In an increasingly mobile and tech-savvy world, the way property managers adapt to their tenants' needs is constantly evolving. This is especially true when it comes to catering to a younger demographic in the student housing sector. Here are three trends to watch for in student housing:
1) One student housing company is trying to get ahead of the technology curve by increasing its online accessibility. The nation’s oldest student housing company, Philadelphia-based Campus Apartments, announced last week that it’s making a stride toward integrating new technology into its existing client services.
The company added Facebook Connect to its SmartClick payment system. SmartClick is an online account portal which allows students and parents to pay rent electronically, view their tenant leger, and make service requests. When it was launched in 2010, it was the first mobile application made available in the student housing industry.
With this new Facebook feature, however, renters can now log in and access the SmartClick payment system via Facebook. It’s not a bad idea considering the amount of time the average student spends each day on Facebook.
“Nearly all our residents and many of their parents are on Facebook throughout the day so this was a natural evolution of the portal,” says John Ailor, senior director of web and wireless technologies at Campus Apartments.
In terms of being first-to-market, it appears Campus Apartment has a slight edge on its competitors by using Facebook as an online access tool. Whether or not it will make Campus Apartment’s online payment system more user-friendly, or efficient, remains to be seen.
2) Forget about scrambling around to find some change for the washing machine. Princeton, NJ,-based Heartland Payment Systems Campus Solutions has introduced mobile technology, remote monitoring, and cashless transaction-capabilities to the student laundry experience. The company’s WaveRider system allows students to pay for each load of laundry using a debit card instead of cash or quarters.
“Students don’t carry around a pocket full of quarters anymore,” said Ron Farmer, executive director Campus Solutions and Micropayments at Heartland Campus Solutions. “Parents send them off to college with a debit card and they want to use it.”
Better yet, this system gives students access to a web-based portal called WaveVision. It lets students view the status of washers and dryers from their computer or mobile phone. You can even register to receive a text message when a machine is available or when your clothes are done in the dryer. But the feature most property managers like is WaveCentral, which lets them virtually manage transaction information and machine operation status remotely from any web browser.
So far, the technology has been implemented at about 10 colleges and universities across the country. But the highest adoption rate has been seen at off-campus student housing communities. And according to Farmer, “Property managers are seeing revenue increases since the systems were implemented.”
3) Another evolution in campus housing technology stems from one of the most basic and important needs of any tenant: security. That’s why many industry leaders believe that new electronic locking systems are the hardware of the future.
Recent advancements in near field communication (NFC) technology and radio frequency identification (RFID) have made it possible to unlock your door by just sending a signal from your mobile phone to an electronic lock receiver. “This technology allows for signals to be sent directly from the electronic locks operating systems to the individual’s smartphone,” said Dale Mathias, vice president of multi-housing and institutional sales for Winston Salem, NC-based Kaba Access Control. “The smartphone is then used to send an encrypted signal to the user’s lock in order to allow access, which eliminates the need for a resident to carry any key credentials.”
Best of all, these new “lock and key” technologies may gain traction quicker than you think. Especially since almost all new cell phones are being designed with NFC microchips already built into them. In fact, a recently completed trial using NFC technology to access buildings at Arizona State University revealed that nearly 90 percent of students said they wanted to be able to use their smartphones as “virtual keys” to unlock doors across campus.
According to Denis Hébert, president and CEO of digital key and reader maker Irvine, Calif.-based HID Global, “The university is helping us validate how bringing mobility to access control improves security while enhancing the user experience by making it easier to deploy and manage keys and more convenient to carry them. With this technology, any door that’s opened with a key or Sun Card has the potential to now be opened with a phone.”