Smart Student Living Takeways Series 1 of 3: Inspirational Case Studies highlighting innovative uses of technology in optimising student experience
Smart Student Living aimed to elevate and rethink the way we approach tech in the student housing sector. To achieve this goal, The Class Foundation identified some of the best organisations that are passionate and driven about their role in understanding and working with technology for smart living solutions, and invited them to share their insights and work together.
We set the stage for the day with an opening session on best practice case studies, where we invited Nido, ASK4 and Utopi, and TrendWatching to showcase some of the creative ways operational challenges can be tackled by technology and how technology can help us achieve a greener, socially impactful future.
Nido Living: Overcoming Challenges with an Integrated Booking Journey
Tony Allen of Nido Living excellently contextualised many of the key challenges operators face based on Nido’s own portfolio. These key challenges included:
- Integration of property management systems with all other systems in the business
- How all new systems are test systems until they are tested on operational buildings
- How innovative ideas often get stuck behind day-to-day requirements
- The issue around the fact that current systems tend to favour the vertical they were built for.
- Each individual user has different parameters and needs on a system, so agility and flexibility is not always feasible.
After giving this outline of issues that were familiar to most of the people in the room, Tony explained how Nido approached their method of utilising tech effectively for their booking journey. Because many can get lost in the complexities of the aforementioned challenges, the key is to make information easy and user-friendly. They use a web development agency to take the information from their property management system (PMS) and use it as a base for all the required needs of users. Specialised filters, dynamic pricing and availability, and updated room pages — all integrated within the PMS system.
They also made the decision to integrate their payment portal with their PMS and this creates a list of benefits for both Nido and the customer, as they do not lead to external payment portals and users can pay in any currency.
In the end, their integrations and use of tech were made with user-friendliness in mind and this was a solution that worked in their favour.
ASK4 and Utopi: “A Case for Building Data”
Billy Kontoulis of ASK4 and Stuart Paterson of Utopi collaborated on their presentation, demonstrating the power of collecting data from your buildings. There is always a manifold number of sources from which one can collect data in every building, so it comes down to understanding which of these can be transformed into actionable information.
Some of the examples they showed were monitors for environmental factors such as temperature and air quality, as well as data collections for energy consumption. This type of data is useless on its own, but ASK4 and Utopi put forward the idea of getting residents on board and empowering them to make changes themselves based on the data shared with them. The way they would do this is by creating apps that would engage tenants and allow them to view their own energy consumption. This appeals to the sensitivities of young people living in these buildings with regard to sustainability, and have them take part in driving down the carbon footprint in assets.
Billy and Stuart mentioned that while students and young tenants do care about saving energy and sustainability, realistically without data they would not be aware of the energy they are consuming. Putting data in their hands, such as showing them how they compare to the average consumption in the building, will help them make better-informed decisions.
TrendWatching: “Exploring the Housing Needs of the Next-Generation of Students: Community, Affordability, and Sustainability.”
For the final presentation, Joaquim Moody of the research and analysis firm TrendWatching highlighted the evolving needs of younger generations, positing that technological change creates tension with core human needs, which is solved by innovations on various fronts (such as new products, and new ways to fulfil basic needs).
Joaquim emphasised the three main housing needs for students: affordability, sustainability, and community. Within these need categories, he showcased examples of innovations that cater to these needs, and how students experience can improve in these aspects. Here are some of the examples shown by Joaquim, providing inspiration for operators to implement similar solutions:
For the topic of affordability, he cited that UK students are spending 45% of their monthly income on rent, and this was even higher in the Netherlands. Operators and their partners can help by providing innovative solutions such as TULU, which lets customers rent necessary appliances instead of purchasing them for high costs.
Sustainability is a major concern for both student housing operators and conscious customers as 45.9% of 10,000 university students across 32 countries say they are very/extremely worried about climate change and 28% of students have climate anxiety. One solution shown by Joaquim was by having modular solar panel kits for unit balconies, which would help students with their power consumption.
Finally, community was asserted as a major need for students because many are afflicted by a growing issue of loneliness. According to Nuffic , over 70% of international students in the Netherlands indicate that they have recently felt lonely “sometimes, often, or all the time”. Having initiatives such as Re:wild your campus, which pays students to restore school grounds, and having student housing designed in a way to support indigenous and marginalised students, goes a long way in building diverse, inclusive, and proactive communities.
A similar theme between all of these case studies is the underlying concept of always keeping a customer-centric approach. By utilising technology and innovation in different ways, operators and tech organisations can solve real needs and create tangible impacts for their tenants in buildings.
The case studies set the stage for the first Workshop by of the day on ‘Tech Stack’ which focussed on “optimising your tech stack to achieve seamless operations through tech automation and integration”. We discuss this in Article 2 for our three-part series on “Smart Student Living Takeaways” so stay tuned!