by CJ Edmonds
Growing up, I spent my fair share of time watching “The Jetsons.”
Set in the year 2062, the cartoon imagined a world of incredible luxury and technology. The Jetsons traveled in a flying car. George Jetson worked a whopping nine hours a week, and the family had a robot maid and a machine that produced every conceivable kind of meal with the push of a button. The show also accurately predicted the emergence of video calls as a common way to connect with friends and family.
When I think of the future of smart home solutions and other technologies in the multifamily industry, George and his family aren’t far from my thoughts. In many ways, we’re headed for a world they would definitely recognize.
With that in mind, here are five technology-related predictions I have for multifamily after gazing into my crystal ball – and maybe even watching a few old episodes featuring good ole George, Judy, Jane, Elroy, Rosie, Astro and Mr. Sprocket:
1) Apartment homes will feature more advanced appliances. I recently bought a smart washer and dryer. They may be smart, but I still have to put the clothes in the washer, fill the detergent tray, take the clothes out, put them in the dryer, fold them and put them away.
I foresee a time when, à la “The Jetsons,” appliances are able to eliminate many of the mundane chores in life. In the future, I think people will be able to literally throw clothes into an appliance randomly and they will later come out folded and perfectly clean. Similarly, I wouldn’t be surprised if, instead of you having to go through the several steps of toasting bread, a refrigerator is simply able to produce toasted bread for you.
2) Apartment gyms will use technology to foster a sense of community and friendly competition. Looking ahead, I think all the equipment in fitness facilities – strength-training machines, weights and cardio equipment – will be able to store and “remember” the workout details of users. The equipment will use this information to automatically provide tougher workouts the next time a resident uses it. We are starting to see some of this technology already too. My Garmin Smartwatch has been bugging me about upping my daily goals based on my 90-day trending data.
And let’s not ignore the Peloton craze that has us competing with ourselves and a virtual class full of strangers on the leaderboard.
In the future, I believe we will see even more fitness equipment gamification – except this will pit residents against each other to “compete” and see who can lift the most or burn the most calories in a cardio workout. That will build bonds and connections between residents.
3) Much improved internet infrastructure will be a must. The pandemic has no doubt accelerated the work-from-home trend. Even after the pandemic is over, a high percentage of employees will continue to work from their home offices or guest bedrooms. (Quick side note: unlike some, I believe office space will continue to be vital for companies in the post-coronavirus era – the benefits of at least periodically collaborating and problem-solving in person are just too significant, in my humble opinion. In the years to come, communities may add more co-working space to accommodate residents who want to get out of their units for a bit. These areas will also give residents the space to gather with their co-workers when in-person collaboration is needed.)
Bearing this in mind, new communities will have to have the internet infrastructure (not to mention the unit sizes and floorplans) to optimize life for the remote worker. In short, blazing internet speed will be the name of the game.
4) Wireless charging will become standard. Before too much more time passes, apartment units will be equipped with wireless charging systems that allow smart home devices – as well as phones, tablets and other items – to be recharged without having to be plugged into anything. This is not the same thing as the docking stations that became obsolete almost as soon as they were installed. Smartphone technologies have shifted to wireless capabilities and that design functionality will not change. And not just for smartphones, but all of our devices.
5) Apartment communities will help contribute to the rise of alternative fuels – and make some ancillary income in the process. Many multifamily properties – especially those located in suburban areas – now have more parking space than they need. Moving forward, I predict some properties will lease the space to utilities for the placement of solar panels. Also, more and more communities will use these spaces to install electric vehicle-charging stations that the public can use for a fee.
The future of technology in multifamily is exciting to contemplate. Regardless of what specific advances arrive, it’s a safe bet that residents will enjoy a more convenient lifestyle – and that the future apartment community will be one in which George, Judy, Jane, Elroy, Rosie, Astro and Mr. Sprocket would have felt right at home.