Smart Home Tech

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Presentation: Use Tech to Be a Long-Distance (Socially Distanced) DIY Landlord

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Video: Use Tech to Be a Long-Distance DIY Landlord

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MassLandlords is a nonprofit dedicated to helping owners rent their property. Presenters are not necessarily vetted by MassLandlords. Although we try to offer the best possible advice, we recommend you consult an attorney or tax accountant before you alter your business processes.

Smart Home Tech with Charles Hadsell


Charles Hadsell - Charles


Richard Merlino - Rich

[Start 0:00:00]

Audience: [applause]

Charles: Thank you, Rich. This is my first time out here to this group. Thank you for having me, and what a comedy sideshow there. I was laughing the whole time there.

My name is Charles Hadsell. Just to give you a bit of background on me, I spent the first 15 years in my career in the semiconductor world. I’m an electrical engineer. The companies I worked for literally built the chips that go into the smart home devices that I’m going to talk about today. That’s part of my background.

The other part is I’m a landlord that manages rental property across multiple states, so I kind of deeply understand these issues that these solutions solve.

Our agenda, I’m going to talk about what is a smart home, and I’m going to cut to the chase. What are three benefits for landlords? I will then run through some technology options and key use-cases. I will show some case studies, one of which is a National MassLandlords member. I will keep him anonymous for his protection, and steps to get started.

Before I jump in, how many of you have ever had running toilet that cost $1,000-plus water bill?

Male Audience 1: [unintelligible 0:01:12]

Charles: Three thousand? Okay. How many of you have ever received a call in the middle of the night from the tenant that was locked out?

Audience: [inaudible 0:01:21]

Charles: Those are some of the things that these solutions can help you avoid and/or solve. Coming home to finding the water heater 4 feet of water in your basement because the tenant didn’t tell you about the leaking water heater; the tenant pounding on the door upon you, trying to get in, or this is a little hard to see, but that’s a bunch of snow inside the house, so the tenant deciding to turn off the heat over Christmas because they wanted to save some money and it froze your pipes or caused major issues.

The key question is how much time and money could you have saved if you knew about this quickly and were able to take action, remotely or through an intermediary. That’s really the key thing that these solutions give you. It gives you time, and it gives you kind of protection.

What does smart home mean? I define smart home as sensors and connected devices that control, monitor, and protect the property remotely, and remotely is the key because some of you might live in your rentals in like a multifamily. In my case, I rent a property across a couple of states. I’m remote; I’m the definition of what remote is.

Even better, how about you have a property that protects itself? If there was a water leak, it automatically shuts off the water main. Those are the types of things that are now possible with the technology that’s out here today.

First benefit: increased rent. I don't know if any of you have heard of invitation homes, but they are the hedge fund Blackstone guys that bought all the rental property during the downturn back in 2008. Genius idea. I think they bought I think 50,000 or 60,000 single family rentals. They equipped this with smart home tech and they literally turned it into a rent increase situation where they charge tenants if they want access to the smart home technology. Topline could increase from this. I know Mass has some different laws about adding on and stuff, but they turned it into a revenue opportunity.

It’s also a way to differentiate your property. Imagine like a millennial tenant that’s using their phone to lock and unlock doors, control thermostats, turn on the lights, and their alternative is moving to a property that has the old slam locks and very tech-unfriendly. It’s a big differentiator and will create stickier rents and higher renewals.

Reduce expenses and expenses are both direct costs as well as time costs. Not everyone values time cost the same, but it’s something to take into consideration. What’s your time worth when you’re on a Friday night dinner party driving across town to take care of something at your rental property? Some people might say that would [unintelligible 0:04:02] to mean to make that problem go away; others might say I’ll do it, but the point is, with these solutions, you could eliminate routine expenses, so instead of paying locksmiths or re-corn a lock, imagine being able to be on your phone and type in a new code, send it over the Internet and have the lock update or that tenant that moved out, code delete.

Eliminate trips to the property. Those lockouts or trying to coordinate a handyman schedule because the tenant is not available. Those are the types of things that are now streamlined because now you could set limited-use codes and not be held hostage to tenant scheduling.

Finally, reduce utility expenses. Imagine being able to remotely control that common area thermostat that your tenant set high because they want to heat their own individual properties or being able to save money when the property is vacant. Instead of leaving the heat running or they see running, you could now adjust it to make sure it’s energy efficient. These are the utility expenses that could directly pay for the cost of some of these systems.


The third benefit is avoiding disaster, so I’ve had a flood in my basement before. That’s not a process everyone will go through again and that type of stuff can now be prevented or avoided by using $30 sensors to a degree.

You could be informed of concerning conditions like extreme temperatures, so you even get there before you have the flood, you know it’s getting cold, you can get an alert through your phone. Something does happen. The water leak does happen. You could close your valve before it flows for two days and fills up your basement with water.

Even record and detect security risks, so you could be informed if there is a basement door left open or front door left open, or detect unauthorized access, or loitering in and around your property. These things can now be detected by you remotely and you could take the appropriate action.

Let’s start out with some of the technology. I will pause for some questions here at various section, but technology options.

The first and most important step is how are you going to get Internet to your property. For your primary residence, it’s probably no problem. You probably have Comcast or RCN, your Internet service, so you could connect all your devices to your local Wi-Fi. But in a rental property, you likely do not pay for your tenants’ Wi-Fi or provide building Wi-Fi, so you’re kind of dead in the water.

The two options are you pay for the Internet for the rental, either just a dedicated common area one or for your tenants, or you have a cellular solution, so you have a solution that goes directly to the cell tower that doesn’t leverage the tenants’ inhouse Wi-Fi.

There is a couple of tradeoffs. Owner-supplied Wi-Fi, that’s the only option for video, so if you want to have video recording in your property and be able to view it over the Internet, you need Wi-Fi.

It could be a perk. Some landlords could bundle this into rent and offer it as a perk for your tenants, but the cons of that are business plans are expensive, and do you want to be the IT support for your tenants if Internet doesn’t work. Can you imagine that call, “My Internet is not working.” I don’t think many of you wanted to do that.

You could tap into tenant Wi-Fi. Say, you’re buddies with your tenant. You say, “Hey, can I get on your Wi-Fi network for these cameras?” Well, that’s free or you could give them a little incentive, but what happens if he or she moves out or if the relationship sours? Because I would argue that this stuff is the most important one when you have a vacant property because that’s when you want to know what’s going on with that property. If you live across town or another state, you don’t know until something really bad happens and your neighbors tell you.

The third option is cellular. Cellular is an interesting option because with this whole Internet things that Rich mentioned, it’s now affordable and low cost. Now you can have a cellular connection to your house for prices start at $5 a month. This gives you a dedicated Internet connection just for your system, so you’re not relying on your tenants, you’re not relying on Comcast. You tap into the same cell networks that we all can use in our phones.

The cons of the cellular requires a separate modem and it’s lower bandwidth, so you can’t do video over cellular. That’s not really a thing yet; down the road, I’m sure will be, but right now it’s not quite there. That’s for the connection to the Internet.

Now the next thing is how do you connect to the devices within the property, so this is the local connectivity. Everyone here has heard of Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi with your phone connects to your router. That’s how you get high bandwidth. Wi-Fi is good because it’s high bandwidth and you already have a modem in place, but it’s not a good solution for building management or low-power sensors. So if you have a Wi-Fi water sensors, you’ll be changing batteries every six months or fewer.

Also, you need direct connection to a router, so if you had a water sensor in a basement and your router is up on the second floor, there is very little chance that that’s going to reach. Wi-Fi has a range inside the building in a property.

There has been a few wireless [unintelligible 0:09:28] developed that are more specifically built for building automation Zigbee is one of them and Z-Wave is the other. These are both low-power mesh networks. What that means is instead of me needing to talk directly to the router, I could pass my data to the next node to get it back. Think of it like a fire bucket brigade. That now that basement sensor could pass its data to a sensor on the first floor, which then passes its data to the modem on the second floor. Now you have the ability to reach inside your entire house in a very low-power way. Low power I define as you get about three years of battery life on a lot of these sensors that I will kind of show you. But the downside of Zigbee is the same frequency band as Wi-Fi. If you have like video streaming, your kids on their iPads, you might lose some connectivity there.


Z-wave is the alternative. To cut to the chase, this is the one that I recommend if you are looking at home automation systems. It operates at a different frequency that has a longer range and doesn’t interfere with Wi-Fi, but the downside is it’s a little more expensive. There’s tradeoff for all of this, but I want to give you the lay of the land of the different technology options.

Let me pause. Is there any quick questions?

Male Audience 2: What about security?

Charles: Security? Great question. Wi-Fi is arguably the least secure of all of this because anyone can drive in and tap into your access point and hack it, so Wi-Fi is one of the most insecure or unsecure of all of this.

Z-Wave I know the details of Z-Wave a lot better, but the way that Z-Wave works is that once it pairs to the modem, it can only accept orders from the modem, so you can directly connect to the lock and unlock the door, but that would be a risk with the Wi-Fi based smart lock. They built in security features to prevent just those same attacks that have made Wi-Fi very unreliable for these sorts of applications.

Male Audience 2: When I shut it off, how do I know [unintelligible 0:11:38]

Charles: When you shut off your…

Male Audience 2: When I shut off the water, how do I know that my tenant is not [unintelligible 0:11:45] up?

Charles: Well, no. We’ll get to that because that’s actually the second part of the solution of being able to control that with your phone and get notified when things happen.

Rich: In addition to that, I’m going to go around with the microphone because this is being videoed. These things are on [background noise 0:12:04] and the video sounds like that dead air like there. Okay so please be patient with me. I will come around everybody.

Female Audience 1: Can you explain mesh network?

Charles: Yes. I’m probably going too technical here, so my apologies but think of it as a way for all the sensors to talk to each other, which gives it a better overall connectivity in the house. We can go through it separately in a little more detail if you like to go deeper.

Rich: Good. Thank you for having a question because I’m trapped here.

Male Audience 3: What happens if the power goes out? Are they not able to get it in of the building? What happens if the technology fails?

Charles: Power is actually one of the benefits of the solutions that I’m going to talk about today because it’s battery backed up. Most of these sensors and devices have batteries, so they’re actually independent of the power grid. Now the connectivity back to the internet is really important because if you have a Wi-Fi connection or a non-cellular, when that power goes out, you’re Wi-Fi goes out. Your system doesn’t stop working, but you lose the connectivity to it, which is really I think the value of these solutions, being able to know that you have a water leak in your rental property or that the tenant unlocked the door when they should haven’t, that sort of thing. I will talk about a little bit about the cellular solutions because that’s one of the benefits of the solution I think that we’re going to introduce.

Rich: Is there a way that you can unlock the doors just like screw with people?

Charles: Yes [laughter].

Rich: Make them think the place is hot, so they move out faster?

Charles: Actually great segue there. We’ll talk a couple of use-cases. How many of you have a smart lock in your home or rental property? Okay, just so a few of you. There’s just a few of the types and models and relative price points of these things.

In terms of the landlord, what this gives you is awareness, so you know who’s coming into my unit, when.

Also, convenience. Imagine this past September 1st, s some of you probably have big closets full of keys that you manage and give to tenants in transition. Now imagine being able not to have rekey those things after a tenant turn. Now being to do that from sitting here in the room or at your home to change the codes. That’s kind of some possibilities of what this allows.

Giving trades and cleaning people easy access. Now instead of them coming to get a key from you or find a tenant time, imagine that having a special code that gives a record of when they came in. Now you know that cleaning person showed up at 9:00 AM when they said they would and clean the house.

For the tenant, no getting locked out and no keys getting lost. This is a huge thing. A lot of tenants I talked to and I showed this technology, they’ll be like, “That’s awesome. You mean I don’t need keys and never get locked out?” Yes, that’s what it means.

Safety. Who’s in my house, when? That’s a big concern because landlord, you have a key. You get in the house, obviously with proper notice unless it’s an emergency situation, but you could set up systems to tell tenants when codes are used. They have a greater sense of safety of their property of knowing when someone is in their house. There are benefits on both sides for this.


A couple of the key use-cases. The add and delete codes remotely. That’s probably one of the biggest benefits of this whole smart lock revolution. Limited use codes, so imagine a code that only works for limited period of time. that would you feel better and make the tenant feel better that there is not a code floating around that someone could tell their buddy and get access into the unit.


Alerts and auto-locks. Imagine getting an alert that the door was left unlocked. If you’re a tenant, this would be pretty valuable because you want to know. If I have kids in my house, I want to know if my door is unlocked because I will push a button and go to the door and unlock it.

You can set these locks to auto-lock, so imagine like a front building door that tenants leave unlocked all the time. That’s a security risk. You can set that to auto-lock after a period of time.

An alert if a code is used, so now you could track kind of contractor and even tenant access to a unit to have a record of who is in your building and when.

Also, it allows the tenant to know when someone else is in the unit, so we talked about that a little bit earlier. This is an example of our solution. We had a tenant entered the property. This is the sort of thing that’s possible, getting these types of alerts and notifications directly to your phone.

Rich: I just stayed at an Airbnb with one of those. I know what happened. I have to ask though. When you talk to tenants and they say, “Oh, that’s awesome. I get locked out all the time.” how do you prevent yourself from saying like, “Aren’t you an adult? Like what is your life, that this is a problem of yours all the time?”

Charles: [laughter] I don't know if I’ve answered that question, but we all had those tenants, so we’re kind of there.

Rich: Oh, my lord.

Charles: The next part there is smart thermostats. Who hasn’t heard of Nest? I saw one hand back there. Nest kind of kicked off the whole smart home revolution, a thermostat that you could change with your phone. Now, a lot of successors have come into the market here – Ecobee, Honeywell, Building 36, a local company, and Needham, but smart thermostats allow you the ability to reduce common area utility expenses. If you pay for common area heat or heat for any of your tenants, this is a way for you to basically save a ton of money by having a schedule that you can kind of control to a certain degree.

Prevent unnecessary strain, so if you go to a property and they have the windows open in the middle of winter, the heat running full blast because you’re paying for it, that’s not good for your pocketbook or for your HVAC systems, so those are things that smart thermostats could help you regulate and monitor.

Prevent frozen pipes or control the temperature when the unit is vacant. Those are key landlord uses cases.

For the tenant, the tenant now actually gets benefits, too, because if the tenant pays for utilities, smart thermostats are shown to save about 15 percent in utility bills. That’s significant savings that would appeal to any tenant out there including landlords. They could use their phone to control a thermostat. That’s a cool perk, so when they’re coming home, they could adjust the thermostat, turn it up or down, that’s one of those things that make an apartment more livable and more homelike to a degree.

One thing I noticed, most connected thermostats require a common wire, so a common wire is in your HVAC system base that supplies power. Nest, Honeywell, and Ecobee require common, now this thermostat here doesn’t, so if you have baseboard heat or a legacy system, this one is one of the few connected thermostats that does not require the common wire, so that’s a huge, huge thing.

Some of the use-cases, so temperature alerts. This is kind of how do you get ahead of that flood in your basement due to a frozen pipe. Imagine being able to get a notification if your temperature dropped below 55 degrees in your property. That means one of two things: the tenant shut off the heat or your HVAC system failed. I have used this to actually debug things remotely to know that my HVAC system wasn’t working, so I could send someone in before it was a big emergency, so think about like what that could save you in terms of the emergency costs of calling an HVAC company for an emergency service.

Control the temp range. A lot of these thermostats allow you to set limits to how high and how low a tenant can go. In those cases when you don’t want the tenant to shut off the heater over Christmas, you can set a minimum and lock the mode, so they couldn’t shut off the heat or change it to off when they’re out. Or if you pay for utilities, the max you can go is 75 or whatever is stated in the letter of the law. You cannot control that remotely. Those are some of the key temperature use-cases.

Next video—

Rich: Is this a good spot to open up the questions about locks and temperature control?


Charles: Yes, sure, sure.

Rich: You will only get to ask a question if you promise to fill up a feedback card. Is that a deal?

Charles: Yes.

Rich: All right. I’m coming back. Anybody else have a question? We have time for one more before we move along. All right, one more. Thank you.

Male Audience 4: Can you change the code on the thermostat when Bob Smith moves out, Mary Lou moves in? Is Bob Smith going to still have control of that thermostat?

Charles: The thermostat or the lock?

Male Audience 4: Thermostat.

Charles: Thermostat.

Male Audience 4: No, lock [unintelligible 0:0:30] I didn’t know about thermostat.

Charles: Yes. The thermostat typically is not a code for the thermostat at least in the system that we use. You could basically create a log-in for a tenant or they could use the active control the thermostat and when they move out, you delete their log-in, so they’re basically done. Then you added the new.

The same applies for the locks. You could delete the codes remotely or delete their access to the app. Now their whole access system goes away, so it saves you having to go there to physically punch in buttons or change the codes.

Rich: We have a question here at the back. This fellow is in witness protection, so he asked me to ask his question for him.

Charles: [laughter]

Rich: That’s not true. A really smart question. He wants to know is there a special code that a resident could use if they come home and they’re held at gunpoint, is there a special code they could put in where it would open up the door, but it would alert the police something was going on?

Charles: The system, and I can only speak from our system, you could set the system to tell you to send a message, an email, a text, or an app notification to whomever you want. If you have like let’s say a loved one that is there for you and you’re being held at gunpoint coming in, you enter that code, they could get a text message, saying this is the emergency code.

Could you sent that directly to the police? I don't know if the police have a number to receive this sort of thing, but you could definitely get a message sent to a loved one o someone that watches after you if a code is used.

Rich: Interesting. For those of us who like to hold people at gunpoint, keep that in mind.

Charles: [laughter] Yes.

Rich: People can do that now.

Charles: Okay, so video security, video surveillance. This is pretty popular for a lot of buildings because if something goes wrong, you want to know what happened. Nest Cam, Arlo,, these are pretty popular video platforms that are out there today.

A couple of key landlord considerations for this. Security of your common areas or the exterior of your building, being able to see what goes on outside, around your unit. Typically inside the unit, videos are no-no unless it’s fully disclosed and bought in by the tenant, so this is more for common areas, entrances, and exits, as well as areas around the property.

Rich: Well that answers the next question is it waterproof so I can put it in the shower?

Charles: [laughter]

Rich: Okay, so thank you for covering that.

Charles: For a landlord, you can trigger the video to know when someone comes in or out of the building, so it’s kind of a record of access, so you know that, “Hey, who stole that package?” That’s actually a big consideration for the tenant. Package gets stolen. The Amazon guy comes, drops off a package, the package disappears. These are things that the video surveillance could solve.

What are some of the key video use-cases? One of the challenges with video today is a lot of the solutions give a lot of false triggers, so the wind blows a leaf through the frame, you get a notification that there is motion detected. The newer-generation products have what’s called video analytics, so they can distinguish between people, cars, and animals.

As an example, on the porch of our house in Somerville, if someone walks onto my porch, it would trigger a recording and send me a notification, but if someone walks by on the sidewalk and leaves the house, I don’t care about that. I just want to know when [unintelligible 0:23:54] and Amazon packages are dropped off. Those are types of things that make it a lot more usable for both landlords as well as homeowners.

You can also do things like tie the video to lights. If a person is detected afterhours, you could turn the lights on. You got yourself with the motion detection solution, but this is actually a lot cooler because you could control it remotely, turn the lights on and off.

Trip wires, time in area of interests. If someone comes into an area for a period of time, you could get notified of that for that whole loitering use-case that we discussed earlier. These are some cool things that you do with video these days that could help you enhance security of your residence but also have a better understanding of what’s going on in and around of your building.

Finally, water protection. Water protection is probably the most underappreciated until it saves your butt from major damage or a huge nightmare. Many people have BP models out there where if there is water, it will beep, but the key thing is what if no one is home? What if no tenant bothers to figure out what that beep is? That’s one big weakness of those.

The new generation of sensors like this Building 36 water sensor, these are wireless battery-powered probes that you could put by some pumps, water heaters, washing machines. Those are kind of the three critical areas where we see the most damage from water.


If you’re very paranoid, you could put them under refrigerators if you have icemakers or under dishwashing machines, but really it’s your call about your level of risk. The water sensors will tell you when water is detected. That’s the basic function that they provide.

They also connect to shutoff valves, so some of you might have heard of Water Cup. Water Cup is one of the most well-known water shutoff valves that’s out there, so that allows you to close and open your water main in your home or rental property. With this system, if the water sensor triggers, you could automatically close your water valve, so you don't have the water running for 4 hours because the fitting on the back of your washing machine is busted.

The new generation of stuff is actually more exciting. These are water flowmeters. Flowmeters will actually tell you about the amount of water that’s used. We talked earlier about who’s had $1,000-plus water bill from a running toilet. These flowmeters from Flow as well as have the ability now to tell you when an abnormal amount of water is used before you get that call from the city three weeks too late.

Those are the types of things that you can now have the intelligence of, especially most landlords pay for water themselves unless you have your unit sub-metered. Being able to catch this stuff, you catch one running toilet, that will pay for the system costs many times over. This is more of a preventative mechanism but it can save you a lot of money from damage and from wasted water and big expenses.

Some of the use-case, detecting hard leaks. Again, water heaters, some pumps, washing machines, those kind of are the top three that we recommend.

I think the—Doug, you around?

Male Audience 5: It says you’ve been censored.

Charles: I’ve been censored. You guys don’t like the presentation [laughter]. I’m sorry.

Rich: Peter had a question. Could you just, in broad strokes, Charles, talk about I know you’re talking some things are good for the landlords and some things are tenant benefits. That was your question, kind of want to differentiate those two?

Male Audience 6: Are tenants like paranoid about all this and complain about monitored or?

Charles: Yes, good question because privacy is a very important consideration of this. We actually recommend and we’ve talked to some of the lawyers in the Cambridge-Somerville area about if you have a smart lock where you have a record of entry and access, put that into the lease so you fully disclose that, “For your security, Mr. and Mrs. Tenant, there is going to be a record of accesses so we can kind of protect who’s coming into the property.”

I’d say some of the older tenants have had issues with, “I want a key. I don’t want to go keyless.” We’ve seen situations where Millennial tenants love it, but some of the older generation not so much, but if you disclose things properly in the lease, that’s kind of protection. That’s what some of the lawyers that I work with recommend be done if you go this direction.

Rich: It’s just like a hotel. They switched to those cards a long time ago. You don’t stick a key in the lock anymore, right? Since Doug broke the computer, does anybody else have any questions while it’s getting fixed? Okay, good. I just unfairly blamed Doug for things. It’s okay.

Female Audience 2: Curious about the flowmeters. I have a triple-decker and just one water meter. I can put three flowmeters that will tell me what each floor is using individually?

Charles: Typically in that situation, you put it on the water main that flows unless you have it sub-metered. If you sub one, you can know the flow of the total building, so now the weakness is you don't know if it’s unit 1 or unit 2 that has the leak, but you know something is happening and can investigate before it’s too late.

Female Audience 2: Really, it doesn’t help me breakdown like to see how much usage each one is using? You have nothing like that?

Charles: There is a feature built into the meter we’re going to be releasing that will allow some submetering capabilities like that, but it’s not quite ready for primetime yet. I would say you know the total flow and you get alerts if different flow levels are achieved, so if you have eight gallons per minute flowing for 40 minutes, that could trigger an alert to your phone, an auto shutoff, or the buzzer on the unit. That’s kind of what’s possible now, but you can’t know that that toilet on unit 3 that that’s the one causing. We’re not yet at that level of sophistication.


Rich: That’s also a plumbing factor, too, because I mean some triple-deckers, you’re going to have like 800 pipes going up from the basement. Some of them are disabled; they were disconnected 60 years ago. So it’s very difficult to attach a device to something unless it’s plumbed specifically like you know exactly this is the hot, this the cold that goes up to floor 2; this is the hot, it goes up to floor 3. Unless the plumbing is set up like that, then the devices with the plumbing not necessarily the technology. Does that make sense?


Female Audience 2: Yes, it is. [unintelligible 0:30:40] plumbing like that.

Rich: You did? Okay.

Female Audience 2: But that meter wouldn’t really help us. I just was trying to get an idea. I want to see like [unintelligible 0:30:44] most people are using.

Charles: You have to go to the [crosstalk 0:30:50].

Female Audience 2: Right, right. absolutely.

Female Audience 3: Charles, what specifically does your company do? Do you produce some of the products? Do you come out to the apartments to help set things up?

Charles: I want to honor the no sales pitch guarantee here.

Female Audience 3: Yes, no sales pitch. Just curious.

Charles: We have a Z-wave based cellular platform that will offer self-install and professional install options for landlords. If you’re a handy landlord, you want to save some money, we’re happy to ship you the stuff and you can install them yourself following some instructions, but if you want help, we can help you set it up. That’s kind of the essence of what we do.

Male Audience 7: [unintelligible 0:31:32]

Charles: We’re located in Somerville, but for this solution, we actually have customers in 17 states, so this is kind of gone national pretty quickly because I think for some of the obvious benefits that you can get. It allows someone to manage properties across multiple states. That makes it quite attractive once you get comfortable with making the leap to the technology.

Brian: Are you still a private company or have you gone public?

Charles: [laughter] We’re still small and growing, so we’re closely held.

Female Audience 4: Quick question. Rough idea of what you’re looking at to install cameras?

Charles: Okay, the rough idea of what you’re looking to install cameras? Typically, the camera is about $125 to $175 for the hardware, and then it’s just really an electrician. You do have a power source nearby. Is there a plug or do you need electrician to run the wire? Indoors cameras usually are pretty easy; plug it into an outlet and you got the camera set up. The outdoor requires typically a little bit of electrical work to get power to it. A couple of hours of electrician’s time, so for the electricians that we use probably $300 to $400 for the electrical work to install two cameras, and then the hardware cost.

There’s a monthly, so a lot of these services have that’s one of the probably challenges for people to broadly adopt it, but if you value the use-cases, a lot of these have a monthly attached to it.

Rich: We’re going to hold the questions. We have 5 minutes left and our meeting is until 8:30, so we’re going to let Charles go through it.

Charles: Okay.

Rich: Then if everybody can line up and see him in 5 minutes. Is that cool?

Audience: Cool.

Rich: All right.

Charles: A couple of case studies, and this one actually is from a MassLandlords member who was on one of the slides earlier, so I won’t say who. But his tenant was avoiding rent, never home. I’m sure none of you have ever had that situation.

Rich: No.

Charles: We put the smart locks on one of his buildings and he created a notification that told him when that tenant used his code, so he knew when the tenant was home. “Knock, knock. Hey, my rent.” He got half of his rent back that engagement. That was one kind of a success story. Sold him on the system. He rolled it out to five buildings.

Case study 2: water heater failure. This is a landlord with a water heater on the 5th floor of a Brookline building. Tucked away in a correct you would never have known it until you had a disaster on the floor below.

The water sensor, which is down here in red, a little hard to see, but it was in the pan there, caught the leak, alerted him. He was able to get a couple of bids, scheduled time with the tenants, get it done before it was a plumbing emergency at triple prices.

Thermostat controlling two units, so it wasn’t properly zoned. I’m sure none of your units are like, but this is one of our customers. We were able to put a sensor in the second unit that doesn’t have a thermostat and run the thermostat off the average of the two temperatures. Now instead of it being really hot upstairs because the downstairs people cranked it up, we were able to balance the temperature across the units and trigger the thermostat off of that common setpoint. Basically, it’s a way to help the landlord avoid having to separate out his HVAC system.

These are just some of the couple of use-cases that are kind of interesting but it can save money, save time. You make people’s lives easier as landlords.


What are the steps to get started?

First, choose your Internet connectivity strategy. Do you want to provide Wi-Fi to the building or do you want a cellular solution? That’s really the first because it dictates a lot of things beyond that.

Second, decide your local connectivity strategy. Do you want Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi-based, or do you want to try one of these home automation ecosystem-designed protocols.

Decide your install. Are you handy? Do you want to set it up it yourself or did you want someone to do it for you. Those are really the three things to think about.

Here are my recommendations/options.

If you’re the building type, go a Z-wave and buy a Samsung SmartThings modem. That assumes you have Internet in your building, but that allows you to basically connect the Z-wave sensors. They are designed for this stuff to build your own home automation system.

Next, you don’t want to touch anything. ADT or Xfinity, they have alarm systems. They have home automation systems, but you’re paying for monitored alarm service, so you’re paying a high monthly.

Then the third option is what we do; pro-install or self-install but designed to use the system exactly to your needs, so you’re not paying for stuff you don’t need at a monthly that starts at $5 a month for certain system components.

That’s kind of where we fit into this whole ecosystem. We have a solution that’s between the do-it-yourselfers and the big expensive alarm companies. If that sounds interesting to any of you, check out our website. We have a free 15-minute phone consultation if you like to discuss your situation at your rental properties, but we’ll be happy to help. we have customers here in the city, customers in 17 states.

With that, here’s the final example of how the software looks. From the screen, I’m able to control the thermostats, the water valves, the locks, detects your water sensors in four different properties. I’m able to flip between my properties on my phone or on my computer, change codes to close water valves, adjust thermostats, turn off lights.

The power of this system is it’s easy to use and it allows you to have remote control over your properties. That’s really the summary of the value proposition. With that, thank you very much for your time.

Rich: Right on time. That was really cool. Thank you very much.

Audience: [applause]

[End 0:37:29]


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