commercial buildings stuck at GHG status quo

Sensors poised to transform property management

Emerging technology could improve the way residential buildings are run
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
By Nicholas Gill

It’s an exciting time to be involved in residential property management. Technology is developing rapidly and permanently altering the residential landscape for managers, staff, and residents. Several companies are invested in developing the next generation of innovative tools for residential property management. Sensor technologies in particular are bound to make huge waves in the future.

One of these solutions is currently in beta testing in the fitness centres of high-end residential buildings in New York City. Over the next few months, there are plans to expand the solution to several other cities, including Toronto.

These fitness centres use a network of smart sensors to determine which exercise machines are currently occupied while monitoring the temperature and humidity in various parts of the facility. Residents can view availability of exercise equipment — down to a specific treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike. By tracking usage statistics property managers are equipped with the knowledge to make informed decisions on upcoming equipment purchases, which equipment is being underutilized and which require service. Management and residents can easily access these and other usage details via a dashboard or mobile apps.

Other sensor solutions in development could help revolutionize residential living and operations in other areas as well: noise complaints, leak detection, parking space availability, mail arrival, and elevator operations.

Nearly every building has to deal with noise complaint quarrels between its residents. Imagine a network of sensors that can detect where loud noises are coming from and that can also measure their decibel levels.

Leaks are another persistent and seemingly unavoidable issue in residential buildings. Sensor technology could help discover leaks early, minimizing severe damage and costly clean-ups. Sensors can not only detect water dripping down a wall, but even detect atmospheric moisture levels, helping to determine if a leak is imminent. Imagine sensors placed in common problem areas, such as under kitchen sinks and in bathrooms, that could detect a pinhole leak before it becomes a major flood. Sensors could also measure water flow in pipes to determine irregularities and notify management of these issues. The potential cost savings to corporations, owners and insurance companies is huge.

For the most part, parking lot sensors have been limited to high-end retail centres, but will soon be available in residential buildings. Consider the convenience and customer service improvements in residential environments if sensors could easily detect parking space availability. Sensors would save residents and their guests the hassle and frustration of physically checking availability in the parking garage only to find out that no spaces are available. Imagine the improvement to customer service if the concierge staff were provided with a dashboard that could provide both the availability and exact location of the parking spot?

Today many buildings are now using software to manage packages and automate the notification process, but what about mail delivery? It can be pain for residents to keep checking to see if that important envelope has arrived. An easier way? Use sensors to keep residents posted in real time. A sensor at the back of the mailbox that pings when mail has arrived could be posted to an app and/or trigger a text notification, providing real-time updates and eliminating needless trips to the mailroom.

Sensors could also help clear up murky areas such as elevator operations. Imagine placing a group of sensors at the bottom of an elevator shaft. They could easily measure the distance from the shaft to the elevator’s current location, making it possible to determine which floor the elevator is on, for how long, and at what times. Residents could decide whether to wait or take the stairs, while managers could easily view usage trends.

As technology improves and new ideas emerge, expect to see more sensor solutions in residential building management. Sensor technology is poised to become a massively influential tool in improving residential building operations in the near future.

Nicholas Gill is director of sales and marketing at BuildingLink Canada. He can be reached at or 416-570-4570.

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