COVID-19 changed how and when people use their homes. Lockdowns, work-from-home arrangements, and social distancing ushered in record-breaking PropTech investments. And according to Mariam Rogers, director of multifamily sales at Brivo, smart cloud-based access control became multifamily’s proptech centerpiece.

“The move to smart amenities that started about five years ago represented a way to have a competitive advantage to increase rent,” says Rogers. “And then with COVID, all of a sudden it was, ‘How do we use technology to get people into the building?’”

The problem was manifold. Residents were in their apartments more often. Leasing teams stopped conducting onsite tours. Home deliveries spiked to all-time highs. The multifamily industry solved for these burdens with self-guided tours and package-management tools – but first, multifamily properties needed to integrate smart access control systems. Now, Rogers says, smart access control has become a must-have.

“You have to safely get people into your building, and also make it convenient for both the tenant experience and the day-to-day operations,” says Rogers. “That is where connected communities really started becoming relevant — making sure that you had an effective, secure way that allows people into a community.”

Laying a PropTech Foundation with Access Control

The agility benefits of smart cloud-based access control have continued even as the pandemic-stricken world has opened back up. Self-guided tours effectively extend a leasing office’s hours when it would otherwise be closed. Smart locks mean fewer calls to maintenance for lockouts. License-plate recognition systems maintain smooth traffic flow into and out of a community. And package-management solutions help assure that residents get their deliveries promptly with little to no staff assistance.

For Rogers, that’s just the beginning.

“The foundation of any building – aside from the literal foundation – is access control and security,” says Rogers. “Then, adding layers of solutions, you can build upon that later and help offset OPEX, such as through managed Wi-Fi and connected IoT devices, creating a comprehensive ecosystem.”

For example, once the underlying technology to identify people in a given area at a given time is implemented, software and data can illuminate additional use cases – like occupancy management. Now, the same hardware that helps secure people and assets can be used to gain insights into amenity use – and therefore help make cost-effective decisions on whether to push forward or pull back on particular amenity-related expenditures.

Futureproofing with PropTech

For these reasons, Rogers frames the CAPEX issue as one of futureproofing.

“It’s just like granite countertops were 10 years ago. Now, you have to put in granite countertops to attract higher-paying rent,” says Rogers. “It’s no different with the way you build a security system and access-control platform.”

At the same time, Rogers cautions that one generally ought not invest in Smart Building solutions without a plan in place.

“Smart buildings can build capabilities, improve tenant experience and increase profitability over time,” says Rogers. “An owner or manager needs to be able to look and say, ‘Here’s what I currently have,’ and here’s where the technology is that might bring the most value to my building now and over those next 10 years.”