By on Feb 17, 2014 in Technology

If your property was developed before 2000, it wasn’t built with cellphone and Wi-Fi reception iThe Phoenix Beaconn mind. The location, building materials, and sometimes the building’s design can hinder signals. Today’s renters won’t tolerate glacial-speed connectivity and inconsistent service. Beacons could help improve resident satisfaction, retention, and give you new ways to communicate with tenants.

Beacons are the latest technology for any property that wants to improve cellphone reception and Wi-Fi availability. The small devices can be plugged into a wall or set on any surface. Their low-energy usage and low-cost makes them easy to add to any unit. Beacons use Bluetooth connection to send signals to devices such as smartphones and tablets, so there are no wires or tedious setup required.

Basically, beacons can be used to amplify your wireless services.  Offering them with your units could be a huge selling point for renters, particularly Millennial. There is a growing trend of Americans and Canadians who are ditching cable in exchange for Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming video services; some switch to save hundreds of dollars on their bills each year. Residents won’t be pleased if they feel coerced into a cable contract because they can’t stream shows at home.

Tenants of all ages will appreciate faster speeds and more consistent service. It’s vital to their life’s work, in many cases. An increasing number of professionals work from home at least one day a week or more. Even those who aren’t remote employees are expected to have always-on connectivity, staying on top of their game by working evenings and weekends. If the internet is down or slow, their work will suffer and they’re likely to look elsewhere when it’s time to renew the lease.

Owners may also toy with the idea of using beacons for rent and utility payments. The technology is certainly available. Some department stores are already using beacons for contactless payment systems. When used in a residential setting, beacon-facilitated payments wouldn’t feel much different than paying online via smartphone but the closed-system communication could be a perk for owners.

As an added bonus, beacons can also be used to push information to residents, like a PA system where messages are sent straight to digital devices. If used properly, beacons can be an excellent tool for the occasional community-wide notice. (If abused, push notification feature could become an annoyance to renters. Agents have to find the balance between being informative and intrusive.)

Beacons could also save lives in emergencies. The devices give greater accuracy to GPS 911 call tracking on cellphone calls. Managers can use push notifications to alert residents of fires in the community, practice vs. real drills, and other health concerns.

By now you’re thinking that beacons are some sort of miracle device. Are there any drawbacks and short comings? Like all wireless connections, there is the possibility of hacking. There are also the expected user challenges. Users must turn on Bluetooth and location services. Some renters may not want to have GPS on all the time (“Big Brother is stalking me!”) which could lead to turning off Bluetooth and limiting the beacon’s effectiveness. Users would need to opt into any push notification apps offered through the community which they might not do. And of course, when users need to do anything tech-y, it’s a good idea to have an IT professional on hand to answer their questions and walk them through it.

If you’re currently using beacons on your property, share your experiences with other The Balance Sheet readers.