It’s Friday evening at 10 pm and your phone rings. It’s the emergency answering service with a report of an active leak damaging multiple units. Facing the prospect of a long and difficult night ahead, you think to yourself, “there’s got to be a better way.”
Every property manager has experienced disasters, vendor mistakes, unfair resident complaints, the frustration of legal and regulatory requirements, the drudgery of manual and repetitive tasks, and the feeling that there’s never enough time to get ahead. Thankfully, there are a growing number of “proptech” solutions out there designed to solve these problems and help managers work smarter, not harder.
But with so many new companies and solutions out there, how do managers figure out what is worth their time and what is not? One helpful answer to this question comes from Jigar Shah, entrepreneur, author, and current director of the DOE’s Loan Programs Office, who said that “entrepreneurs need to sell pain medication, not vitamin pills.” This means not being distracted by tech trends, gadgets, and marketing. Instead, consider what can help you solve your hardest problems and prevent those head-on-the-desk moments.
To be worthy of your time, consider three basic questions when considering new technology:
■ Does it solve a painful problem?
■ Does it make your job easier?
■ Does it serve your clients?
For example, we’ve all heard lots of hype about blockchain, NFTs, and the metaverse, but do any of these things affirmatively answer any of the three questions above? The simple answer is, no, they do not. So, what would get a “yes” to all three questions from you?
This article is the first in a series exploring technology solutions to some of the toughest problems facing community association managers. Let’s begin by looking at one problem we all dread—leaks. Leaks are one of the most common sources of property casualty loss and they are expensive. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average residential water claim is just over $11,000, and this can be compounded several times over in high rise buildings where a leak on an upper floor can damage units all the way down. In addition to cost and impacts on insurance premiums, leaks are extremely time consuming to fix and remediate, they create liability for managers and associations, and they make everyone involved unhappy, no matter how on top of things you, the manager, are.
Imagine being notified the second water is sensed in an HVAC drip pan, under a water heater or washing machine, or in a mechanical room. Would a technology solution to this problem get a “yes” from you to all three of the questions above? You’d better believe it. While there are a wide range of consumer grade solutions available, they all have shortfalls for community association applications, especially in condos and coops. Managers need a commercial-grade solution that doesn’t rely on wi-fi from the building or the units, that keeps them in the loop and in the driver’s seat, and that is highly robust and reliable.
One of the best technologies to address these concerns is LoRaWAN. LoRaWAN is a communications protocol designed specifically for the Internet of Things, or IoT. It’s super low power, meaning a small battery-powered device can last as much as 10 years. It’s also super long range, meaning LoRaWAN devices can communicate with each other over 10 miles and can easily penetrate through concrete floors and walls. Thankfully, there are a growing number of companies making LoRaWAN IoT devices, as well as companies that specialize in offering a complete solution—setting up the network, installing and connecting the devices, providing managers with highly reliable and inexpensive 24/7 monitoring and alarm capabilities—because the best problems are the ones you never have! LoRaWAN systems are customizable and directly inform the property manager. There are many ways to use LoRaWAN technology. If you are interested in learning more, here are two great resources: https://lora-alliance.org/lorawan-vertical-markets/ and https://lora-alliance.org/resource_hub/ebook-lorawan-empowers-very-low-power-wireless-applications/
Stay tuned for additional articles in this series focused on technology solutions for community associations.
Adam Landman, CEM, AMS, CMCA