A recent article in Multifamily Executive, “Technology Innovations a Silver Lining of the Pandemic”, discussed the accelerated adoption of technology in the multifamily industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID has required so many industries to adapt in various ways and the multifamily industry is no exception. Within days of states issuing stay at home orders, Spot On scrambled to advise it’s multifamily customers on how to provide wireless services to meet the demands of the new normal, how to address bandwidth requirements with residents home and signed the FCCs Keep Americans Connected Pledge. Multifamily building owners were ready to adopt the technology necessary for their residents in a way we have never seen before.
In the MFE article, John Helm of RET Ventures “noted that building-wide Wi-Fi is a must, since it’s going to be almost required from a resident perspective with everyone working from home and those residents also needing connectivity in the common areas when they leave their apartments”. The Pandemic has made believers of those that were still slightly skeptical of needing a building-wide Wi-Fi solution or those that considered Wi-Fi to be something that individual residents should handle on their own. As Helm said, residents are going to “require” that their building provide building-wide Wi-Fi going forward.
Jeff Kok of Mill Creek Residents is quoted in MFE: “You need to understand what is coming to develop your strategy for the next five years…Future-proofing also starts way back at design; get in as early as possible”. Extremely wise words from Mr. Kok. One of the biggest issues we have historically run into with building owners is thinking of the building technology as something that should be considered separate from the building design. The opposite is true – in order to future-proof a building, ensure adequate cable runs, etc., companies like Spot On should be brought in to discuss technology requirements in the design phase, before the shovel is in the ground. We have had more than a few properties where we have had to go in after the building is up and go through some beautiful finish work to get the necessary cabling put into the building, costing the property a lot of money. Luckily, since the pandemic, we have seen a surge in building owners requesting our engineers in the design phase to ensure proper cabling and LV approaches. I think this speaks to building owners wanting to get their connectivity right and realizing the importance of a solid, building-wide Wi-Fi solution.
Mr. Kok is also correct about the strategy aspect of technology solutions. We do not expect building owners to be technology visionaries. That is our job – we advise our customers on wireless strategy. The wireless approach you take today should not be designed for today, it should be built to handle the coverage and compacity over the next 3-5 years. When working with a wireless networking partner, building owners should specifically ask: “Will this network design work for my residents next year? In 3 years? In 5 years?” Another unfortunately scenario we run into is wireless companies trying to underbid with poor network designs or designs where the network will already be at max capacity. With the proliferation of wireless devices, IoT and bandwidth requirements, building owners should be ready to invest in “over designed” networks or at a minimum, networks that are modular enough that adding coverage and capacity is easy. This is futureproofing. The good news is, Wi-Fi, when intelligently designed is phenomenal for future-proofing. A great example of this is Wi-Fi 6. Building owners can have a Wi-Fi 5 network put into their building now and as Wi-Fi 6 devices require the new Wi-Fi protocol, access points can simply be swapped out. The backend Wi-Fi architecture stays the same.
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