We all agree that we live in an age of technological advancement. Technology and the construction industry traditionally didn’t have much in common, but in 2023 it’s been changed already. You can check our previous article on technology in interior design here. The question of today is: could we use technological innovations to improve the experience? We believe the answers can be found in PropTech.
Just imagine that you are a coliver and after taking your daily shower you can instantly be informed how many liters of water you used or that just before dinner time you get a notification of the available options who you can share your dinner with.
PropTech is a sector that has been on the rise in recent years. It’s a combination of the internet, huge computing power, cloud platforms, and artificial intelligence. The idea behind Proptech is to make the buildings smarter and help colivings to operate more efficiently and sustainably. It can enhance well-being initiatives and foster sustainable behavior change.
There is no one do-it-all coliving software solution that perfectly fits all types of business models. We are going to explore a range of solutions that can benefit colivings in different ways.
PropTech for colivings can be divided into two areas:
PROPERTY MANAGEMENT + COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT
Property management is about making operations more efficient by improving day-to-day functions and transactions.
It may be a complex task, especially for the coliving spaces. Operators may either go for an off-shelf Software as a Service [SaaS] or create their own proprietary system, which is a less popular but still an option.
- Access control and camera surveillance
Security control is the first area in the colivings that can benefit from PropTech. There has been much added to traditional security cameras. A modern cloud-based video surveillance system can help operators to understand how tenants use their space so they can implement changes to benefit them. For example, surveillance can show operators which areas in the communal spaces are used the most and at what times of the day. As designers, we can learn a lot from this data and implement the knowledge when creating the next co-living spaces.
An online booking system is a norm today. It saves administration time by collecting data, updating availability, and sending automated emails to the residents. In the last years, we have observed the next gen of those services. Matterport
for instance is an innovative platform for virtual tours and enhanced online booking. It offers digital twin services which basically means duplicating your real estate into accurate 3D virtual spaces. It can save travel time and help potential colivers make a decision on the booking.
- Property management system (PMS)
PMS is a tool that provides a centralized computer system to arrange, schedule, and perform the day-to-day operations and transactions for the coliving. It supports a coliving with managing building info, bookings, check-in and check-out, event management, housekeeping, inventory supply management, managing security and room locks, and more.
There are lots of start-ups that develop technologies around smart interior design. As discussed in a previous blog post
is a platform that provides furniture including digital maintenance.
Stykka products come with a digital twin that is connected to an online cloud database that keeps track of all the parts. You can reorder parts and get a general overview of all your furniture. It’s a very smart solution that aims to lower your cost of ownership.
Community management is all about communication. The main objective is to empower your community members to engage, share content, discuss topics, and organize events. Colivers can communicate on activities either in big groups or private messages. In recent years there has been a surge in the creation of communication apps for communities like Hivenbrite
for instance. Most of them are created mainly for virtual communities which may not work that well for physical ones which is the case of the colivings. From my personal experience of traveling to various colivings for digital nomads, Slack
has been the most common solution. You can create channels based on interests like yoga, hikes, food, etc. Emoji response is the most common way to communicate at bigger gatherings for the headcounts etc.
COMBINING PROPERTY AND COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT
What if the property and community management systems weren’t separated? We believe that trying to separate those two systems is actually not the best solution. People live in the building and the building host the people. It is a very complementary ecosystem, which shouldn't be disconnected. There are some platforms that offer combining the two in one.
Images courtesy of Spaceflow
Spaceflow is a digital tenant experience solution that lets landlords manage their properties and community at the same time. It provides everything you need from operations to communication. It also has an option to connect to smart building technology. All functionalities are wrapped in a really friendly interface.
When we talk about PropTech, we cannot miss the subject of sustainability. This is where a community and a property cannot be separated. It’s about driving people's behavior towards better ways of using the building. There are many off-shelf products on the market that can benefit coliving spaces.
Utopi is a specialist ESG technology platform for multi-tenant buildings. You can check out our previous article on the importance of ESG in PBSA here
. It collects data, engage with residents, and reports on how your buildings perform to ESG standards.
Utopi's aim is to reduce the environmental impact of the property by enabling tenants to play their part in solving the climate crisis.
It offers a SaaS platform for operators, an app for the tenants, and associated devices including Utopi multi sensors which collect real-time data on light, noise, air quality, temperature, humidity, and motion.
Image courtesy of Tulu
Tulu is a platform that promotes sharing resources. It works in two ways. One is providing the building with the ready units from which the colivers can rent anything they may need from an ironing board to a vacuum cleaner. It's a very smart way to share devices that would otherwise need to be provided in every room. The second way is a dedicated app to help share resources and manage waste between colivers. The system is currently installed in 2 buildings we designed and there are more in the pipeline.
In the last few years, there has been a movement of trying to implement blockchain technologies within colivings using tokens and Decentralised Autonomous Organisation [DAO]. The aim of DAO is to create a democratic system with member-owned communities without centralized leadership. The idea behind this is that the power of decision-making stays with the tenants/colivers. It's a very fresh way of thinking where instead of a vertical hierarchy system a horizontal one is introduced. DAO is a teenage idea at the moment without a real-case application yet, but a very interesting one. I was part of the crypto.coliving
project where we were testing the concept.
Modern tenant is tech and climate aware. PropTech can create more attractive communities which means higher rents and lower costs. It can also bring happiness and health to the colivers.
But it is all that idyllic? There has been an ongoing debate on the negative sides of tech implementation. Where is the line between being "caring" and “invasive” for surveillance cameras for instance? Students want safety but also privacy.
It’s even more subjective when it comes to ClimateTech. Is it ok to enforce measuring energy consumption and force-notify residents about it? How can we make sure we don't stress the residents by letting them know that they are the ones wasting the most water in the building? And is it ok to do so when they are sold an all-inclusive (rent & bills) package? Some operators state that they don't want to become the "climate police".
It’s a delicate subject, but we believe that the answer is about finding the right balance. Finding ways to incentives the tenants to improve individual behaviors without stressing them. A reward system for positive actions could be a solution for instance. On top of that, the residents should always be able to make a choice if they want to participate in the initiative or not.
The last decades showed that technology can have a positive or negative impact depending on how we use it. Let’s be positive but vigilant.
Cover image courtesy of Tulu