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By: Michael Slovin Vice President, XFINITY Communities

From its humble beginnings in computer science laboratories of the 1960s to its explosion in the mid-1990s as a cornerstone of culture and commerce, the Internet has changed the way the world works, communicates and entertains itself. Now, our society has become so connected that we are moving beyond the realm of computers, tablets and smartphones to encompass all manner of physical objects or “things” connected with each other over the Internet.

This not only includes smart thermostat systems and washers or dryers that use WiFi for remote monitoring – it also expands to health monitors and even toothbrushes that let you know when to stop brushing your teeth. These innovative new gadgets and gizmos allow us to do so much more than we ever thought possible, but there is a catch: each of them also eats up bandwidth, and having many of them connected on the same network at the same time can cause some serious data overload for your multifamily residents.

Where Are We Now? A Look Back at 2015

The past year has brought the Internet of Things (IoT) to life for the multifamily industry. While IoT has been around for years, it wasn’t until recently that the public fully began to realize that these groundbreaking new technologies could actually have a real impact on their own personal lives – and at a price they could afford.

But as IoT started to heat up in 2015, so too did the emphasis on the network services that work behind the scenes to pull it all together – because, quite simply, if your Internet or WiFi connection is spotty, none of these connected devices will actually function properly.

Where Are We Going? What to Anticipate for 2016

It’s well-established that reliable and scalable Internet and WiFi services help keep existing residents happy, but 2016 will be the year when MDU property owners and building managers realize that investing in their network infrastructure can actually be their strongest selling point when trying to reach new residents as well.

Evidence of this trend already exists – Broadband Communities magazine recently conducted a survey of more than 2,000 broadband users in multifamily homes throughout the United States. The results found that broadband has officially become the top amenity – displacing physical ones like washing machines and fireplaces – for MDU unit owners. It also ranked second (close behind in-unit washer/dryer) for renters, illustrating its vast appeal for both groups.

How Does This Affect Your Property?

IoT will continue to advance, and at a more rapid pace with each year – which means that MDU property owners and building managers must take heed and proactively invest in their network services. Ignoring this problem will only allow the barrage of data usage from IoT and smartphone devices to cause more havoc than they ever expected.

Here are three quick things to consider as we move into 2016:

Regardless of whether your property offers technology services as part of your lease terms or as an optional amenity for your residents, make sure that the communications provider you choose can offer Internet and WiFi services that have the capacity to scale up to gigabit speeds. That may seem like a lot of bandwidth now, but as IoT continues to gain momentum, your residents will be requiring that capacity before you know it.

Consider all your options when it comes to which network services provider you should choose. Many residents prefer providers who offer both communications and entertainment services, since it allows them to have a single point of contact for everything rather than needing to work with multiple vendors. In addition to the reliable and scalable Internet and WiFi services mentioned above, some providers offer additional benefits like dedicated customer service representatives who act like concierge desks for your residents. Not only can they help to coordinate installations and troubleshoot disruptions, but many of them can also process service changes and assist your residents with moving and property transfers as well. This can save valuable time and money as an MDU property owner or building manager because it allows your staff to focus on offering other value-added amenities to your residents instead of worrying about needing to answer technology questions.

Then tell your residents – both current and prospective ones – about it. In today’s highly-connected mobile environment, everyone assumes that high-speed Internet is somewhere on the list of amenities being offered to residents across most properties, but not all technology services are the same – and if you don’t promote the fact that yours are better than your competitors, they certainly won’t do it for you.

There’s a lot of excitement on the horizon for 2016 when it comes to the Internet of Things. Use the New Year to lay your network services groundwork so you can keep your existing residents happy while also attracting new ones, all while ensuring that you’re also ready for the big technological advancements still to come.

Michael Slovin is the vice president of XFINITY Communities, Comcast’s business unit focused on bringing XFINITY services to the multifamily industry. In this role, he is responsible for national sales, sales operations and developing programs that improve the community and resident experience. Michael previously was the director of business development for Sprint and general manager for Winstar. In these roles, he was responsible for building and leading sales organizations focused on the enterprise market. He brings more than 20 years of sales, operations and marketing leadership experience in the telecommunications and cable industries and has additionally held senior sales leadership positions with MCI Communications (now Verizon Communications). Michael holds a Bachelor of Science from Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management.

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