Chapter 5
Taking the Long-Term View

The ABC’s of IoT in Blended Living Models

Blended living, coliving, coworking, connected cities, smart buildings and other revolutionary concepts were far from being popular 17 years ago, when we first opened a collective WiFi service in a student residence. Since then, we have observed the constant digitisation of our society and the challenges that go with it for shared living operators throughout Europe.

A standout observation has been how the Internet of Things (IoT) is evolving the blended living ecosystem by bringing high-touch connections and integrated technologies into spaces.

Why is IoT relevant to blended living?

Illustration of managed WiFi at the heart of a student accommodation: powering all digital needs through a robust and secure network infrastructure

Let’s start with what IoT is and its practical relevance for the blended living industry. Margaret Rouse, in TechTarget site defines it as “the network of physical objects—“things”—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet”.

Essentially, IoT is turning living spaces into ‘Smart Homes’. Moving beyond entertainment-related applications, such as Smart TVs, Chromecasts, and WiFi speakers we enter an IoT domain that optimises energy consumption, provides security, and comfort through means of home-automation and physical or application-based remote controls.

Blended living is a market full of potential for IoT integration in the coming years, with key beneficial elements that stand out: community, lifestyle, mobility, work, and cost. Strict security measures, such as Secure Room Area Network, allows residents to interact with IoT devices found in their room or shared spaces, and other authorized devices in an easy, safe and secure way, thanks to WPA2/3 encryption.

The left image above depicts a typical public WiFi setup. No two devices can securely communicate without complex work configuration completed by the service provider. Often the WiFi connection can be an unsecure open network. The right image provides an overview of Room Area Network. All devices in each room can easily communicate while remaining connected to the WiFi via a secure WPA2 / WPA3 encryption and without the overly complicated configuration.

Customer perspective: seamless living experience

Let’s start with our customers: our residents. Imagine a coliving residence, equipped with a scalable and customizable content platform, based on Apple Home kit solution, that could deliver a more engaging, interactive and immersive end-user experience. Residents would access it remotely via the smartphone app of the residence, have direct access to the IoT ecosystem of his/her room and could adjust the accessories connected remotely, heating or air conditioning, for example. As soon as the resident would enter their room, they could take advantage of its accessories directly via the Home application of Apple terminal without any additional connection step: HomePod, WiFi speaker or TV compatible with AirPlay2 or Chromecast and simply stream the content on their TV.

Business perspective: beyond operational excellence

Illustration of operational improvements thanks to IoT integration

With IoT integration, the blended living industry will be able to further develop intelligent surveillance and use equipment such as connected cameras, presence and object detectors, intrusion detectors, etc. This also applies to fire safety via connected smoke detectors allowing an alarm to be triggered in two stages (manager verification before a general alarm). Access supervision can also benefit from the development of IoT, through connected locks which will allow centralized and easy access management. They will also allow door openings to be detected.

Optimizing energy consumption is also a major environmental and financial issue for operators. Thanks to new IoT devices that track and estimate the rate of gas or electricity consumption, this is now possible. The new systems make it possible to take measurements and trigger actions based on them in order to then optimize energy expenditure and generate savings. With predictive maintenance, this is one of the promises of Smart Building!

Adopting IoT is the thing for both key enrichment of the customer experience as well as the optimization of operating efficiencies and effectiveness: two priority objectives that will support the success and growth of any businesses but especially blended living typologies as residents expect to enjoy their blended lifestyle that it promises.

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