New advancements around thermostats, wireless, Bluetooth lighting, apartment automation appliances and more are energizing the energy management market.

The big news is that Nest Labs announced a developer program for integration with other manufacturers’ products—through Nest’s cloud—and its first partner is Control4, so users of that energy management control systems can see the temperature on a touchscreen or mobile device and turn the thermostat up or down. This should appear in late 2014, though no announcements or scheduling of the Nest interface is available today.

Nest could serve as a bridge between some apartment control systems and appliances or other devices, gathering data on usage patterns to shut devices or appliances off, dim lights or help manage vacancy apartments during turnover, depending on the apartment’s occupancy, HVAC usage and other seasonal climate factors. This would apply to common areas as well as individual apartments.

The real power of Nest is behind the thermostat to the data it collects on its residents’ or property managers habits, and employing that data to make electric, gas and water services more efficient. Nest is involved with some utility smart grid programs, which will likely become entwined with apartment system connectivity to save energy based on utility pricing signals or demand. And Nest should be at the center of it all.

What results should you expect?

1. Anywhere Access: Mobile
Residents and Property Managers should be able to access and monitor apartments and common areas from practically anywhere using a smartphone or tablet.

2. Anywhere Access: Web
Easily access, monitor and control common areas or vacant apartments, virtually anywhere, from a web browser.

3. Alerts On the Go
Property Managers or residents will receive messages to your smartphone or tablet about the status of your apartment or common areas or vacancies, so    you’re  always in the know. Custom alerts such as “Garage door left open” or “Water leak detected ” or “Lights left on after painters left” can be sent to inform you of important events as soon as they happen, allowing you to respond quickly and manage your energy costs.

 

What decisions should you make?

The price points for many of these technologies are too high for Multifamily today. Doing an early beta with some properties common areas or a small number of units is the correct approach.

With Google, Microsoft, IBM and others pursuing the “internet of things” it is not going to take long for the prices to come down. This is going to happen quicker than most think.

The infrastructure of an apartment is going to change and vacancy turnover is a good time to make these decisions. Appliances will need to be bought with this direction in mind.

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