Yuval Boger is the chief marketing officer of Wi-Charge, wireless charging products touted as “the future of power.” In this episode, Blake and Yuval recap some of Homebase’s most recent product news and discuss how wireless charging can fit into multifamily.
Blake Miller 0:03
Hello, everybody, and welcome back to the Future of Living podcast. This is season three. And I’m your host, Blake Miller.
I’m so excited to be back. And this time we’re going to change things up a little bit differently with this first episode. It’s actually an episode of me on somebody else’s podcast. This time we’re going to start with you Yuval Boger of Wi-Charge, I was on talking about how wireless charging could really affect the future. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Yuval Boger 0:29
Hello, Blake, and thanks for joining me today.
Blake Miller 0:31
Hey, thanks for having me. I’m excited to have a chat.
Yuval Boger 0:34
Great. So who are you in? What do you do?
Blake Miller 0:37
My name is Blake Miller I’m the founder of Homebase. And we work with apartment owners to help automate the management of their buildings using the Internet of Things. So what does that mean? It means giving resident amenities like unlocking their door, changing the thermostat, even getting connected to building Wi Fi, all from a smartphone app. And we provide a dashboard for the managers to be able to automate a lot of those tasks.
Yuval Boger 1:02
When I looked at your website, it looked like you offer three tiers of services to the managers of the buildings, could you explain what they are?
Blake Miller 1:10
Yeah, we kind of take our smart building approach and kind of break it into kind of three different tiers, as you said, and the first one being access control and smart locks. So this enables one fob or one app access to all the different doors of the building, controlled by you know, mobile apps for the property managers who can manage automatically the access of residents, you know, when at lease or their stay starts. But also it gives that control and access to the residence as well. that next step for us is really about connected infrastructure to have a smart building, you need to be able to connect all the things. So those locks and everything that we do, excuse me on that first level, they don’t actually require any connectivity in the building because we communicate to the locks via Bluetooth. But all other smart things require connectivity of some some kind. And so we use in deploy a community wide Wi Fi infrastructure that provides that connectivity for then all the other devices that might go in the building, which is really that kind of step three of things like thermostats, light switches, we’ve partnered with LG to do smart appliances, and a whole host of other types of sensors and video surveillance and all these different things that might be connected in a building. And and one added benefit that that Wi Fi infrastructure brings for the property owners is the ability to offer a new amenity to the residents, this multi use infrastructure can offer the Wi Fi connectivity to the residents, which is kind of like living in a hotel. And so the property owners are able to capture different share their residents wallet by offering this amenity that everybody really really, you know, enjoys, they don’t have to wait for the cable guy to show up after moving which is stressful time. And, you know, it all kind of just stays right within the building.
Yuval Boger 3:12
So let’s let’s go through the benefits are why would property owners care about this? And why would residents care about this? Let’s start with the property or literally saying I’m sorry, what are they saving by installing a smart lock?
Blake Miller 3:30
Absolutely. So by installing installing a smart lock, there’s a there’s obviously some enhanced security in terms of who has access into units, you don’t have master keys floating around, you can digitally revoke access or give access to both the residents but and guests, but also to staff and other vendors, you also don’t have to rekey locks at the end of stays. So more and more properties are also doing you know Airbnb type stays. So that creates a lot of extra management to change those locks or even change pin codes if they might be. And then you know, it also kind of what I alluded to with the master key gets rid of the key locker system that properties have to employ, where they’re checking keys out, and all of that. And that’s something that then you know, during maintenance service and things like that cost the maintenance staff time to have to go check out those keys to be able to gain access to units. So those are some big things that happen, you know, out of the gate for what they’re what they’re doing. You know, there’s other things where you’re trying to lease up and you need to be able to manage a lot of different vacant units. So being able to have you know, potential prospects, gain access to units or or other added benefits. But then there are the other kind of the future forward options. communities where these smart locks kind of Pun intended to unlock a whole host of services that buildings can offer to residents things like house cleaners and dog walkers and grocery delivery and all these different things that this simplified, but more secure access can grant.
Yuval Boger 5:21
So do you think that someone looking to lease an apartment is looking at a smart lock and these amenities, it’s a factor to decide which which building I should apply for?
Blake Miller 5:34
You know, I think some people definitely are, they’re looking for amenities that help them save time, help them feel a little bit more secure, they they’re able to see, you know, who comes and goes, if somebody gains access to their apartment or something, you know, maintenance staff, other while they’re away, they get notified. You know, but I also think that really quickly, these are becoming kind of the stuff the status quo in some areas, where, you know, I expect to have a smart thermostat, I expect to have some of these controls, but I want to know that my privacy is being taken care of, I want to know that, who has access and, and all those different things. But I do think that, you know, especially at the higher end of some properties, you know, more amenities are what people are looking for. And instead of just a bigger gym, or a bigger pool, or some of these things, I think, really, I think people really value their time, how they spend it, when they spend it. And I think that some of these services, you want to be able to move into a building that kind of, you know, helps you live a more efficient life, perhaps, and we call it living as a service sometimes, but you know, I just want to be able to move in and take care of all the things that I that I don’t want to take care of as an adult, you know, adulting, if you will, and be able to focus on, you know, my hobbies or my work or whatever it might be.
Yuval Boger 6:56
So it used to be that these amenities were granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances, and now they’re smart locks, and maybe Wi Fi as a service. What do you think the amenities that property owners might be able to offer in a couple of years to entice renters?
Blake Miller 7:17
Well, you know, I think, I think the times right now, you know, we’re recording this under lockdown. You know, we the times, I think, will definitely bring forward health and wellness. And I think you start to look at air purification type systems, I think you I think you start to look at how can you be even more efficient in the home. But then I think you start to look at how do I connect with services and the community around me and do that efficiently. And you know, probably for a while, either contactless, or remotely or whatever it might be. And I think that technology can really help us to enable that and, and support some of these new things that are new ways of, of cautious living, that we’re all gonna have to do for a little while.
Yuval Boger 8:11
Let’s go back to the locks for a second. These are battery operated, I assume?
Blake Miller 8:16
Yes. So we’ve partnered which Schlage you know, the parent company is a Allegion, and we work with the Schlage control series lock. And it’s a battery operated primarily Bluetooth lock, they have some versions that have some Wi Fi capabilities for more community door areas. But primarily the the locks for the units that we work with are all battery powered, you know, battery powered locks that we connect to via Bluetooth.
Yuval Boger 8:45
And battery powered locks are those that you could install either in new builds or so in retrofits. Right, you could go into an existing building, and help the property owner upgrade to your system.
Blake Miller 8:57
Yeah, absolutely. And in fact, you know, new buildings, obviously, I this is almost completely table stakes in new buildings. But in retrofits, you know, there’s a lot of opportunity where that first step that we talked about in home based access, you know, the Smart Lock really is kind of that, that that gateway to having a smarter and more efficient building. And so we’re really doing a lot of retrofits and and landing on that door. And as you start to see some of the cost savings as a as an owner, then you’re able to start recognizing and seeing, you know, benefits of other smart devices and kind of start adding to your your smart building.
Yuval Boger 9:40
How long did the batteries last you think?
Blake Miller 9:43
You know, typically we see them rated for a year and a half to two years, a couple thousand engages. But you know one of the things that we recommend and has become kind of practice, is they usually just get replaced at the turn. And you know, it’s kind of unfortunate, we enable all of these extra features, and great efficiencies, but we kind of had one problem where you have to actually replace batteries to make sure all this stuff works. And so, you know, figuring out ways to improve that figure out ways to come up with, you know, we like our battery replacement kits that we share with our owners, where we can just send them, you know, packs in new batteries, they send us the old ones overcharge them for them. But other than that, like, it’s a problem that has to be solved in if you forget to replace it or whatever, you have issues down the road.
Yuval Boger 10:38
And the issues would be I’m coming home Sunday night 11pm. And the door doesn’t open and then I got to get someone to open the door for me.
Blake Miller 10:48
Yeah, or, or you have to find a nine volt battery somewhere, to be able to jump that lock to be able to swipe your card or or, or do it to be able to get in. So we haven’t seen very many of those at all. But they definitely have happened.
Yuval Boger 11:04
So don’t leave home without the nine volt battery in your pocket.
Blake Miller 11:08
That’d be definitely both, you know, we detect, we detect the battery usage and can start to predict when batteries are running low and create maintenance tickets on our platform automatically, that, you know, can to detect all those things. So a lot of our system gets into that kind of automated management, preventive maintenance, sort of things.
Yuval Boger 11:32
So what would wireless power mean to you? If you were able to power the smart locks? I mean, is it just eliminating the cost of buying a couple of batteries every year? Or is it more than that?
Blake Miller 11:44
Well, I think it’s a couple layers for sure is you’re going to eliminate the battery costs, you’re going to eliminate the time that it takes to replace those batteries, you know, and you’re going to remove any risk in when those batteries are getting replaced, there’s any damage to the lock. Or maybe you know, something gets unplugged or something on the lock or something was exposed. If it’s not done properly, or somebody that’s been trained. And then you’ve been the other risk is just having really unhappy residents or getting somebody locked out at a time that you know those it’s never a good time when there’s a lockout, right? It’s always late at night, it’s always on the weekends. And you know, that’s why sometimes it costs people a lot of money to get that on, somebody come out and get it unlocked. We definitely don’t want anybody to be locked out on the systems, of course. So you know, we definitely take a lot of support there.
Yuval Boger 12:47
So if a system like the Wi-Charge system charged the locks, and it had additional capacity, what else would you want it to charge in an apartment for either the asset manager or the resident to get value?
Blake Miller 13:05
Yeah, so you know, I personally would love and I think it would be amazing to be able to have, you know, apartments especially, you know, we’re, we’re quarantined, in ours, a place called Two Light in Kansas City, beautiful place and got a great big open spot, I would love to be able to just leave our leave my phone on the kitchen island and have it have it be charged wirelessly. To me, that’s a cool, not just a cool amenity, it’s, I would probably not want to ever move out of a place that didn’t have that anymore. At that point because it would become so valuable to you know, my lifestyle, which is, you know, right, wrong or indifferent, always connected. And you know, as a CEO and founder, you always connected with a team and customers and all of that. So, yep, having a charge phone would always be valuable. So things like that would be really valuable. I think that, you know, other sorts of speakers and being able to play speakers in lots of different areas and create unique sound experiences with homes, having wireless charging would be really cool, as well. And then you get into some of the things within like the bathroom area and everything. And I think that I think back to some of that health and wellness stuff that we were talking about before. new buildings can start to have that focus on Wow, you’ve got such a beautiful, amazing bathroom and it’s like a spa experience. And that becomes really the amenity. And it’s not just in your penthouses, it’s in all of them. Because you can do things that you don’t have to run a bunch of wires to and everything you can wirelessly excuse me, wirelessly charged those those things and the faucet comes on automatically and the shower comes on when you need it to and know about it’s relatively affordable to create those experiences.
Yuval Boger 14:57
And I can see your video when we’re recording this. It looks like your place has these really large windows. So how about smart shades? Would you want them to automatically go up? But I don’t know when you when you get up in the morning.
Blake Miller 15:11
Yeah, I mean, that’s like the next level right and and, and there are some places that do that. But I know it’s incredibly expensive. It’s really cool. But it’s just expensive to do in apartment buildings. But being able to enable that creates not only an amazing living experience where shades rise in the morning, or you know, when you get home or how, however you want to automate the experience. But in buildings like these are getting more and more built with, you know, all glass buildings, exposed east west to the sunrise and sunsets, being able to have residents opt into an experience where the shades are automatically lowering or rising, based off the sunrises and sunsets to help the overall energy efficiency of the building can be incredibly valuable, and health conscious and climate conscious, and all these other things. So definitely huge opportunities. But if we’ve learned anything, it’s just it takes a lot of partnership, a lot of integration, a lot of ecosystem building, and some will from really innovative developers to be able to pull some of this stuff off.
Yuval Boger 16:20
And especially for retrofits, right to install a power chain and retrofit, it’s it’s always difficult to run power to the window. And so if that could be powered wirelessly that that might be a nice thing.
Blake Miller 16:32
Well, I think you got I think you’re at two different kind of cases, with retrofits, right, you’ve got kind of renovations, you know, after maybe a new company acquires a building, they’re gonna put 10 to $20,000 a door into the property. As you know, people’s leases expire, though, they’ll update each unit. And those are those areas where it’s definitely costly to try to run a bunch of wires and everything. So you got to figure out how you’re going to get the biggest impact, return on investment or for that. And then you got just regular old retrofits where there’s literally just they’re just people in there. But the property owner has a little bit of capex that they want to, you know, make that investment, and you got to be really wise. And that’s where we see like, we just start with that lock, so they can start seeing some return on investment there and then build from that.
Yuval Boger 17:25
And the benefits are, as you said, but go both ways, right? They go to the resident, they have a more modern feel they have smarter living, and then they also go to the property owner that can perhaps up charge for these amenities, or just command a higher value for renting there.
Blake Miller 17:45
Absolutely. Our goal is definitely for this to be a win, win, win. We don’t want this. We don’t want people to be, you know, experience or privacy or any of these things to be sacrificed because of technology. We want these things to be at the forefront and, you know, ultimately improve our lives or shouldn’t be creating more issues.
Yuval Boger 18:05
Excellent. So Blake, where can people get in touch with you to learn more about the work that you’re doing?
Blake Miller 18:11
So homebase.ai. You can find us online. We’re also on all the social medias @homebaseai and I’m pretty easy to find with with Twitter at @imbmills. Yeah, happy to connect with anybody.
Yuval Boger 18:34
That’s great. Thanks for being my guest today.
Blake Miller 18:36
Hey, I really enjoyed it. Thanks for having me.
Future of Living is run by Homebase. Homebase brings the smart apartment experience to new build and retrofit multifamily with trusted technology that delivers intuitive building access control with smart locks, automation of property management, new revenue with property-wide WiFi, and IoT technology amenities residents enjoy. All completely installed and managed for the multifamily innovation leaders of this decade.