The Surprising Applications of Maps in Multifamily

by Brent Steiner

An increasing number of multifamily organizations are adding interactive maps to their community websites. In almost every case, it’s a prospect-centric decision designed to give apartment shoppers better visibility into their potential future home.

While the core functionality is indeed geared to enhance the prospect experience and help them envision their next living space, it is hardly the only application 3D maps have to offer.

Community layouts can be fairly intricate, particularly those containing multiple buildings. And oftentimes, it isn’t only the resident who needs to know their way around the property or how to find a particular apartment home quickly.

Here are some of the additional ways maps can have an impact: 

A tool for first responders 

A local fire department, ambulance or other emergency response team might be familiar with Brook Oaks South Apartments and can easily use GPS to reach the property. But they probably don’t know where Building 13, Apartment C-8 is, and Google Maps generally can’t navigate that precisely. 

The vast majority of 911 calls are now made from smartphones, which is a GPS tracking device in itself. But the map location accuracy it provides to dispatch centers – using satellites and cell phone towers – can be off by as much as 500 feet, more than the length of a football field. 

Naturally, time is precious in any first-responder situation and seconds could represent the difference between life and death in some cases. Communities with interactive maps, those that display intricacies of the community in a 3D layout, can leverage them to help first responders reach their target locale within the property much more rapidly.

According to a 2014 Federal Communication Commission (FCC) report, reducing 911 response times by just one minute, nationwide, could save as many as 10,000 lives per year.

Location awareness 

In the above cases involving first responders and delivery drivers, a 3D view of a convoluted property layout quickly adds context and helps them reach their desired destination. An additional layer of clarity and convenience is added if they are able to envision their real-time location and movement within that map. Fortunately, interactive maps are evolving to the point that the add-on features, such as the “blue dot” representing location awareness, are becoming a reality. 

Uber and Google Maps have no problem finding where users are because, when using its navigation services, users grant permission to access their GPS and pinpoint their location. Dispatch centers, meanwhile, are not granted the same permissions, and generally lack the technology to access a caller’s GPS. 

Delivery drivers 

While food delivery doesn’t typically qualify as a life-or-death situation, despite what the hangry resident in A-324 tells you, it certainly falls within the parameters of convenience. Like first responders, delivery drivers usually can access the grounds of the community easily enough. It’s when they arrive that it gets confusing. By providing access via an interactive property map, delivery drivers can more quickly reach their desired home within the community. That means happy drivers, and more importantly for the sake of the community, happy residents.

Yes, interactive maps serve as a key tool for prospects when they search a property from home, or when trying to navigate the community while on a remote tour. But the capabilities of maps go beyond serving as an apartment-hunting aid. They can be utilized as a tremendous resource for others—including key first responders—who are aiming to access particular locations within the property, as well.

With access to in-depth mapping technology—not just to the building, but to each and every area within the building—dispatch center operators can seamlessly guide police officers, firefighters, and EMTs to the property gate, through the lobby, up the elevator, and directly to the correct door where the emergency is taking place.

Initially designed to streamline day-to-day leasing and asset management processes, Interactive mapping technology has exceeded those bounds. In some cases, the technology can represent the solution to a life-or-death scenario.

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