7 Must-Have Apps

There are thousands of apps that claim to make your job easier. Since it is impossible to try them all, we’ve narrowed down the options for you! These seven apps complement the social media, communication, and content creation features on Yardi’s RENTCafé suite. Social Media Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms in the US. Once you get the basics of creating a post, these apps can take your social media strategy to the next level. When users visit your Instagram profile, they can see multiple posts at once in a grid layout. Polish your profile with Planoly, a visual planner that allows you to create the most beautiful and impactful grid. You can also benefit from the app’s engagement data for each post. Instagram Stories is woefully awkward. Creating informative and engaging 15-second clips on your smartphone requires a lot of choppy starting and stopping. Fortunately, CutStory for Instagram does the work for you. Create a single, full-length video and CutStory will divide it up for you. This is a great tool for repurposing your YouTube and Facebook videos. Communication Video calls are an excellent way to conduct personalized property tours and meetings with remote clients. Google Duo is a versatile app for video calls that works for Android and iOS devices. You can even use it over WiFi, minimizing data usage. Content Creation Create professional-looking images with Afterlight 2. This free photo editing app features text, filters, and enhancement tools for eye-catching images. It offers comparable quality to subscription apps and can be used on iOs, Android, and Windows devices. As a blogger, I know how difficult it is to get people to stop and read! Infographics are a hot way to share information in easy-to-consume snippets, enhanced with...

Accounting Simplified...

Yardi Voyager Residential consolidates property management and financial accounting into a single platform. The fully-integrated suite of multifamily and marketing products makes it easier to manage the entire real estate cycle. Is Voyager Residential Right for My Organization? That depends on several factors. Are you a large organization looking for scalable solutions? Voyager grows and diversifies with you. Users gain access to real-time performance analytics across their entire portfolio, regardless of size. Organizations with smaller portfolios, such as family holdings, may benefit from Yardi Breeze. Do you seek a compliant, accurate and efficient way to manage your portfolio? Voyager financial management features meet all applicable accounting standards and regulatory requirements. Property management features streamline workflows for leasing, move-ins, move-outs, work orders, purchase orders, and everything in between. Would you prefer to leave software management to the tech pros while you run your business? Yardi’s award-winning cloud services manage data storage and updates on your behalf. You can focus on growing your business while Yardi handles the minutia of the software. Does a comprehensive suite of software seem more appealing than a piecemeal combination of products? Yardi Voyager Residential integrates with the Yardi Multifamily and Marketing Suites as well as Yardi Elevate. You benefit from a unified entity for marketing, customer relationship management,   procurement, facilities management, energy management, and business intelligence. Do you value flexibility? With Voyager, you aren’t stuck to your desk. Voyager comes mobile-ready and browser agnostic, keeping your team members connected whether they are in the office or in the field. Raising the Bar Yardi is an established company with a proven track record. For more than 30 years, Yardi has supported client success with quality real estate management solutions. Though established, Yardi continues to evolve. Ongoing improvements ensure that client feedback...

Powered by Bacteria

The energy industry is reinventing itself in combined efforts to limit as much as possible the effects of climate change. Evermore photovoltaic farms emerge around the world, evermore wind projects spring up onshore, offshore near shore, and even air borne—the industry is still in perfecting mode, new ideas turning into new ways to harvest green energy. There’s one more breakthrough in the solar energy world, coming from the scientists at the University of British Columbia. The Canadian researchers managed to develop a bacteria-powered solar cell that can convert light to energy, regardless of the weather, working as efficiently in dim and bright light, which could be a step forward in places like British Columbia and parts of northern Europe where overcast skies are common. Called biogenic cells, these solar cells made of living organism, are intriguing. This new cell generated a current stronger than any previously recorded from such a device. This is the first time when researchers connected nine biological-solar (bio-solar) cells into a bio-solar panel, in an attempt to replicate photosynthesis—the natural way to convert light energy into chemical energy that is later released to fuel the organism’s activities. Previous endeavors were centered around extracting light-sensitive dye from genetically modified bacteria, but the process proved to be quite costly, complex and also not quite safe as during the extraction process, the dye was often damaged by the solvents used. The Canadian team tried something different—they used E.coli genetically engineered to produce ample amounts of lycopene—the molecule that gives tomatoes their orange-red tint. Now, some of you might startle at the sight of E.coli, but this bacteria was chosen for cloning due to its low mutation and recombination rates. Lycopene is considered an excellent natural dye and is fantastic at harvesting sunlight. Their...

Choosing Software

Choosing the right property management software determines the efficiency and productivity of your organization. Jumpstart your selection process with these eight simple questions. Is the software installed at the premises or cloud-based?This is a matter of preference. Some organizations prefer installed software because data access does not depend upon an internet connection. The industry, however, shifts towards cloud-based platforms. Such web-based software permits users to access the data in the office, in the field and anywhere in between. Cloud-based solutions often include updates for the latest improvements and changes in compliance. Staff is free to focus on their roles, not the nuances of software.   What security and backup procedures are available? Cloud security services combine convenience with safety. Ensure that your cloud-based software offers data recovery, encryption and around-the-clock server operation monitoring.   Is the pricing model determined by the number of users or units? Software may be priced per licensed user or per unit. Licensing by user may be convenient for organizations with few employees and limited plans for growth. Pricing by unit allows the greatest flexibility and scalability. Staff growth and software usage are not hampered by paid licenses.   Is the product out-of-the-box or customizable? Turnkey solutions offer the ability the hit the ground running. Customizable systems will suite your portfolio more precisely and grow with you as your needs change.   Does the software integrate with other services necessary for your business? A fully integrated platform makes daily operations easier. The suite keeps data consistent between services such as accounting, leasing, resident screening, marketing, maintenance, and utility billing.   When is technical support available? Emergencies don’t wait for convenient office hours. Check support service hours to ensure that you can receive assistance on weekdays as well as weekends. Read...

The Excel Exodus

When it comes to Excel, there are two kinds of users: those who love it, and those who love to hate it. Regardless of which camp you’re in, there’s no denying the ubiquitous tracking tool has earned its role as a mainstay in offices in every industry across he world. But as the complexities of business have grown, so has the need for flexible tracking tools—a fact that’s increasingly obvious in senior living. With many different levels of care, various floor plans, myriad amenities and portfolios of communities, new time-saving tools can have a huge impact. In this post, we’ll examine common budgeting and tracking challenges faced by senior living operators and a solution that makes all the difference. The challenges: Antiquated systems are inefficient Since most companies purchase office software packages, it seems most cost efficient to use the spreadsheet that’s included to record and analyze the organization’s budgets. And while that strategy is an effective way to save money on paper, creating a scalable document to track all business operations from a blank tab in Excel is incredibly painstaking and time consuming—and once it’s been created, maintaining the document is no easy feat. If you recall the concept of opportunity costs from freshman economics, you’ll begin to understand that there is no efficiency in sapping countless man hours to make a tool not created for your business actually work for your business. Versions get outdated quickly—and aren’t easily shared Have you ever wasted time updating a spreadsheet only to find that you weren’t looking at the latest version? One of the most common frustrations with using static spreadsheets, rather than live solutions which are updated in real time, is the data becomes stale quickly, especially when multiple teams are making edits. On...

Apple Announcements

Hardware announcements from Apple late last month seem likely to satisfy some longtime wishes of Mac aficionados. The MacBook Air, the company’s “budget” line of laptops and its most loved Mac, has finally been fully redesigned and reengineered, adding hardware features that have become standard on MacBooks and MacBook Pros. It now sports a crisp 13.3-inch Retina Display (think 4 million pixels) that has 48 percent more color than the previous version, while the chunky aluminum bezels were replaced with some slim black lines that drop the size of the laptop by 17 percent. The Retina display gives the screen more than four times the resolution of the prior Air laptops and is more than visible as soon as you lift the lid. If you’re familiar with the 13-inch MacBook Pro, know they share the same resolution. The only thing missing is the True Tone display, present in the latest generation of Pro laptops. Connectivity-wise, the device has two Thunderbolt 3 ports (USB-C), unfortunately on the same side, and sadly no more MagSafe. The novelty is Touch ID, now part of the package with a keyboard-based sapphire fingerprint scanner, which can also be used with Apple Pay. There is one more thing the Air has—the 3.5mm jack port. The keyboard has Apple’s butterfly mechanism and a Force Touch trackpad that is 20 percent larger than the one on its predecessor. The speakers’ power got a 25 percent boost in volume and emits twice the bass. Video calls, dictation and Siri should also show improvement thanks to the three-microphone array. The new Air now has Siri onboard and, for the first time, it’s made of 35 percent post-consumer recycled plastic (for the speakers) and 100 percent recycled aluminum to help reduce the computer’s carbon footprint...

Coworking Takes Off

The global wholesale leasing model is under pressure, as technology-enabled coworking gains both momentum and market share, says Neal Gemassmer, vice president of international sales for Yardi. Shared workspace is not new – but advancing technology, the growing gig economy and cost-cutting strategies are driving the coworking trend into the mainstream. Increasingly, corporations are turning to coworking to accommodate remote employees, attract talent, promote work satisfaction and reduce leasing costs. “Technology-enabled coworking is undoubtedly putting pressure on traditional leasing models,” Gemassmer says. “Developers of A Grade office buildings have traditionally acted as wholesalers of whole or half floors of space to occupiers who must make long-term leasing commitments, and then fit out their own offices. “But technology-enabled coworking operators are using online marketing and leasing systems to efficiently offer office space to tenants at competitive rates. This is beginning to encroach on the territory of office developers. “Changes to technology does more than change behaviour. It changes the environment itself.” Gemassmer points to a recent report from Asian market intelligence source Mingtiandi, developed in partnership with Yardi, which found the growth rate of coworking in Asia had hit 40 percent in 2017. Starting as a single coworking space in New York in 2010, WeWork is one lease away from being the biggest landlord in the Big Apple. With 280-plus locations in 20 countries, WeWork is rolling out roughly 185,000 sqm of new office space every month. Around a quarter of WeWork’s clients are enterprises with more than 1,000 employees. WeWork only launched the enterprise service in 2016, and has since amassed an impressive list of clients including Facebook, Airbnb, Microsoft, Adidas, Amazon, Starbucks and LinkedIn. WeWork is just one of several coworking companies taking the region by storm, but it is the biggest. In...

Mantis Q

Drones have been increasingly popular in recent years, disrupting various industries with their aerial perspective. Until recently, the more professional models were prohibitively expensive, unless being purchased for a specific business venture. This summer saw the launch of a new drone that’s designed for the masses—Yuneec’s Mantis Q, a small, relatively powerful drone with a semi-reasonable price tag (about $500). Weighting a little over one pound, its in the sweet spot between budget drones like DJI’s Spark, and higher-end models like DJI’s Mavic Air. It holds in its 9 x 7 x 2 inch body (expanded) some of the features usually reserved for more sophisticated drones: 4K video recording, voice control, face detection, speed of up to 44 miles per hour and a lengthy 33-minute flight time. What’s more, it’s also equipped with infrared- and sonar-based stabilization and foldable arms that make it easy to shove in a backpack. The little drone has three automatic flight modes: journey mode—which flies on a straight, designated path; point of interest—which circles an assigned object; and return home—which automatically returns the drone near its takeoff area. In addition, sonar and infrared detection allow the drone to avoid obstacles and achieve stabilized flights indoors, without the aid of GPS. The face detection feature is said to recognize faces from up to 13 feet away and can take photos either through gesture control mode if the user waves their hand or through a voice command such as “Take a selfie.” Voice control can also be used to wake up the drone. We’re not sure how close one needs to be in order for the drone to hear the commands and how much environmental noise affects it. The range for video transmission is between 0.5 miles (800 meters) and 1...

Nissan Energy Solar

Some believe that solar panels require direct sunlight to work. Those same people may believe that the UK is the world’s most unsuitable place to harness the sun’s energy. Well, they are wrong. More than 880,000 people in the UK use solar panels and Nissan has taken note.   In mid-March, the car manufacturer joined the ranks of Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Tesla and launched their take on a complete home energy management system, which they named Nissan Energy Solar. For now, only UK residents can try it in their households.   This idea of utilizing the most valuable part of its electric vehicles—the batteries—after they’ve lived their first life in one of the vehicles (or have been declared terminated post some accident) is new and golden. Nissan is making a bullish push into the energy storage industry, and it does it on three fronts at once: using homes as powerhouses; off-grid power storage; electricity generator park.   The storage system Nissan proposes, the xStorage, is the result of a collaboration with Eaton Industries. The xStorage can have three power options: 3.6 kilowatts, 4.6 kW or 6kW. There are two battery options, 4.2 kW or 6kW. The average unit weighs nearly 300 pounds (135 kg).   Benefits of the system include:  Increased independence from the national grid and electricity providers  Cost reduction on your electricity bill of up to 66 percent  The ability to generate, store and manage energy for use overnight (despite cloudy weather) and charge Nissan electric vehicles.  A six-panel system costs about $5,383 including installation. Full solar and storage systems start at roughly $10,589. This solar plus electric vehicles is clearly a match made in heaven. According to CleanTechnica, about 32 percent of the electric driving respondents have also installed rooftop solar power. In addition, this type...

Reinventing Aluminum

Two of the world’s aluminum giants—Alcoa Corp. and Rio Tinto Aluminum—have announced a revolutionary process to make green aluminum, and we’re not talking colors here. Instead, the joint venture has come up with a new smelting method that produces oxygen instead of direct greenhouse gas emissions.  The project is called Elysis—a reference to the process at the center of aluminum smelting, the electrolysis of alumina. It will be based in Montreal and plans to make this revolutionary method commercially available by 2024. Aside from the environment friendly feature,, the technology is also expected to reduce costs by roughly 15 percent. Apple has partnered with the two companies, and the Governments of Canada and Quebec, to collectively invest a combined $147 million to future research and development. The research and development phase of the technology has spanned decades. Apple joined in 2015 when three of its engineers—Brian Lynch, Jim Yurko and Katie Sassaman—went in search of a cleaner, better way of mass producing aluminum. Aluminum, also known as solid electricity, has been mass produced the same way since 1886, having Alcoa’s founder, Charles Hall as a trail blazer. A strong electrical current is applied to alumina (refined from bauxite) which removes oxygen. In Hall’s experiments as in today’s largest smelters, there is a carbon material that burns during the process, producing greenhouse gases. The new method replaces that carbon with an advanced conducive material. Instead of carbon dioxide, it releases oxygen. This major discovery promised a huge environmental impact. To speed things up, Alcoa realized they needed a partner. Here Apple played a big role: David Tom, Maziar Brumand and Sean Camacho of Apple’s business development department introduced Rio Tinto to Alcoa. What follows that meeting is history unfolding. The future looks greener thanks to...

Artificial Intelligence Gets Real

Artificial intelligence and machine learning for multifamily property owners and managers has arrived. Yardi recently launched Yardi Elevate for multifamily, a suite of asset management solutions that dives deep into operational data and goes beyond presentation with predictive insights and prescriptive recommendations designed to elevate portfolio performance by lowering costs, balancing risk and increasing revenue. Seattle-based Pillar Properties is an early adopter already discovering the benefits. Pillar is an award-winning developer, owner and manager of apartment residences in the Puget Sound area, and a developer of senior living communities through sister company Merrill Gardens. The company has always believed in taking advantage of the best available technology to improve business processes. Before Pillar started using Asset Intelligence, part of Yardi Elevate, relying on various tools including spreadsheets to aggregate and analyze portfolio data was a challenge. “With Asset Intelligence, we finally have a tool that incorporates all of our property and leasing data with historical traffic and RENTmaximizer pricing data. The system marries all that information together beautifully,” says Diana Norbury, senior vice president of multifamily operations at Pillar. The Lowdown on Elevate Comprised of Asset Intelligence, RENTmaximizer, Forecast Manager and Yardi Matrix and designed specifically for CEOs, COOs, asset managers and other operational executives, Yardi Elevate delivers unprecedented portfolio visibility and helps companies maintain data integrity to make better decisions faster to elevate asset performance. And, Yardi Elevate keeps getting smarter. All of the products within the suite work together and also leverage data from other Yardi solutions including Yardi Voyager for unit and lease-level data and the RENTCafé suite, which enables just-in-time marketing recommendations. With broader, cleaner and more accessible data sets, the system learns over time while connecting information and enabling decision-making across disciplines. Driving Performance with Better Data Asset Intelligence includes tools that help Pillar’s executives benchmark operating income and expenses against the competition, as well as reduce costs with prescriptive recommendations and just-in-time marketing. Billy Pettit, president of Pillar Properties, said that being able to see detailed information and metrics for the company’s entire portfolio in one location is exactly what he had been waiting for. The one-click filters in Asset Intelligence give Pettit the information he wants faster, and he doesn’t need to run as many reports as he used to. Asset Intelligence also pulls in and factors revenue management and rental pricing data from RENTmaximizer so Pillar can quickly review pricing and leasing and audit issues to identify trends and make better decisions for its properties. For marketing needs, Norbury can view leasing activity and goals for each property on the Asset Intelligence dashboard to guide her on the best course of action. Getting Ahead with Analytics With predictive performance insights across its portfolio and machine learning recommended actions, Pillar can be confident about unit pricing that increases revenue without sacrificing occupancy. “Asset Intelligence pulls in all the data that we used to hunt for manually between systems. Now all the portfolio and property performance information is in one place and I quickly get a clear picture. The Yardi Elevate suite enables us to make decisions much faster, speak on issues with confidence and identify problems with more ease,” says Norbury. Access to deep market data from Yardi Matrix through Asset Intelligence, including comps along with current and imminent market conditions, has sharpened Pillar’s competitive edge. Pillar recently used benchmarking data from Asset Intelligence to paint a picture, in Norbury’s words, for one of its investors regarding suggested rent drops to gain occupancy growth. “We were still ahead of the market and Elevate provided the data to demonstrate trends over the last two years along with what was presently occurring,” explains Norbury. Not only is Pillar’s executive team aided by Yardi Elevate to ask the right questions and gain insights to drive decision-making, but on-site team members also get valuable information that helps improve community performance. Tools for Moving Forward The marketing...

20 Years of Tech

Celebrating 20 years, Yardi Canada has come a long way. As a leading innovator that delivers technology solutions to move the Canadian real estate industry forward, Yardi Canada focuses on helping clients thrive through every change. We caught up with a few of Yardi Canada’s leaders to learn more about the company’s evolution. From DOS to Windows to Internet based web apps to mobile apps and now on to artificial intelligence, Yardi has always been there with a solution for its clients. Here are a few technological highlights from the past two decades. A Unique Market Mobility and the cloud might reign now, but it all began with DOS. Introducing real estate companies to new technologies to improve business operations has never been an easy task. As Canadians, we tend to be a little more conservative when it comes to change. However, Peter Altobelli, general manager and vice president of sales for Yardi Canada, found it was easy to bring Yardi’s three DOS products to market: Yardi Basic, Yardi Deluxe and Yardi Premier. “DOS was a great product to implement since it was reliable, simple and easy to use. It was a technology that property managers understood. Plus, it had all these great shortcuts, because we didn’t have a mouse back then,” recalls Altobelli. Altobelli set up Yardi’s first office in Canada in 1998, which started with four people and now has grown to a staff of over 200. Today’s multitasking generation, accustomed to multiple windows and screens, would feel restricted with a DOS platform. But back then, users could accomplish single functions at a time quickly and efficiently. It was exactly what the industry needed as a catalyst towards more technology and innovation. Moving to the Internet At every innovative milestone, Yardi Canada...

Drones that Map

Last year was the most significant year for commercial drones yet. More than 66,000 remote drone pilots were certified by the FAA in 2017 in the U.S. alone. Drones made their way into a diverse range of industries, from archaeology to construction, insurance to agriculture. Of course, millions of dollars have been invested in drone services, but Goldman Sachs estimates that the commercial drone market industry will surpass $20 billion by 2021. One of the hottest drone products of the moment is the mapping service. DroneDeploy, a company founded in 2013, recently launched Live Map—the world’s first software able to generate drone maps in real time. Usually, creating a drone map takes time—first you have to plan a mission, fly, capture imagery, go back to your desk to upload the data on your computer (it must be a suitably powerful computer) and then play the waiting game. For hours. With the new service, those hours of waiting disappear—even without a laptop or even internet connection, you get the data you need immediately. The steps are simple: plan a flight, take off, look at maps render on-screen during flight. That’s it. Hundreds of acres of land can easily become consumable maps, shareable to collaborators via instant cloud-syncing across devices. Thus, if more in-depth analysis is required, users can also create higher-resolution 2D maps from the same flight data. Live Map is the next-generation product of Fieldscanner, but it’s five times faster, which makes it capable of keeping up with the real-time challenges of the real world. “Hours of waiting for crop imagery are over. We can capture real-time data in seconds without an internet connection, and begin making smarter crop management decisions before the drone hits the ground,” says Justin Metz, technology integration specialist at...

Autumn Crop

At Apple’s September product unveiling, three new iPhones grabbed the spotlight. Tim Cook’s presentation also showcased the new Apple Watch, called “an intelligent guardian for your health.” To introduce the new Apple Watch to the world, Apple turned to American Heart Association president Ivor Benjamin, who applauded the company’s innovation and commitment towards health issues. The most prominent new feature of the Apple Watch Series 4 is that the device is now able to detect a low heart rate and atrial fibrillation. This advances its health detection capabilities far beyond simple exercise tracking. The watch is now able to measure the electrical activity of the heart, enabling the user to take an electrocardiogram simply by putting their finger on the digital crown. The feature, as well as irregular heart rate detection, has received FDA clearance. There is also a next-generation accelerometer gyroscope, which enables the device to detect a fall by the wearer —when a fall is detected, the watch will send an alert prompting you to call emergency services. If the device senses that the user is immobile for more than one minute, the call will be started automatically. This may be ideal for those aging but hip grandparents who don’t want to admit a life alert device might be a wise wearable. Design-wise, Apple Watch Series 4 flaunts a 30 percent larger display—which gives enough real estate for up to eight shortcuts for apps—as well as a thinner body, which make it less bulky on small wrists. The speakers are 50 percent louder and its new S4 chip will have the watch perform twice as fast. The battery life should last for 18 hours and outdoor workout time has increased to six hours. Pricing starts at $399 for the GPS model and...

Forbes Cloud 100

Yardi has been named for the third time to the Forbes Cloud 100, the definitive list of the top 100 private cloud companies in the world. Yardi was a member of the inaugural Cloud 100 in 2016, moved up to the #26 spot on the list in 2017, and came in at #22 this year. The timing of this significant honor was special as Yardi executives and staff are welcomed the largest group of clients ever to the biannual Yardi Advanced Solutions Conference in San Diego this week. In Wednesday’s welcoming remarks, president and founder Anant Yardi noted that about 98 percent of clients now make sure of the company’s secure and reliable cloud. “We’re honored that Forbes recognized us again for our efforts to provide industry-leading cloud solutions,” said Jay Shobe, vice president of cloud services at Yardi. “To continue to rank high on this list is a testament to the efforts of our employees and invaluable support and feedback from our clients.” Published by Forbes in collaboration with Bessemer Venture Partners, the list will appear in the Sept. issue of Forbes magazine and is available at forbes.com/cloud100. The evaluation process involved four factors: market leadership (35%), estimated valuation (30%), operating metrics (20%), people & culture (15%), which the judge panel then weighed to select, score and rank the winners. With that data, the Forbes Cloud 100 judge panel, which includes major public cloud company CEOs, was then responsible for selecting and ranking the top 100 companies worldwide. “For the past three years, the Cloud 100 list has identified the top cloud companies that are reshaping their respective industries,” said Alex Konrad, Forbes editor of The Cloud 100. “I am consistently impressed by the caliber of companies honored on the Cloud 100 list. It is an exciting time to a be a cloud company and founder.” “All of the twenty-five cloud IPOs and major cloud acquisitions over the past three years have been prior members of the Cloud 100, and we absolutely expect that the dominant public cloud companies of the future will also come from this list,” said Byron Deeter, a top cloud investor and partner at Bessemer Venture Partners. “The 2018 Cloud 100 represents well over $135B in private shareholder value–an astonishing figure that reminds us yet again of the power of the cloud. The way we do business will be dramatically different as a result of these companies and I am honored to celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of the founders and teams behind each company on the 2018 Cloud 100.” “The business opportunity for cloud companies is tremendous today as capital investment, customer demand and rate of adoption continues to grow,” said Matt Garratt, managing partner, Salesforce Ventures. “We’re excited to see the potential of these companies and look forward to seeing what innovative technology they deliver around the world.” Yardi was among the companies celebrated last night in San Francisco at the Cloud 100 Celebration, an exclusive event hosted by Bessemer Venture Partners, Forbes and Salesforce Ventures. The celebration is attended by the CEOs of the public cloud companies and the CEOs named to the Cloud 100 and the 20 Rising Stars...

Asset Tech Upgrades

Until fairly recently, enterprise software platforms for real estate largely focused on accounting, finance and other back office operations. The advanced programming languages, mobile reach and internet capacity that enable automated workflows and remote access available for the back office hadn’t reached the front office. Things are different today—for the better. In an article originally published in Journal of Property Management, Todd Huebsch, Yardi vice president of commercial sales, explains why.   New software applications squarely target the front office, lending new dynamism to leasing, customer services, facility management, development and other operations. What does the evolution of technology dedicated to the front office mean in practical terms? For one, it means that property management technology has reached the point where remote access is both affordable and effective for managers involved in leasing, construction and facilities management. It also means leasing and asset management can work a deal together with a previously unattainable degree of collaboration. Development vice presidents can evaluate risk with instant access to project status, instead of waiting for a weekly report. They can leverage ERP data such as lease comps, revenue trends, contractor and job analysis, to make better decisions. Consider, for example, construction managers working to correct a problem with a building’s foundation. In an earlier era, they would call or email the back office, or even leave the site altogether to calculate the change order and negotiate the amount and cost code. Today, using apps designed specifically for their role, construction managers can enter the work order with just a few taps on a mobile device. The change order automatically flows to the back office and is recorded in the core property management and accounting platform. The adjustment is fully visible to all parties and the construction manager...

Flexible Workspace

Editor’s note: The following interview originally appeared in GCUC UK and is reprinted with permission here. Tony Freeth has seen the evolution of the office space industry firsthand. Co-founder of Phoenix Broadband and creator of Medusa, a product that handles premises infrastructure, Freeth has played a pioneering role in bandwidth management and workspace wifi solutions since the late-1990s. Recently, Medusa was acquired by global real estate technology company Yardi. Freeth, who was at the first Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC) in Austin, Texas in 2012, has now taken the role of Director of Coworking Europe at Yardi. With two decades of experience, Freeth provides a unique and valuable perspective on the now-booming workspace industry. We spoke with Freeth about the evolution of the industry, Yardi’s acquisition of Medusa, and how commercial real estate has now adopted coworking as an asset class. Here are the highlights of our conversation. What’s your coworking story, Tony? How were you introduced to what was then a small movement? Tony Freeth: In 2010, I was talking to someone at Steelcase who told me I needed to go to Coworking Europe. While there, I came across a bunch of people who had a very different idea of how people could work in a space, based on collaboration and community. We tried to sell that message to our conventional customers for many years, and for a long time their response was, “No that’s not what we do. Everyone wants a door.” We told them when you put millennials behind doors, it’s like depriving a plant of light—they just wilt. I met [GCUC producer] Liz Elam at Coworking Europe and she invited me to Austin for GCUC. It became clear that U.S. coworking seemed extremely vibrant and extremely well-organized. I imagine your...

People Flow

Developers, property owners and architects have a new tool available for building design. The Virtual Building Service, an innovation from Budapest-headquartered EIT Digital, creates digital simulations to test and optimize people flow and building occupancy. IBM and KONE, a company that specializes in the elevator and escalator industry, have partnered in the initiative, with KONE acting as business owner and activity leader. The service is designed to make it easier for real estate professionals to design buildings that are financially attractive, while maximizing shared spaces. Simulation data will be collected in real time by sensors, while new facilities will have to rely on input from previous studies. “Our simulation capability is much improved. We can, for example, simulate people flow in the lobby of an office building; understand how that might look along with the waiting times for the elevators,” said KONE’s head of People Flow Optimization Juha-Matti Kuusinen. “Not only can we calculate a building’s efficiency, but we can also benchmark it with similar buildings and conclude if the building is performing very well or if there’s room for improvement.” KONE had focused its efforts on vertical efficiency, such as people moving from floor to floor. In tall buildings, elevator group control systems select which elevator to dispatch to each request, aiming to minimize waiting times. These systems could be upgraded by forecasting future traffic based on historical statistics. “We realized, however, that if you don’t design end-to-end people flow, including the horizontal people flow, it is difficult for our customers to judge whether their buildings are really efficient. This is why we started to explore the optimization of the total people flow, combining both the horizontal and vertical dimensions,” added Kuusinen. Tarmo Kekki, executive partner at IBM, said the simulator is a...

CA’s New Solar Panel Law ...

Not long ago, California became the first state to require that all new homes have solar power: single-family and multifamily properties alike. The rule is part of the state’s commitment to cut greenhouse gases. It will go into effect in the next two years.  Under the new law, developers must either equip individual homes with solar panels or build a shared solar-power system serving a group of homes. The rooftop panels can either be owned or made available for lease on a monthly basis. But are they covered by an insurance policy?  Insuring the Vision Here’s what the folks at the Insurance Information Institute have put together:  Most solar panels are considered a permanent attachment (like a deck) and thus are protected by a homeowner’s policy. However, check with your insurance company to know for sure. Another thing  to consider is the coverage amount—your insurance policy’s coverage limit is the maximum amount that will be paid toward covering a loss. Ensure you have the adequate coverage limit, because despite the significant contraction in the cost of solar panels, it’s still not negligible.   Your premiums will suffer. Some carriers allow solar energy systems owners to purchase an optional endorsement just for the panels. Others include the coverage in the dwelling coverage (coverage A) if the panels are on the roof of the home or under coverage B if the panels are on the ground or on the roof of a detached structure.   Leasing the solar panels can make a big difference in your policy: if you install a system with a lease or power purchase agreement (PPA), you are not the owner of the system. In this case, the company with whom you have the agreement owns the panels and is responsible for their maintenance....

Alexa and the Elderly...

When conversation shifts to home automation, references to Millennials are rarely far behind. While it’s true that the emerging generation of homeowners loves their tech toys, they aren’t the only ones harnessing the power of smart home technology. Senior living providers have joined other industry leaders in the pursuit of more automated options for residents as well. Amazon + Senior Housing Amazon has made huge strides as a provider of integrated automation and voice control for major home builders across the industry, including prominent developers Lennar and Shea Homes. Communities created by these companies are part of a growing “Wi-Fi Certified” trend, offering housing with built-in automation and voice control. For seniors, that means controlling features within their homes and interacting with the outside world is simplified, thanks to voice commands. Enabling the integration is Amazon’s Alexa, a cloud-based virtual assistant, which appears in various forms throughout the homes. She’s most often takes shape as a sleek, tabletop pillar in the Echo line of products. Through Alexa, seniors can set reminders for appointments and medications; control music and home ambiance; check weather; get news and sports updates; and order just about anything fathomable on Amazon.com. Amazon Echo Dot speakers permit seniors to access Alexa anywhere in their home. They also serve as Bluetooth speakers that are capable of connecting to a myriad of seniors’ personal devices. With so many ways to integrate, Amazon’s variations on Wi-Fi centric homes are quickly becoming the new standard for incoming baby boomers, but the tech toys come with a few caveats. Too Smart for Its Own Good? As technology develops at a rapid pace, home builders are left wondering just how quickly their newly installed gadgets will become obsolete. Alternatively, what are the costs associated with staying up-to-date...