The intersection of technology and student accommodation is coming together rapidly, and slow-to-respond owners could lose tenants and their reputations, according to the technologists at SHURE GTA.

Building owners must be agile in response to internet connectivity and AI requirements: SHURE GTA technologists

January 1, 2024

SHURE Initiative
High-level technologists who convened at SHURE GTA have an urgent message for commercial building owners, especially those accommodating to students: You must be forward-thinking about building connectivity, or you'll lose tenants and struggle with operations and, even worse, your industry reputation. And, because technology is changing rapidly, thinking five-to-10 years ahead is mandatory. According to the panelists, changes such as returning to work in-person or less internet usage - an expected reverting to social behavior pre-pandemic have not occurred. More permanent social changes are reverberating in university environments and PBSA. Indeed, technology implementation can positively or negatively impact the tenant experience and the owner's operations.

Hannah Pollard, Manager - Business Development, Snaile

"If you're not thinking ahead and you're not working on developing software that will be a big change to what's currently in the market being offered, you're way too late," said Hannah Pollard of Snaile, who acknowledges students are more isolated and socialization has changed in the last few years. If property managers are not thinking ahead of the curve with building connectivity and AI, they are already behind the game and likely their competitors.

Shaun McCracken, Regional Director - Student Operations, Centurion Property Associates, Inc.

"If you don't include Wi-Fi in a student property nowadays, you are behind the times. When you look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, connectivity ranks #2, almost as important as providing a place to live!" exclaimed Shaun McCracken of Centurion Property Associates, the investor/owner contributor to the session. "They could be outside on a bench, but as long as they can connect to your Wi-Fi, you're keeping the tenant satisfied." According to the SHURE panelists, connectivity improvements to buildings, such as fiber optic cables and Wi-Fi systems, must incorporate at least the next 5-10 years' future user demands, such as gaming and streaming. As such, building owners must have agility for infrastructure upgrades, and owners must be ready to provide additional bandwidth on short notice. In addition, AI will have a dramatic effect on operations.

Related SHURE Initiative Content: How AI could improve the tenant experience

While newer buildings will be easier to upgrade and likely more agile, older buildings must take steps to incorporate expected changes in infrastructure. The SHURE GTA session featured Gary Kenning, VP - Business Development, Cloudwifi Inc., Zeeshan Butt, Co-Founder & President, Mosino One, Shaun McCracken, Regional Director - Student Operations, Centurion Property Associates, Inc, and Hannah Pollard, Manager - Business Development, Snaile. While the technologists attempted to discuss the definition of intelligent buildings, they primarily focused their comments on how quickly software is changing, how student tenant demands are likely to change, and social patterns that have solidified post-pandemic. Indeed, change is coming fast, and owners must think long-term.

Zeeshan Butt, Co-Founder & President, Mosino One

"People expect a certain level of service as soon as they enter the building, noted Zeeshan Butt of Mosino One. Throughout the years of building software companies, Butt said one thing he and his team have realized is that the software must solve an actual problem. "Whether it's a big problem or small problem, it (the software) has to solve it." The panelists agreed that the pandemic has accelerated work-from-home and school-from-home scenarios and fundamentally changed social behavior. University environments are not immune to this shift. This pattern appears to have solidified, according to Gary Kenning, VP - of Business Development, Cloudwifi Inc. "We're still seeing around mid 30% year over year bandwidth increases in the same building, that hasn't changed, and there has been no drop off since COVID." From the building operations perspective, Shaun McCracken said that his multifamily and student tenants expect in-person and virtual support as soon as they enter the building. "I think it comes down to the expediency of service that they expect now," noted McCracken. "Residents are now expecting to be able to walk into a building and have that building be full service, whether there's a desk there or not, or be able to connect with your staff in a moment's notice, and residents want to pop in and ask questions as they want, and they no longer have to come to the desk for service." Pollard of Snaile said she expected package delivery to slow down as the world re-opened post-pandemic, but it has yet to. "A big change we observed is that a building went from maybe ten parcels daily to hundreds. We did a survey just at the very tail end of the pandemic. We found that whether it was security or concierge or managers, whoever was in charge of the front end of that building, there was something like 10 minutes per package to accept these and log them and put them somewhere in the building."

Gary Kenning, VP - Business Development, Cloudwifi Inc.

Kenning, whose business has serviced 150 student properties in Canada, concluded the session with a comment about the impact of AI. "Lots of buzz and the evolution progress in the last 12 months like nothing I've ever seen before, honestly." View the full session transcript and video by subscribing to a SHURE membership >

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