This Is How IoT Can Be Used in Property Management

Published Categorized as Innovative Technology
IoT Property Management

Property management is full of challenges such as hiring and retaining quality staff, revenue growth, unexpected maintenance costs & damages, time management, and controlling expenses. But the Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the industry, promising to alleviate many of these issues.

IoT can be used in property management to enhance the efficiency and efficacy of all processes while reducing costs. IoT alerts and big data analysis can improve the standard protocols, such as preventive measures and instant responses.

Smart buildings simplify property management, and thus companies can focus more on finding and retaining tenants, infrastructure optimization, and profit maximization. Also, an IoT-enabled smart building is easier to monitor and can better adhere to government regulations. Read on.

How Can IoT Be Used in Property Management?

IoT can be used in property management by integrating a comprehensive set of different sensors into a Building Management System. The IoT building sensors can automate over a dozen property management tasks, offering valuable benefits and returns.

Building management systems have been using various sensors for decades now. However, a lot of those traditional sensors are not really integrated into a centralized interface through Wi-Fi or other connections. This results in specific installations being typically isolated from others.

The Internet of things enables the siloed assets of a building management system (BMS) to have a centralized control panel with remote access. This control panel becomes available to every authorized person on a property management team.

The tangible effects of IoT are multifaceted and consequential for property management and the experience of occupants, be it tenants, guests, visitors, or users in general. Let me elaborate on a few real-world IoT applications and their impacts on property management.

Automating HVAC, Lighting, and More

In all likelihood, you are familiar with smart thermostats and perhaps use at least one throughout the year. Some smart thermostats like Nest have built-in motion sensors to detect occupancy, turning on only when there are people around. You can imagine these thermostats’ impact on HVAC or energy efficiency.

However, building management systems (BMS) need more than a smart thermostat, especially for commercial property management. A BMS can take advantage of an IoT-enabled setup, including smart thermostats, occupancy or motion detection, and lighting or photosensors.

Visualize a multistory building with multiple zones for HVAC, occupancy, and lighting. Now imagine an IoT-enabled BMS with smart thermostats, occupancy or motion detection, and photosensors. Here are a few examples of how this can make a huge difference in property management:

  • The smart thermostats work with occupancy or motion sensors to regulate the temperature settings of the HVAC system in real-time, saving energy and money.
  • The occupancy sensors work with the smart lights to turn them on and off, dim, or selectively operate them based on needs, which lets you save more energy and money.
  • The photosensors can automate the lighting fixtures based on the availability of natural light. Photosensors can work with motion detection for even better automation.
  • Since all these combined actions are zoned throughout a building, every distinct area is managed per its requirements. The energy and cost savings are phenomenal.

A large residential, commercial, or industrial building does not have all its zones getting identical sunlight throughout the day. Likewise, every zone does not have the same number of occupants at all times. Having one generic approach or siloed systems for everything is just ineffective.

As you may have noted in the previous example, all smart sensors have a specific function, but they are all integrated into a single system.

For instance, a cloudy afternoon triggers the photosensors in a room or zone, which would make the lights turn on. However, these aren’t needed if there aren’t any occupants in the room. At best, you only need safety lights on. A smart BMS will know this, and the lights won’t turn on unless it’s necessary.

Reducing Operational and Unpredictable Costs

Automating the HVAC and lights throughout a building can save a ton of money and energy. But property management companies can reduce even more operational and unpredictable costs using IoT-enabled smart sensors and a real-time BMS.

I shared an example of combining different silos, such as smart thermostats, motion detectors, and photosensors. Now, add another smart sensor for air quality and integrate it into the system. Here is what can happen in a building zone with synced IoT.

  1. A smart air quality sensor can detect something unpleasant in a zone, be it particulate matter, gasses, volatile organic compounds, relative humidity, etc.
  1. This detection can trigger the forced air handler unit and purifier to ventilate and cleanse the zone rapidly. However, the action will only be triggered if the zone has occupants.
  1. If only one zone has a problem and the rest of the building is alright, the property management team can look for a reason instead of simply addressing the reason. The problem could be clogged return vents, or the processes in that area may be turning the air quality to unsafe levels.

Analyzing the data provided by an IoT-enabled BMS can reduce operational costs. It also lets property managers quickly assess and address unpredictable developments.

Poor indoor air quality, clogged return vents, and other issues increase the load on HVACs and purifiers, which makes the units consume more energy than usual. If property managers get to know the cause, courtesy of IoT and smart sensors, they can act soon and remedy the problem.

I have used the example of an air quality sensor working in synergy with others, but you can extrapolate it to almost all smart sensors in a property with an IoT-enabled BMS.

On the other hand, big data analysis of an IoT-based BMS is automated and thus effortless. Property management companies won’t need to wonder about unexpected operational costs or unpredictable events.

The huge volume of data and exhaustive analyses of a full-suite IoT BMS will offer actionable inputs for property managers, allowing them to save money, energy, and utilities.

Optimizing Space and Infrastructure Management

IoT is already changing how architects design buildings. Access and occupancy-based features are becoming customary in new smart properties. However, most IoT systems and sensors are also extensively compatible with existing buildings, whether they’re homes or commercial properties.

A valuable way of using IoT for property management is infrastructure and space optimization. Unused office space, whether empty cubicles or unbooked conference rooms, is an issue that has troubled property management companies for decades.

Now, underutilized infrastructure is an alarming concern, with work-from-home and shared office spaces becoming a norm. Fortunately, an IoT-based building management system using smart sensors can help solve this issue.

Cubicles equipped with occupancy sensors can produce data to perform predictive analysis, which can allow a property management company to ensure better real-time utilization of their infrastructure. The effects can be customized to cubicles or entire office spaces, including all facilities in a building.

Likewise, property managers responsible for large residential buildings or multi-dweller homes can leverage IoT and data analysis to optimize common spaces and areas that require a reservation.

Preventing Maintenance and Repairs

Johnson Controls International published a report titled “Building Efficiency Advancements Create a Foundation for Smart Connected Services.” The findings include specific responses of building owners and property managers to the various effects of IoT.

Here is a summary of what the survey respondents said:

  • 70% of property managers and building owners said that the ability to diagnose and predict problems and provide solutions using IoT will be a game-changer for them.
  • 56% of the respondents prioritized the self-optimization of the system.
  • 44% of the respondents prioritized automatic integration of IoT with all the components of the same subsystem, and 37% value an IoT BMS’s ability to self-configure.

The findings aren’t really surprising. After all, most building or property managers have to deal with a plethora of repairs and maintenance issues. Any number of infrastructure elements in a large property may malfunction at any time, so having a preemptive analysis at hand is priceless.

Property managers and tenants don’t always detect the signs of deteriorating infrastructure at the right time. However, the data recorded by the sensors connected by IoT can enable them to prevent a crisis.

Take the example of current sensors. IoT-enabled current sensors can monitor the electricity consumption of an entire property and all plugged systems. Analyzing this data can tell you if any appliances or installations are consuming much more power than they should.

Generally, significant fluctuations in power consumption indicate inefficiency, excess load, or failing components. A property management company can be proactive and opt for preventive maintenance instead of waiting for a crisis and spending more on replacements.

IoT enables a BMS to measure more than electricity consumption in real-time. A building can use water leak and quality sensors, assessing everything from its level in storage tanks to flow pressure, hardness, softness, dissolved solids, and more.

Suppose the storage tanks are full and the pumps are working fine, yet, the water flow pressure at some parts of a building isn’t right. The cause could be clogged or leaking pipes, among other issues. IoT can let you know the cause of the problem before a crisis happens, which is an invaluable advantage.

Like energy conservation and cost reduction, preventive maintenance and minor repairs detected by IoT can bring about a phenomenal change in a property management company’s operating profits. IoT also enhances water management, a fundamental priority for all properties.

Improving Security, Indoors and Outdoors

Outdoor security systems already combine multiple technologies. Advanced security sensors work with imaging, video scanning, face recognition, and other smart features. However, an IoT BMS can improve security further—not only outdoors or around a perimeter but also indoors.

IoT contact sensors can detect open doors or windows, among other access points. Picture a smart contact sensor working in sync with motion detection at main gates. It would let property managers know if automated doors are malfunctioning or not closing completely.

An improperly closed automated door or open windows can compromise indoor ambiance, overworking the HVAC system, spiking energy consumption, and deteriorating air quality. An IoT-enabled BMS can warn property managers about this before it becomes a problem.

Traditional outdoor security relies more on video footage and passive infrared. A state-of-the-art smart sensor for outdoor security can use microwaves and passive infrared together with a camera for multiple layers of detection.

Furthermore, IoT lets security sensors adapt to the findings of big data analyses. Most traditional security systems require an active or manual intervention to compile the recordings and event history. In contrast, IoT systems can automatically feed the data into machine learning and provide insights.

An IoT BMS security setup can be customized to trigger alarms if it detects an event with no record in the logs. Such first-time events may not be detectable with a conventional security system.

Reducing Hazards and Assisting Emergency Responses

All property management companies must adhere to the use and occupancy classification per the relevant building codes and the occupant load mandated by the National Fire Protection Association.

During the design of a building, classification and load are constants. However, real events are usually dynamic. Real-time occupancy and load can vary, and sometimes there may be a serious violation of government regulations. IoT can help property managers avoid such breaches.

In the event of a crisis, IoT-enabled smart sensors can provide accurate data thanks to geolocation. This helps emergency measures be timely and directed to the actual hazard. This saves time that would have gone into trying to identify the location of the problem.

Smart sensors with an IoT BMS help property management companies protect infrastructures and their occupants from hazards emanating from HVACs, fire and smoke, water leaks, poor air quality, and excess load.

Final Thoughts

IoT can simplify, automate, and strengthen the building management systems used by property managers. IoT helps property management be proactive, predict accidents, and save money on maintenance and repairs.

Last but not least, IoT has an unprecedented impact on the occupants’ user experience and the daily routines of the personnel working on the property. Even if a building uses IoT in a limited scope, it’s still win-win for all parts involved in a property.


By Giovanni Valle

Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.

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