-term technology strategy since there also technology risks, financial impacts and long-term service considerations for your residents.
As you develop your own strategy and think about future uses of bulk internet, Wi-Fi and smart home features in your communities, we hope you’ll continue the conversation with RealtyCom so we can help you develop and implement whatever your vision might be. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.