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At PointCentral, we help property managers everywhere take the hassle out of running their rental business and help them to improve operating income through smart automation and connected devices. 

This month, we caught up with Mike Branam, Director of Multifamily Sales, to learn more about smart apartment technology, and how it is driving NOI and making property management easier and more efficient.

Could you tell us a little more about the multifamily rentals team and what you do?

The multifamily industry is undergoing a transformation as it relates to how asset owners and property managers leverage technology to protect their assets, manage staff and deliver in-demand amenities. With that in mind, our team is focused on engaging asset owners, property managers and our trusted service providers in an effort to connect our solutions with their technology needs that are specifically related to delivering an automation solution into multifamily buildings. We’re a solutions oriented group and we put every effort into understanding the needs of our customers before prescribing a product or feature. This means that a lot of our time is spent understanding today’s challenges in the world of asset development and property management, and determining how our technology can either solve problems, mitigate risk and/or make life easier for property managers and residents. 

What’s your own background in the property and smart tech industry?

I’ve been in real estate and technology for over 20 years with nearly 10 of those years being devoted specifically to “PropTech” (there was not a term for it 10 years ago, so it’s kind of exciting that this specific field is categorized as such). I worked for about 8 years with a couple of former Google Executives and we helped revolutionize the way asset owners promoted their vacant listings online. We all had a “side hustle” of investing in real estate and started thinking about the inefficiencies in property management, specifically the challenges of issuing keys and resetting thermostats when properties are vacant, and came up with ‘Remotely’, which was the industry’s first enterprise smart solution for property managers. This was nearly 10 years ago, when smart devices were just gaining traction. Things have come a long way since then!

Smart apartment technology. What is it exactly? Could you please explain for the layperson?

We hear a lot about smart home, or smart apartment, technology and I think the answer to this question depends on who the user is. For example, if I am an apartment resident, then I can control any of the smart devices in my apartment on a resident app in an effort to customize my living experience, make my life more convenient and safe, and take advantage of ways to reduce energy consumption. Keep in mind, some of this is dependent on the types of smart devices that are in my apartment. On the other hand, if I am an asset owner or a property manager, then a smart apartment is really more about having a smart apartment community, and the advantages that come with leveraging technology with the interpersonal to holistically manage the asset in a way that is more efficient, mitigates risk and modernizes my community to attract and keep residents.

You firmly believe in harnessing the power of smart apartment technology to drive NOI and make property management easier and more efficient. Can you share any real life examples of how customers are using PointCentral’s solution and operating more efficiently and effectively as a result?

There’s a lot to unpack in that question. Every day, our customers realize the benefits of the platform and in many cases, they do so without doing anything different than what they are doing day in and day out inside their primary property management software. For example, our integrations with systems like Yardi Voyager or RealPage’s OneSite, ensure that when a resident is moved out of those systems, the thermostat is automatically transitioned into an energy management mode while the door is locked. This not only helps maintenance professionals by removing the need to perform those functions manually, hence allowing them to focus on other aspects of maintaining the building, but this task automation, when performed in real-time, helps control costs and mitigate risk. I live in Denver, and it is not uncommon in our climate to shift by 30 to 50 degrees in a single day. I’ve had property managers, prior to implementing our solution, describe situations where they didn’t get to a vacant unit for 48 hours after move out and during a rapid temperature shift, the pipes in a unit froze which triggered a burst that damaged the vacant unit and several floors below it. This simple oversight ended up causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage, not to mention the unhappy residents. All of this is preventable with an automation solution, and our customers enjoy these benefits every day.

It’s been a challenging couple of years. How has the pandemic affected your customers? How have they adapted? And what role have you played in helping them overcome their business challenges in these unprecedented times?

The pandemic has shifted consumer behavior and how companies accommodate remote workers, and apartment owners have certainly felt the impact. A larger percentage of apartment dwellers are working from home which has increased the demand for more bandwidth and higher speeds of community provided internet. Community wifi is an excellent benefit, but we caution our customers to strongly consider the ramifications of connecting thousands of smart devices that also rely on that connection and expect the system to be reliable, timely and secure. This is why we implement a cellular solution. When it comes to consumer behavior, we have seen deliveries pick up significantly over the past 18+ months. Between meal delivery and online shopping, apartment communities have more access demands from non-residents than ever before, so we have found that implementing a single, robust access solution that solves guest entry for common areas and resident doors has eased the burden of access for property staff, while still providing transparency and security for the community.

The challenges of recent times have resulted in phenomenal innovation in the smart tech space. Which smart apartment technology developments excite you most at the moment?

For me, I’m more excited about the benefits of streamlining technology platforms than the latest smart device. Streamlining platforms and strategic integrations make life easier for our customers that are evaluating enterprise technology. This is how the technology will scale and be useful for asset owners and their staff.