The start of the year saw a plethora of multifamily technology announcements. Here are the nine most interesting news bites announced in January and February of 2010.

Pure Energy
Oak Brook, Ill.-based Amererican Utility Management (AUM) announced at the outset of the year that the resident billing, utility submetering, vacant unit cost recovery, bill pay, and energy management services firm closed 2009 managing 9.1 million therms of annual natural gas consumption and 70 million kWh of annual electric consumption for its multifamily clients. Additionally, 15.5 million of the 70 million kWh of electric consumption was “green” energy derived from wind and solar power. “We are very pleased with these results, especially considering this is our first full year of offering procurement services as a complement to our other utility management services,” said AUM president Michael Miller. The 2009 numbers represent more than $14 million in annual commodity costs, with between $2 million and $2.5 million (or 15 percent to 18 percent) in projected savings. Founded in 1994, AUM currently serves more than 350,000 multifamily units across the United States.

Yardi Gets Industrious
Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Yardi Systems announced Feb. 8 that San Francisco-based industrial real estate owner, operater, and developer AMB Preprty Corp. had adopted Yardi’s Voyager and Investment Suite property and financial management platforms for the firm's 155 million square foot global portfolio. "The Yardi property management, accounting, and investment management tools comprise the integrated solution we need to increase transparency while supporting our compliance requirements," said Wayne Pryor, AMB's chief information officer. "As a fully integrated system, Voyager reflects changes to our property leases and expenses in real time. Using real-time portfolio-wide analytics and key performance indicators that the Investment Suite draws from Voyager, we can drill down on any asset, all the way to the transaction level."

Growth Spurt
G5 Search Marketing announced Jan. 19 that the Bend, Ore.-based online search and lead management consultant has hit 100 percent revenue growth for the fourth year. G5’s software applications and services address the need of mid-market companies to get found online, generate qualified leads, convert leads into new customers, and analyze overall marketing performance. G5’s growth has been primarily fueled through G5’s entry into the senior housing, multifamily, and student housing sectors. The company now serves nearly 2,000 client locations throughout the United States and Canada.

Walkable Communities
San Franciso-based Internet listing service (ILS) MyNewPlace announced Jan. 13 a partnership with WalkScore, an online provider of walkability measurements of neighborhoods. As part of the partnership, MyNewPlace and WalkScore will attempt to improve user experiences by sharing content, links, and services between the two online offerings. The collaboration establishes a search widget allowing prospective renters to easily search the walkability of neighborhoods nationwide and find apartments within the desired location. If a user has identified a neighborhood he or she is interested in, zavailable apartments can be found by linking from WalkScore to MyNewPlace. The partners say both online scenarios create a rental prospect who is more informed about where they want to live and why they want to live there, increasing the likelihood of a turning that prospect into a resident.  
 
One-Stop Shopping
Newton, Mass.-based submarket apartment pricing Web site Rentometer.com announced Jan. 26 that fellow Newton-based Investment Instruments Corp. will combine Rentometer.com with its professional-grade property management tools, offering smaller landlords additional products and services, including online community markeing and advertising, maintenance requests and updates, automated e-payment systems for rent collection, and resident screening. Rentometer CEO Allison Atsiknoudas says the offerings provide smaller operators the tools traditionally only available to large property management firms. “Most landlords with less than 50 properties to manage cannot afford the complex traditional management systems used by larger property management firms,” Atsiknoudas says. “Rentometer brings professional-grade property management tools to smaller property owners and managers at a fraction of the cost.” Pricing for the Rentometer system starts at $9.99 a month depending on the number of properties under management. Additional features are priced on a per-use basis. 
 
More iPhone Apps
San Francisco-based commercial real estate information services firm LoopNet announced Jan. 19 the availability of a commercial real estate search application for the Apple iPhone. Features include a location finder to explore properties in the immediate vicinity using the iPhone’s built-in GPS capabilities; a custom search allowing users to filter results by price, building size, lot size, and property type (office, industrial, retail, land, multifamily, etc.), and a driving directions function powered by Google Maps to plot properties or email directions to colleagues. While the app download is free, a LoopNet premium membership is required to see all 745,000 LoopNet commercial listings over the iPhone.

We’ve Got a Winner
Oakland, Calif.-based PropertyBridge, a MoneyGram company and a leading provider of electronic payment services to the residential real estate management industry, announced Feb. 10 the results and grand prize winner of its $10,000 Resident Sweepstakes program. More than 250,000 entries were received during the sweepstakes promotion period, the firm said, with participating properties seeing residents nearly double their use of electronic payments on average during the six-month promotion. Nineteen residents were awarded more than $15,000 in prizes at properties managed by AIMCO, Westdale Asset Management, McKinley, Alliance Residential, E&S Ring Management, and 1st Lake Properties, with Molly Charpentier, resident of AIMCO’s Heritage Park Senior Community in Alta Loma, Calif., winning the $10,000 grand prize. “PropertyBridge designed the Resident Sweepstakes to provide its clients an opportunity to promote and market electronic payments in a meaningful way,” said PropertyBridge vice president Vicki Keller. “We help each management company independently promote the sweepstakes to increase resident awareness.” 
 
Revenue Management Interfaced
The Rainmaker Group, an Atlanta-based provider of automated revenue management software and services to the multifamily housing industry announced Feb. 11 the release of an interface between its LRO revenue management system and Tampa, Fla.-based AMSI’s eSite property management system, allowing for optimized lease rate pricing across AMSI’s installed base of 13,000 communities. Rainmaker’s LRO system is optimizing revenues for more than half a million multifamily housing units and delivering rent lifts of 3 percent to 5 percent for many of the largest companies and REITs, the firm says. “The new interface enables AMSI’s user base oto more easily optimize rates and revenue by automating the LRO rate optimization solution,” says Rainmaker principal Tammy Farley. “The new AMSI interface extends LRO’s availability to multifamily operators from three to 300 communities as well as to the largest REITS.”

RealPage Salutes
Carrolton, Texas-based multifamily software and service firm RealPage announced Jan. 12 the availability of automated BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) rate management as part of the company’s military housing system, eliminating the need for privatized military housing site staff to manually retrieve data from government Web sites each year and cull through the data for rates that apply to their projects. According to RealPage director of military housing Dave McKenna, RealPage automatically retrieves the annual BAH rate tables and updates the entire system with the current valid rates. On Jan. 26, RealPage also announced the availability of system integration between the firm’s OneSite military housing software platform and the electronic Navy housing system called eNH. Two days later, RealPage announced that Equity Residential had selected OneSite as the software platform for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord located in Washington state.