BISNOW Multifamily Annual Conference, LA 2015

I attended BISNOW’s (www.bisnow.com) Multifamily Annual Conference yesterday in Los Angeles. Although billed as a national conference (and attended by large, national owners and developers like Essex, UDR, MG Properties Trust, Lend Lease, CBRE), the focus for many of the discussions was the multi-family market in California. Oz Erickson from Emerald Fund pointed out that San Francisco has seen an 80 thousand increase in new jobs over the last four years but only a 10 thousand unit increase in apartments…similar (yet not as striking) numbers were presented for Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. This supply shortfall was blamed on a number of factors, including California’s CEQA regulations. You can Google “CEQA” for a rundown on the regulations and the lawsuits. Regardless of where you’re at on the political spectrum, the conclusions were clear: demand for multi-family units is soaring and the supply can’t keep up. From the millennials to the aging boomers who’ll be looking for senior housing options, the American suburb and the single-family house have lost some of their appeal. High walk-scores, work-life amenities and a more urban existence have replaced the green lawn as the desirable lifestyle. In fact, a new (to me) amenity was articulated: drone pad. Someone is expecting the Amazon drone deliveries to be sooner than expected I guess.

Some other information that was articulated (not confirmed, so take it with a grain of salt):

Home ownership is at a 48 year low; all-in build costs have doubled in San Francisco over the last 5 years; “adaptive re-use” appears to be an appealing answer to these high build costs; Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac will continue to be a dominant provider of  capital to multi-family business (from Willy Walker of Walker and Dunlop).

The event ended with an excellent interview with Ethan Penner http://ethanpennermcap.blogspot.com/ who imparted some wisdom to would-be entrepreneurs gleaned after a mid-career burnout: find an unmet need; this will lead to a profit margin; profit margins = entrepreneur and employee joy; don’t ever retire. Seems like good advice to us.

 

Is your property ready for WiFi calling?

wificallingIt seems like a long time ago, but it was just last year that Apple announced iOS 8 support for WiFi calling and T-Mobile announced it would be the first major carrier to support WiFi calling on the iPhone.  The speculation started almost immediately  – what would the two biggest cellular carriers (AT&T and Verizon) do?  Would they have to support WiFi calling due to market demand? If all the major carriers supported WiFi calling, it would because a real solution to in-building cellular problems.  At Spot On we have long seen that In-Building WiFi would be the most cost effective voice solution for building owners if supported by the four majors and our belief was that if Apple were supporting it, Verizon and AT&T would eventually have to support it.  Despite two quick vague announcements from Verizon and AT&T that they would be supporting WiFi calling “sometime in 2015″, news from both on the topic has been pretty quite.  Until now…

A few days ago, RCR Wireless reported on a June petition by AT&T to the FCC in which AT&T set their 2015 target date to release WiFi calling support.  Despite CEO Ralph De La Vega’s VoWiFi-downplay statement last year that, “we’ll use WiFi calling in 2015, but only as a complement”, the AT&T petition in June had AT&T state, “As these VoIP technologies become the preferred platform for voice services…”.  It seems like AT&T is changing their tune on VoWiFi.

While Verizon has remained a bit more publicly quiet on the topic during the last 8 months, they have previously stated that their launch of VoWiFi “should be available by mid-2015″.  We have also heard through the rumor mill that Verizon is beta testing WiFi calling with a few select customers.

Now.  The real question is: Is your property ready for WiFi calling?   With support from all four major carrier WiFi will be the most cost effective method to providing in-building voice coverage and data for your residents, tenants and customers.  If you need more information on WiFi calling, or an assessment of your property’s wireless needs, please contact me.

Qualcomm, LTE-U and WiFi

For those of you not following this, the latest news is that Qualcomm in a filing with the FCC is responding to claims that LTE-U interferes with WiFi. The interference claims are being made by folks in the cable industry and others who believe that LTE-U is a clever technology meant not to solve any real problem but to give the cellular folks and their chipmakers more control over the user. From our end it looks like LTE-U is the latest reincarnation of Iridium – a technology in search of a market – and we frankly don’t see any compelling demand for the offering.

In the meantime: we still wait for Verizon and AT&T to finally complete their announced support of WiFi calling. This will do more to satisfy consumers in the short term than any progress on the LTE-U front.

Spot On Networks Opens Second Central Office In San Francisco

Spot On Networks Opens New West Coast Central Office in San Francisco July 2015

New Haven, CT July 8, 2015 – For Immediate Release

Spot On Networks, LLC (“SON”), the leading provider of managed wireless solutions to the U.S. multi-family/ multi-tenant industry, is opening its west coast headquarters to be located in San Francisco, California.    The new San Francisco office will allow SON to better meet the increasing demand for wireless networks, nationwide.  SON currently operates wireless networks in 35 states across the country, including a large California portfolio.

“This expansion is a very exciting move for us”, said Richard Sherwin, CEO of Spot On Networks, “We have seen a huge demand for both our products and our role as wireless solutions experts not only in our flagship market, MDU/ MTU, but in emerging markets like Senior Living, Commercial and Retail developments.”

SON’s President and Chief Revenue Officer, Tom Doyle, has re-located to San Francisco to launch the California office.  “I am thrilled to be launching Spot On’s new office in San Francisco.  With full carrier support for WiFi calling right around the corner, we are anticipating big growth and high demand for Spot On Networks’ services in the coming months.  Having offices on both coasts will allow us to keep our pulse on the market.”

About Spot On Networks

Spot On Networks is the largest Wireless Internet Service Provider to the multifamily industry. In addition to offering its UserSafe® managed Wi-Fi services to the multifamily, hospitality and commercial industries,  Spot On Networks has a range of wireless services including CellBoost®,  a cell coverage enhancement service, and  WiFiPlus+®, its wireless backbone integrated with energy management, building automation and security monitoring.

For more information about Spot On Networks or this press release please contact:

Jessica DaSilva

Director of Marketing

Product Management

O: 203-523-5210

FCC Votes Approves Internet Subsidies For Low-Income Residents

As a property manager I was speaking with this week stated, offering WiFi in low-income housing “is just the right thing to do for residents”.  Property owners are eating the cost of Internet for their low-income properties in order to give residents WiFi access as an amenity when they cannot increase the rent to cover the cost as they would for a market rate building.

Interestingly enough, the FCC voted last Thursday to expand the Lifeline Subsidy program to include Internet services.  This program offers $9.25/ month to families to help out with communications services costs.

While Lifeline program recipients can now include the cost of their Internet in what communications services are eligible for subsidy, it is important to note that the actual amount that families receive has not increased, only what services are eligible.

The statics regarding Internet services for low-income households are staggering with only 48% of low-income (less than $25K/ year) households having internet access, compared with 95% of households with incomes above $150,000.

It is unclear exactly how these subsidies will affect the building owners providing Internet, if at all, but what is clear is that the FCC recognizes Internet access as a utility and not an amenity.

What is Google’s Project Fi and What Does It Mean For WiFi Calling?

Project Fi is a program to deliver a fast, easy wireless experience in close partnership with leading carriers, hardware makers, and our users. -Image and Caption from: https://fi.google.com/about/

Project Fi, Google’s attempt at competing with the traditional Big-4 wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint) is offering a semi-fresh, semi-less-expensive take on the traditional mobile price plans, albeit, with a few interesting perks.

Similar to T-Mobile, the deal with Project Fi is that it is clearly being marketed to the millennials, “Uncarriers” (to coin T-Mobile) and frugal-yet-tech savvy peeps.  The idea is simplicity and transparency and a fresh take on the confusing billing practices of the big carriers (however, we have to give a shout-out to T-Mobile for really shaking up the industry in that regard).  Basically, you pay $20 for unlimited talk and text and buy data in packages.  The data portion is where Google’s take on mobile is refreshing: you get a refund on data you don’t use and if you go over, you only get charged for what you used – no crazy data overage charges.

What does this mean for WiFi Calling?

Well, Project Fi is currently only available on the Nexus 6 – so that means no iPhone, no Galaxy – but the good news is that WiFi Calling is “almost” out of testing on the Nexus 6 so Project Fi will allow for WiFi calling and consumers will be provided with yet another option and cellular service provider that offers WiFi support for WiFi calling.

Facts About Google’s Project Fi:

  • Project Fi is partnered with both T-Mobile and Sprint and boasts seamless handoff between the two carriers AND WiFi
  • No crazy overages – for data you will only pay for what you use
  • WiFi Calling WILL be supported, however WiFi calling on the Nexus 6 reported a bug last weekend that they are claiming should be in just a few days
  • To check out Project Fi’s coverage map, click here: https://fi.google.com/coverage

CCRCs Using Energy Savings To Offset Amenity Costs

Sound familiar: Mr. and Mrs. O’Connor are residents at your property.  They decide to go stay with their children for the weekend.  It’s mid-summer and 95 degrees outside.  They leave for the weekend with the windows open and the A/C blasting.  Every minute your property is losing money – but there is nothing you can do about it.  There is a solution to the problem and building owners are beginning to catch on: wireless energy management.  DOWNLOAD PRESENTATION TO LEARN MORE

For Senior and Assisted Living facilities, one of the largest uncontrolled costs is energy spending.  Because the majority of CCRCs cover the cost of one or more resident energy utilities (whether that be HVAC or electricity), residents are not as frugal as they would be if they were paying for their own energy.  However, one of the main benefits to residents living in a CCRC is that the resident pays their monthly rent and does not have to worry about  recurring utility bills – it makes life a lot simpler for the resident and makes the property that much more attractive.  The downside is that the building owner ends up footing outrageous energy bills and the worst part is… the building owner has no control over how the energy is being used.  The building owner is in an energy catch-22.

Reduce Energy Usage Up To 25%

Resident energy usage is not the only problem building owners are facing either – the energy used to run a CCRC is mind blowing.  Amenity area energy and lighting, security systems, kitchen equipment and refrigeration, HVAC for the building – these all add up.  The solution is to employ a wireless energy management system which offers a host of benefits to the building owner:

  • Monitor and control energy usage manually and automatically
  • Receive alerts to out of trend/ suspicious energy usage
  • Receive alerts to failing/ failed equipment
  • Control HVAC, lighting, A/V, electricity, security in and out of apartments
  • Provide wireless access throughout the entire building
  • Provide WiFi voice calling throughout the entire building

DOWNLOAD THIS PRESENTATION TO LEARN MORE

Hotelwifitest.com offers transparency in hotel guest WiFi speeds

Head of mobile at Yandex (Russia’s largest search engine), Yaroslav Goncharov, founded hotelwifitest.com after coming to the realization that no matter where in the globe you are, one thing is for sure: finding quality hotel WiFi is pretty darn tough.  A recent New York Times article points to a specific experience Goncharov had while in a Shanghai hotel a few years back where he was paying $20 a day for WiFi access but the service was so poor he could not work:

I was paying $20 a day for WiFi that was so slow I couldn’t complete my work… I was so annoyed, I said, If I ever have an opportunity to fix this problem , I will try.

There are other sites out there that tell a user what speed they are experiencing like speedtest.net, however hotelwifitest.com has a major difference.  It takes the results of the speed test and makes them publicly visible and then ranks hotels according to WiFi speed and reliability.  Consumers now have a place to go where they can type in the name of the hotel they will be visiting and check out their WiFi stats as well as a forum to make their WiFi experience, be it good or bad, visible to the public.  hotelwifitest has already had hotels in upwards of of 4000 cities tested on their site and there are sure to be more to come as the travelling public becomes more aware.

For WiFi providers, hotelwifitest.com is sure to keep ISPs on their toes.  Check out hotelwifitest.com

Multifamily Executive Speaks With Industry Execs on Distruptive Tech

Last week, Multifamily Executive caught up with some multifamily execs to discuss industry disrupting technology.  Of course “The Internet” was generally discussed as the biggest disruption over the last few years.   Internet related specifics included the “Internet of Things” and “communication” both by residents, personally and between the residents and the property.  Marketing data and analytics also made the conversation – another Internet-related disruption that can be both helpful and costly for building owners.  Featured in the MFE clip were Scott Wesson of UDR, Max Peek of Waterton, Ken Hodges of Western National and NMHC’s Rick Haughey.  Check out the clip below:

Seniors are happier and healthier when they are connected…

grandpa-and-familyIt’s a fact CCRC providers know and know well.  Studies show that Seniors who have more time with loved ones are simply healthier and happier than Seniors who are lonely.  A huge part of the emotional battle for both Seniors and their loved ones in regards to moving into a CCRC, and changes like moving from Independent to Assisted Living, is the fear of being alone, or being forgotten and of losing touch with love ones.  Offering property-wide Internet access, technology classes and device time for Seniors can help them to stay connected to family and friends, view more family photos, engage on social media and access more activities that will aid in emotional and physical well-being.

Technology has become a major contributor toward improving the quality of life of seniors living in CCRCs.  In 2015 a provider who offers technology to residents in the form of property-wide WiFi, device usage or classes on social media/ how to use technology, is going to have a huge advantage over a community that either does not offer technology or leaves it up to the resident to set up their own technology.  Families will be happy to know that their loved one’s new home will allow them to be connected online, have a way to access family pictures on Facebook, family blogs and email threads .  Senior’s loved ones will also be happy to know that when going to visit their loved ones, children and grandchildren will have access to the technology they need to stay connected to work and family while visiting.

As for devices, WiFi enabled smartphones and tablets have truly simplified the process of using the Internet for all walks of life. The “app” model makes it easy for Seniors to access things like Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Games, etc. by simply touching an icon.  Another big benefit of seniors using WiFi and social media to stay connected is that the connection is real-time.  While pictures are wonderful, they can also create a sense of melancholy as they are in the past, but social media is real-time and allows seniors to feel as though they are living in the moment with their loved ones.

 

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