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2018 is officially wrapped up, and from a property automation standpoint, it was an exciting year! With home automation technology now in 33 percent of U.S. households, it’s clear that demand for this technology continues to rapidly grow. Consumers are finding increasing value in the safety, savings and convenience provided by home automation.

From the rental property owner and operator standpoint, the use of home automation products is also growing, not only to the delight of residents and guests, but also to drive operational efficiency and asset protection. In fact, our own survey results show that almost half of property managers are using a connected thermostat to manage HVAC costs, while over half use keyless locks as a way to efficiently and safely give access to properties.

So, what does all this mean for Property Automation technology in 2019?  Here are my predictions.

Continued Demand for Vacation and Long Term Rentals Will Fuel Tech Opportunities

A continued strong economy (in spite of the recent stock market swings) will continue to fuel a demand for housing, both for short-term vacation rentals and long-term rentals.

Consumers want private accommodations during vacation travel, which provides an opportunity for technology to help properties stand out with high-demand amenities and easy, behind-the-scenes functionality. For example, predictive HVAC analysis that pre-cools a home before arrival will make a guest’s stay more enjoyable and therefore add an important edge in a crowded industry.

On the long-term rental side, rising interest rates combined with limited housing construction will drive high demand.

A Tight Labor Market Will Demand Efficiencies in Operations

A tight labor market will turn operational efficiencies from nice-to-have to need-to-have. Operators will require that their existing maintenance and repair staff be as productive as possible while maintaining, or even elevating, the quality of their work.

Property Tech Will Further Influence Asset Utilization

Property Tech will continue to empower shifts in asset utilization business models from startups like Stay Alfred, Apartment Jet and Pillow. These kinds of short-term rentals help property owners earn on their asset during down times – a practice that is enhanced and made possible by integrated property tech.

Voice Assistants Will Expand and Specialize

From a consumer standpoint, adoption of smart home gadgets will continue to driven by thermostats, access, lighting, video and voice—but there will be some ripples.

Voice assistants gave a boost to smart home adoption four years ago, because they made it easy to interact with technology. You no longer had to take out your phone, unlock it and launch multiple apps to control different lights in your house—you simply asked your voice assistant. The simplicity of interacting with connected technology using a natural interface like voice will continue to delight users. But I think that voice will struggle to move past its top use cases (play music, set timers, control smart home) Further, voice will get complicated as voice assistants attempt to specialize.

Communication Protocols Will Continue to Be Splintered

Everyone wants death to hubs—this is one theme that comes up a lot: When will everything standardize on one communication protocol (i.e., Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, etc.)?

The reality is, this is not going to happen any time soon, because each protocol provides unique strengths and weaknesses:

  • Wi-Fi is great for high bandwidth but is not that good at security.
  • Bluetooth is relatively quick and easy, but was also not designed with security concerns in mind.  
  • Z-Wave is secure and requires low power, which is great for IoT devices, but it has less bandwidth than Wi-Fi.

A hub is needed to translate between each of these different “languages” and deliver the seamless experience that residents, operators and guests want. One day we might get there, but I think that day is a long way out.

Consumers Will Demand More Cybersecurity

According to Nokia, three out of every 1,000 connected devices (mobile phones, tablets, computers or IoT devices) are infected with malware. Today, over 70 percent of those infections are on Android and Windows devices, but IoT devices are quickly becoming larger targets. In the wake of recent privacy leaks and scandals, consumers have become increasingly sensitive to how their data is collected, used and secured. Buying hardware and software from partners that can reliably secure data and devices will be key.

Data Analysis of Asset Usage Will Improve Maintenance

Companies with enough resources (amount of data, data scientists and time) are starting to release not only fun but useful analytics models. These can use a medium like noise or HVAC utilities to continually analyze an asset, such as water or energy consumption, to predict when maintenance will be needed. This results in shifting the cost curve down and keeping residents happier.