In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demands and needs of student housing operators have changed significantly. We caught up with Ed Macey-Macleod, head of Smart Workplace Strategy at People | Technology | Space (PTS) to chat about some of the “smart tech” coming to campuses across the nation.
Q. College student living needs have been changing a lot, even more so after the COVID-19 pandemic. What are some new trends or needs that have emerged in the past year?
A. In-demand student housing accommodations mimic the Aparthotel style of service, providing an experience similar to luxury serviced apartments. Always-on, robust wireless connectivity is essential to learning today and bundled as part of the lease. We are seeing a move away from wired connections as device counts per student increase. With students bringing more of their own IoT devices, including smart speakers and video displays, there are potentially hundreds of IoT devices operating at any given time within a building depending on its size.
Another major draw will be the quality of in-room displays. To be competitive, the television screens provided in students' rooms must be of the same or better quality than found within their own homes.
Technology is also strengthening security measures. In the newest properties, students are using their phones to control the video intercom and manage delivery of their packages. Additionally, smart access control is allowing students to use their phones for entry into the housing, rather than separate access control cards or keys. Smart access control extends to bike rooms, laundry rooms and the student's own bedroom. Forward-thinking student housing properties are rolling out dorm experience apps to students. These branded apps allow the student to report problems and seek help as necessary; request maintenance and cleaning; reserve common spaces; and control settings around common and private areas, such as lighting, video control and audio.
Q. I understand that PTS has been consulting with universities globally to roll out what you call smart campus systems. Can you talk a bit about what that means and how it impacts Student Housing?
A. The focus of the smart campus is creating a frictionless user experience that maximizes learning. Thanks to its high connectivity, a smart campus ensures the resources that students, aides and lecturers need are readily available. Student housing properties must mirror this frictionless experience. We are seeing this next iteration of the property type evolving now. If students can reserve an on-campus study room using their cell phones, but cannot do the same in their student accommodations, then "living" is creating friction and getting in the way of their learning.
Q. In terms of new tech, what are some upgrades that you are either implementing or have seen in Student Housing over the past year?
A. Over the coming year, we expect a number of technology trends to accelerate. There will be a considerable increase in “Bring Your Own IoT” devices, such as smart speakers, clocks and video streaming sticks. Larger screens will be installed in common areas to facilitate shared learning and entertainment.
Technology will be used to unlock a more personalized experience for students, tailored for their devices. Student housing experience apps will bolster engagement, automation and accountability. Cell phones will be used to control the intercom and manage visitor access. We’ll also see a new area of responsibility for property managers – to make moving in and out more seamless and convenient, new processes will need to be created for deauthorizing any connected devices provided by the student housing operator during seasonal student turnover.
David Cohen is Southeast Editorial Director at Connect Commercial Real Estate. David is a media veteran with more than 10 years of experience in journalism, copywriting and communications across a variety of roles.
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