June 8, 2021

How PropTech can future-proof your student accommodation property – findings from The Class Academy

On May 18th, The Class Foundation held its second Academy of the year on PropTech for Future-Proof Buildings. Together with the ‘students’, we identified ten bottlenecks student housing operators currently face and the solutions property technology can offer.

On May 18th, The Class Foundation held its second Academy of the year on PropTech for Future-Proof Buildings. The course brought together student accommodation experts including operators, suppliers/agents, and investors. Integral to the success of the course were the lecturers Sabine Schrool and Dirk Huibers, and partner case providers The Student Hotel and Wifirst. A shared consensus throughout the module was that it is only the beginning for property technology but that Covid has accelerated the adoption and momentum for the industry.

Obstacles & their tech solutions

Together with the ‘students’, we identified ten bottlenecks student housing operators currently face and the solutions property technology can offer.

  1. Connectivity: how to ensure residents can access their online courses from anywhere with strong and reliable internet
    Solution: offering stable Wi-Fi with sufficient bandwidth
    Service providers: Wifirst, ASK4, Glide, Utelysis
  1. (Mis)use of space: how to create spaces that work for residents
    Solution: monitoring space usage via location tracking and heat sensors
    Service providers: Glide, Octo
  1. Accessibility: how to allow/restrict access to certain areas to avoid overcrowding
    Solution: access control solutions
    Service providers: SALTO Systems
  1. Customer journey: how to ensure residents have a positive and streamlined experience throughout their stay
    Solution: property management tools that integrate various services and applications to create a one-stop-shop for residents
    Service providers: StarRez, RealPage
  1. Sustainability: how to incentivise reduced energy/water consumption
    Solution: gamification and sensors
    Service providers: Octo, Glide
  1. Community building & engagement: how to ensure residents feel engaged and are aware/interested in initiatives taking place
    Solution: online platforms & tools
    Service providers: StarRez, RealPage, Glide
  1. Wellbeing & mental health: how to ensure residents are doing well
    Solution: monitor engagement level and space usage
    Service providers: StarRez, RealPage
  1. Integrating systems: how to interconnect various applications and services
    Solution: property management tools and facilitating collaboration between service providers
    Service providers: StarRez, RealPage
  1. Emergency protocols: how to inform residents of emergencies and protocols
    Solution: online platform which includes communication channels
    Service providers: StarRez, RealPage
  1. Package delivery: how to manage all the packages that are accepted for residents?
    Solution: online portal which sends automatic notifications to residents and parcel lockers
    Service providers: portal solutions offered by StarRez, RealPage and parcel collection lockers by parties such as MyPup or Bringme

Ensuring data privacy

One recurring topic during the module was how to adhere to privacy regulations, such as the European GDPR, whilst collecting the data you need. Mark Liversidge from The Student Hotel beautifully said, “Don’t see GDPR as a burden, instead see it as a good frame of reference and guideline to use throughout your project.” He added that he had unfortunately seen many great projects binned due to unnecessary fear regarding privacy infringement. Which is a pity as most service providers know and can advise on the best way to adhere to regulations as pointed out by Vincent Jouan from Wifirst. Lecturer Dirk concluded “If the data helps solve a problem and is personally applicable then the resident will more likely approve the collection of data.”  

Involving the right people

After we had listed the technical solutions properties can implement, we asked the ‘students’ to identify which stakeholders need to be involved. Just as we highlighted during the Community and Wellbeing Academy, students are at the core and need to be involved from the beginning as the solutions need to match their demands and needs. Secondly, investors need to be convinced the technology will positively influence valuations. The trick to doing this is using metrics they are used to and find important. The project also needs to be supported internally throughout various departments such as facility management, HR, and marketing and communication, to be successfully adopted.

Finally, it is important to select the right service provider as they will offer you a tailored solution and guide you throughout the process. At The Class Foundation we therefore find it important to have suppliers in our partner network as they share the same goal as us - to build on the future of student living in university cities.

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