Enterprise smart home IoT – less is more

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Michael Driedger, co-founder and CEO of Operto, looks at enterprise smart home IoT, and how seemingly simple solutions can sometimes bring about increased benefits

Technology should enhance and improve our lives, not make them more complicated. Yet the reality is often very different. Today we have more streaming channels, more smart screens, more voice assistants with more apps and ever-increasing IoT options for homes and properties. However, this increased connectedness doesn’t always translate into better living.

The unbelievable variety and ubiquity of smart and connected tech for both our homes and the short-term rental properties like Airbnb, which we book when we travel, has led to some interesting problems. Let’s start with the ever-evolving smart camera. How many hours of video footage can we actually watch? With Less than 1% of all surveillance video ever viewed by human eyes, it’s clearly not something that is making a big difference to our lives. 

“The unbelievable variety and ubiquity of smart and connected tech for both our homes and the short-term rental properties…has led to some interesting problems.”

In the world of enterprise smart home IoT, this lack of simplicity has become a challenge in the short-term rental market, one of the fastest-growing industries – not just for hospitality and travel, but also property development and investment.  

Even if you could add open/close sensors to a smart home system for a short-term rental what are you using it for? Imagine getting 400 ‘door open’ notifications per month from 1,000 properties you look after as a property manager. How do you deal with all these messages? Knowing if one guest has left the door open at your nearby Airbnb property is useful, and you can act on it, but at scale, it just isn’t operationally efficient.

Having been in the construction and building design world my whole career, I’ve seen this sort of inefficiency countless times and it doesn’t make life easier for the proprietor or the end-user. 

The essential element for any smart system is that it has to be stripped back to its most essential and simple elements. This tech mantra is particularly applicable to the short-term rental industry.

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Smarter buildings shouldn’t be complicated

With IoT and smart home adoption growing rapidly, deciding which tools to adopt is critical. According to recent research by Booking.com, 63% of guests want a keyless solution for their rental experience. That means a smart lock is going to be the foundation of much of the other IoT available.  

It’s a simple old-school device (a keypad lock) with a new life and more functionality, but at its core, it’s an easy-to-use IoT device. When it comes to adopting IoT tech, it’s important to remind ourselves that it’s better to choose the right device, rather than to get excited about all the potential ones on the market. 

Used in the right combination, Smart Stay tech allows for a better (and safer) guest experience and greater protection of assets for owners, as well as opportunities to improve operations for managers in the short-term rental context. From a wider perspective, it reveals how IoT, in essence, needs to retain its simplicity in order to function efficiently and offer the most benefit – whether that’s a wearable or a smart lock. 

READ MORE: IoT – How to secure your smart home against attacks

Not more tools. Just the right tools

Firstly, let’s consider home security and enterprise property management. A motion sensor will alert the alarm company that someone is at your property, however, it won’t be able to tell you how many people are intruding. If the property is also a short-term rental, the motion sensor will also likely give you too many false-positive readings from guests. While a system like this doesn’t compromise guest privacy, it also doesn’t really tell you what’s going on within the property (good or bad). It’s simply not a tech solution which is applicable to the context. 

A more effective security alternative for a short-term rental property is a smart lock. Why? Because data from a smart lock can be used to see who exactly (with a margin for error) is coming and going into a property, as each guest can be given a different code. Maintenance and cleaning staff can also be given unique codes to track their ‘coming and going’.

With certain systems, you can also tell if the door is being locked and unlocked from the inside or from the outside (i.e. you get a sense of whether people are coming or going). Using this data, alongside noise monitoring data, is a decent indicator of how many people are entering a property. Basically, 20 door opens and closes in an hour, alongside high noise data, might indicate that a party is starting, although of course, it could also indicate that your guests are bringing in lots of bags and then listening to music really loudly which lessens accuracy. 

So if smart locks and noise monitoring are not, in themselves, the ideal smart tech solutions for a responsible property manager who wants to ensure safety and security, an even more effective way to monitor the number of people in an occupied space is with a CO2 sensor.

Building engineers have been using CO2 sensors for more than 20 years. One example is in corporate spaces, in order to identify when a meeting room is over-occupied. All people breathe out CO2 at a constant rate. It rises in a predictable and reliable manner and therefore occupancy levels in a space can be accurately monitored.

CO2 monitoring is the missing piece of (IoT) information that can help to flag up a potential party in a rental property or to show that more people are staying in the property than was agreed at booking stage. With lock, noise and CO2 data (with far greater certainty) a property manager can be alerted to nip a potential party in the bud before a property is damaged, or neighbours are annoyed, by reminding the guests of the house rules and booking agreement. 

With this combined tech, no one’s privacy is compromised because all three use anonymous data. By themselves, the data has limited value, but when put together (lock, noise and CO2 data) they are very powerful tools for managers and owners.  With contextual data, you have real insight rather than just another alert. Context is everything when it comes to data and tech and the only way to offer a Smart Stay experience in a short-term rental property is to choose the right tools for the job. 

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Michael Driedger

Michael Driedger is the co-founder and CEO of Operto Guest Technologies, a property automation system that provides intelligent control of smart home/IoT devices at scale. Prior to founding Operto in 2016, Michael had more than two decades of experience in architecture, building design, and construction and has a passion for energy efficiency, sustainability, and intelligent systems that are designed to improve our overall quality of life.

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