IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Getting Smart About MDUs

Channel pros can create value for condo and apartment residents, along with property managers of those multi-dwelling units, with smart IoT solutions. By Samuel Greengard

THE RISE of smart home technology has been nothing short of impressive. In fact, the global market for smart home devices climbed 11.7% last year with over 895 million devices shipped, according to IDC. While single family “smart homes” grab most of the attention, multi-dwelling units (MDUs) have emerged as a viable opportunity for Internet of Things-enabled automation.

“The opportunities stretch across several areas,” says Michael Oh, president of TSP, a Boston-based company that specializes in designing and building smart spaces. TSP’s solutions include everything from HVAC and irrigation systems that can cut costs and improve manageability to connected door locks, lighting, and window coverings that deliver convenience, energy savings, and safety.

Despite rapid consumer adoption, however, convincing MDU owners and managers to invest in smart home technologies can be challenging. “Builders and property managers don’t always recognize the value,” notes Akram Khalis, chief technology officer at MHT Lighting, a New York-based firm that specializes in smart home technologies.

Plugging into Gains

An apartment or condo may be a home, but it isn’t a house. The motivation for builders and property owners often differs from occupants when it comes to the IoT and MDUs, Khalis points out.

Michael Oh

Residents typically seek out convenience, time savings, and cool features. Smart locks, lighting controls, automated window coverings, audiovisual controls, and other smart home features can appeal to prospective renters or buyers who want to use Siri or Alexa to set a scene or handle a task. In fact, according to MHT Lighting's research, MDU residents are typically willing to pay a 15% rent premium for smart buildings and smart amenities, Khalis notes.

Residents are also drawn to new building designs with technologies that enable remote and hybrid work, including dedicated smart workspaces and meeting rooms in condos and apartments. “People need spaces where they can go for meetings and to escape a noisy apartment. They want to be able to plug in and use their technology,” Khalis says.

Property owners, on the other hand, are more focused on costs and bottom-line benefits, so smart HVAC and irrigation systems, and overall property management and security features, will be a draw. For example, the ability to automatically switch off air conditioning and heating in unoccupied units can be a major selling point. Likewise, internet-connected irrigation systems that automatically adapt to weather conditions are appealing because they can slash water bills.

Making Connections Count

For channel pros and MSPs looking to venture into the smart MDU space, it’s vital to understand how various IoT smart technologies and systems function and how they fit together. The MDU space is not the same as the consumer smart home space.

Apartments often involve different types IoT devices and systems than homes—and solutions must scale across apartments and even groups of complexes. Yet, Oh says it’s wise to avoid propriety controls and instead integrate with popular consumer platforms like Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home.

About the Author

Samuel Greengard's picture

Samuel Greengard, a business and technology writer in West Linn, Ore., is the author of The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015) and Virtual Reality (MIT Press, 2019).


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