How to optimize property management with IoT (Plus common pitfalls to avoid)
June 10, 2022
min to read
How to optimize property management with IoT (Plus common pitfalls to avoid)
Many property managers mistakenly assume that:
Installing so-called smart devices in their commercial buildings can optimize everything from HVAC to lighting to spacing.
There are a few reasons why they have this defeatist view of IoT devices:
- They assume that innovative technology can solve all their property problems.
- They assume that because IoT tools are “smart”, they can monitor every aspect of their building and offer solutions to make things better.
- Many have read about it online but don’t know that IoTs only provide outputs, not silver linings.
From our experience, we observed that these misconceptions about the actual impact of IoT on building operations cost property managers millions of dollars.
In this article, we will share the most common misconceptions about smart devices in commercial buildings and how you can use IoT to optimize your property management.
Note: If you’re looking for an IoT vendor that can help you optimize your commercial cleaning and save up to 35% on consumable costs, Mero is the tool you’re looking for. Book a meeting with us to learn more.
What commercial property managers get wrong about IoT in property management
There are several ways a property management firm can waste money investing in IoT.
But most of them come down to having unrealistic expectations about what IoT can do and choosing the wrong IoT solution.
In a moment, we’ll walk through how to ensure that the tool/solution you use is practical and tailored to your needs and helps you achieve your optimization goals.
But before we do that, let’s look at some of the common mistakes property management firms make when choosing IoT solutions to work with.
Misconception 1: Having a broad view of what IoT devices can do
This is the biggest misconception about IoT and all things “smart building.”
Most property managers think a single IoT solution can actually help save energy, automate HVAC and lighting, manage unused space and do a gazillion other things.
The result: companies get burned by spending a lot of money on general-purpose sensors that provide fancy dashboards but have no real use case.
One reason for this is that general-purpose IoT devices lack the intelligence to operate with the precision of a single-purpose IoT sensor.
To be more specific, for an IoT to be deemed useful, it must have the following four traits:
- Specific: General-purpose sensors only output aggregated data—and overly aggregated data lead to misleading conclusions. Thus, each IoT device must have a particular use case to be effective.
- Reliable: The sensor must be able to track data that matters in the most optimal way possible and be a single source of truth for property managers.
- Actionable: Stemmed data and graphs must be able to guide property managers towards action.
- Effective: When implemented, the data-driven recommendations must drive transformational and scalable results.
Unfortunately, most IoT sensors fail to deliver on these four tenets from the get-go.
They miss out on the data that matter, resulting in high turnover, wasted time and resources, and many other indirect consequences.
Misconception 2: Not understanding that IoT just provides output
We’ve noticed that by throwing around buzzwords like smart buildings, sustainable spaces, and single pane of glass... smart building vendors have convinced most property managers that IoT is the silver bullet to all their problems.
The typical scenario is that vendors install the devices and leave property managers stranded—making them believe results will happen overnight.
The caveat, though, is that IoT per se won’t magically optimize everything in a building. Likewise, the outputs of IoT devices do not directly optimize anything in the building.
IoT sensors only provide aggregated data—and if that data is misused or misinterpreted, it can lead to huge confusion.
Let’s explain this with a straightforward example. Let’s say you decide to calculate the average number of times you need to mop your building per day to keep it clean and attractive.
You install a single pane of glass, and it stores data from all the sensors on all 25 floors of the building. The data aggregator doesn’t make any distinction between floors where there are more people—and therefore more activity—and floors where there are only 4 people.
It simply counts the traffic and steps on all floors, adds up the total steps, and divides by the number of floors.
And the self-proclaimed data expert in your office proudly announces that each floor receives an average of 1500 steps and therefore needs to be cleaned twice a day.
You’ve probably already figured out what’s wrong here.
What we’ve learned is that customers who are successful with their IoT initiatives take the output from IoT devices, work with specially trained people to take that output, and distill it into information for their building.
So, no, IoT is not going to magically transform the way you and your staff work in buildings.
You need someone who can crunch the numbers and translate them into meaningful insights that bring optimal results instead of draining more resources from you.
Why niche expertise is key when trying to optimize property management with IoT
Anyone, anywhere, can install a sensor and get an output. However, that output is only a subset of what you need to get your desired result.
A significant amount of your desired results depend on how the output is processed and interpreted—and this is where niche expertise is key.
To be specific, not all data is created equal.
There are four layers of data that IoT sensors output, and analyzing that data requires years of accumulated experience and niche expertise.
Here is how these layers of data are utilized:
1 - Descriptive Analytics
This data type is oriented toward what is happening. It lets specialists determine if things are going as planned and alerts them if certain events occur.
It helps them address questions such as:
- Are people using paper towels?
- How do they use it?
- How often do they use it?
2 - Diagnostic Analytics
This data type helps justify why something is happening. Specialists use it to identify deep-seated problems and fix processes.
It helps answer questions such as:
- Why do toilet papers run out quickly in this building and not in others?
- Why don’t agents change towels as soon as they run out?
- Why does this building get messier faster than the building across the street?
3 - Predictive Analytics
Predictive analytics helps predict with accuracy what is going to happen.
Specialists use it to answer questions like:
- What is the probability that this toilet paper will run out in the next 4 hours?
- What is the expected occupancy of this room in the next few days?
- What will be the demand for this product?
4 - Prescriptive analytics
This data helps determine what actions should be taken to avoid or solve a problem in the building.
It makes it easy to answer questions such as :
- This room has an 80% chance of getting dirty in the next 8 hours. How can we prevent it?
- This room is usually busy between 5 and 6 pm. How can we prevent cleaners from disturbing people during this time?
- This way of cleaning results in too many cleanups per day. How can we train the cleaners to do their job more efficiently?
It takes more than just knowing how to manipulate data to make good use of your IoT devices.
At Mero, we’ve noticed that to get to this advanced level of insight, you need:
- Specific knowledge of the property manager’s pain points.
- Strong analytical skills
That’s why, from the outset, we have built a team of experts in the sector. We are not just a technology company, and our team has specialized knowledge in the real estate, commercial cleaning, and cleaning sectors.
This knowledge is put to good use when it comes to presenting data in a way that is both comfortable and clear for every property manager.
How can you optimize your property management with IoT (using Mero’s cleaning sensor)
Note that this process may differ depending on the type of sensor or department you want to optimize.
In this typical case, this step-by-step guide just covers how Mero’s sensors can be used to optimize the cleaning process in commercial buildings.
Define the status quo
In commercial real estate, no two things are ever the same:
- Each property has its own needs.
- Cleaning crews are different.
- Tenants have different needs.
So, it would just be inappropriate to implement an IoT initiative in your properties just because you read on the internet that it can help optimize your costs.
A good rule is to define the status quo and determine the state of play.
For example, when global real estate investment firm QuadReal wanted to identify areas to optimize its properties, we didn’t rush to install sensors and leave them on their own.
We installed a sensor for a few months to monitor a baseline of what their cleaners were doing without the Mero alert system.
This gave us historical data on how things were working and guided us on areas that could use optimization.
Identify areas that need to be optimized.
You may be somewhat shocked that we list this as one of the steps you need to take to get a positive ROI from your IoT initiative.
Well, that’s because most property managers get this part wrong.
For example, if you are asked about your goal with this IoT initiative, would you say:
- “We want to improve the way our properties are managed.”
2. “We want to optimize our cleaning process”.
In either case, there's something missing.
In fact, “optimize your cleaning process” can mean many things:
- Optimizing consumable usage
- Optimize staff productivity and efficiency
- Improving budgeting and contract negotiations
- Optimizing inventory management
- And the list goes on.
That’s why using historical data from the previous step is crucial.
It actually gives you a holistic view of the current state of things. Then you can use that data to improve your process and align it with your company’s business objectives.
Going back to our example with Quadreal... we found that cleaners often threw away 50 or even 60% of a roll every time they entered the restroom. Because the restrooms were so busy at the time, they never really knew the best time to enter.
By using this routine cleaning, they were focused solely on making sure the tenants didn’t find anything empty by preemptively throwing away excellent supplies.
As a result, they were wasting a lot of money and usable supplies.
So, once we had this data, our goal was to:
- Optimize the use of consumables
- Improve budgeting
(Notice how specific these goals are. )
Provide digestible insights on how to optimize your property management and prove ROI
We can’t overstate this:
- Data without insights is useless.
- Only the actions and results from the data matter.
In other words, data is only useful if it solves real-world problems.
And that’s where Mero makes the difference.
From day one, we made it our business goal to help property managers achieve supply savings.
The one metric you should be interested in is that we’ll help you save up to 35% on cleaning supplies (paper rolls, soap, etc.).
So, after identifying areas that need improvement, we use historical data from our IoT devices to guide you on what actions to implement to achieve better results.
For example, almost immediately after activating Mero’s alert system, QuadReal routed out cleaners on a just-in-time basis.
They were able to save a 35-40% difference on consumables that would otherwise go to landfills. The cost-benefit ratio can be as high as $350,000 for the entire building.
Let Mero help you save up to 35% of your consumable costs.
If your goal is to streamline your processes and costs across all departments all at once, then you’re better off with a general-purpose IoT device.
But if you’re looking for an IoT solution that:
- Requires low maintenance and no intervention from property managers.
- Provides complete visibility into all cleaning operations
- Drives measurable actions and results in record time.
Mero is what you are looking for. We have over 10,000+ sensors installed across 100+ buildings, and we pride ourselves on helping our clients save $100k+ per building.
Want to know more? Book a meeting with us today.