This week in IoT

Apartments are the home of the future. Let’s make them smart.

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Would you find it creepy if your apartment owner was tracking every time you switched on a light bulb or how much energy your apartment used each evening? What about noticing every time you ran dishwasher or the noise levels next door? With about $900 dollars worth of sensors from startup Iotas, Greystar Management can track all of this information and hopes to use it save energy and prevent things like leaks.

Sce Pike, the co-founder and CEO of Iotas, came on the Internet of Things show this week to discuss her startup’s relationship with Greystar and why she’s focused on apartments as opposed single-family homes. First off, she believes that the rental market is growing faster than the single-family home market. And second, working with apartments allowed her to gather much cleaner data about energy usage than a smart home.

“When you look at the MDU space what you get is almost a lab like environment, because all the floor plans are the same. And they are much smaller,” Pike said. “And if you get entire coverage of the home … that gives you a lot of information about how this person is moving and living where if you go look at a single family home, where it’s DIY or professionally installed, you might get a Hue light installed in the living room versus the basement versus the bedroom here or a connected outlet installed there. You get so much variability of that data, so that data is not mineable in some sense.There’s no way to make sense of that data, whereas with the MDU space we’re getting intelligible data.”

When they take that MDU data and see patterns such as someone saving 14 percent on energy whereas everyone else is saving 10 percent, they could look at what that saver is doing and see if it could apply across other apartments, Pike said. They might offer other people rules to help them achieve that savings rate or incentive programs.

But given the detailed data she gathers, I had to know how she viewed questions of data ownership and privacy, especially in light of the recent FTC report that came out this month. With all this data, she might be tempted to keep it and see what other insights she could glean from it.

“Our privacy stance is that this is your data. You get to own your data. The only way we get to use your data is to help your home become your ally,” said Pike. “So your home should know who you are instead of an intruder. Your home should know when you go to bed at night that you want all of you lights outside to turn off…. We believe strongly that in the new world order of the internet of things that there should be some level of architecture that allows for people to own their data.”

For more on this topic, plus a chance to learn about the Canary home security system and the chance to win a Chamberlain MyQ connected garage door opener, listen to this week’s podcast.

5 Responses to “Apartments are the home of the future. Let’s make them smart.”

  1. Jellicus

    This is one of the creepier articles I’ve read lately. This bizarrely smiling woman staring out at us, explaining how great it is that apartments are like labs where her company can analyze the behaviors and patterns of the people who live there. At the end she has to admit that the “data” actually belongs to the people who live there — I guess the “data” means their lives — so, reluctantly, she has to admit, that belongs to them, and not her company. Aw, shucks. This article does reveal, though, a tempting and terrifying trend: with home prices so high, many people are forced into new construction apartments, which in turn, can be monitored by delightfully creepy companies like lotas. The apartment management companies, in turn, would probably welcome efficiency-promoting services and appliances that keep costs low, and if you’re an apartment renter, you have to accept the rental terms. So — can we turn your lights out and your washing machine off at less efficient times? Golly, that would be neat for lotas, but not sure how great for the human spirit. Again …. creepy company, creepy picture.

    • exhibit44

      Legit concerns, to an extent. But home-owners really are renters as well, for most of their time in their homes. The bank owns the house, and the government subsidizes a lot of the single-home lifestyle. This includes extra road mileage, piping and wiring to each dwelling, etc.

      We need to conserve energy, and if your thermostat can spy on you, your cable box can just as easily do the same, likewise your smartphone, and your computer. Those are not owned by your landlord.

  2. johnny55

    Really? Apartments are the future? We should embrace just being sheep, not owning property so that a handful of rich people can become billionaire slum lords like Amli Apartments while us peasants just dutifully fork over increased rent each year? That’s the message you w ant to send to the youth?

    • exhibit44

      I assure you that the builders of stand-alone dwellings are also rich. As are the mortgage bankers, road contractors, and mall operators. During the recession, millions of Americans, who ‘owned’ their stand-alone dwellings, became renters, and remain so. They lost all their equity because their income fell at exactly the same time as their house value fell and their credit line dried up.