Sophisticated IoT devices combined with AI are becoming a game changer for building owners and managers seeking to centralize operations.
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Imagine it’s a weekend, you’re operating with a skeleton staff, and you get a text alert. A sensor has picked up a potential water leak in an unoccupied apartment unit. Such remote monitoring is part of the promise of the Internet of Things, a term coined more than two decades ago to describe potential uses for internet-enabled devices. For commercial owners and managers, a growing number of applications can integrate IoT data to help remotely manage multiple functions for an entire portfolio of buildings.

Simply put, “IoT is revolutionizing management and operations of commercial real estate,” says NAR’s Bob Gillespie, managing partner of REACH Commercial.

We got a ‘crash course’ in the commercial real estate industry.”

-Dan Simpkins

One IoT solution from the 2023 REACH Commercial program, Dwellwell, gives single-family and multifamily owners and managers a 24/7 window into the health of their buildings’ plumbing, electrical, environmental and HVAC issues.

We talked with Dwellwell CEO Dan Simpkins to learn more about the service he calls the “check engine light for homes.” Simpkins began germinating the idea for Dwellwell in 2014 when his Maryland vacation home suffered catastrophic damage from a frozen water pipe that subsequently burst. How, he wondered, could he apply his considerable experience with sensors to create an early-warning system for building owners? Simpkins and co-founder Chuck Gritton, Dwellwell’s chief technology officer, had previously earned patents for creating motion control technology for television and game remotes.

“The idea was to make a wholehome diagnostic platform,” Simpkins says. “At the time, I couldn’t find a sensor that could monitor my entire home. I would have had to cobble together many different IoT devices, which would have required more complex installation, and then multiple apps and potentially multiple subscription fees.”

Installing Dwellwell sensors is a matter of plugging them into standard electrical outlets. An app walks users through the setup process. “The sensors—about the size of a deck of cards—marry to an AIdriven platform that uses proprietary algorithms to track the building’s systems,” Simpkins explains. The data that’s generated is sent to an edge processor, meaning it’s processed onsite, providing better data privacy.

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Customers receive data and insights in three ways:

  • A web interface to their entire portfolio, accessible from any device
  • Email or text alerts when something is amiss
  • Reports that can be delivered in print or electronic format

Although Dwellwell can’t detect 100% of what’s going on in a building, the company has logged a growing number of success stories since its 2022 launch, Simpkins says. “For example, we detected a water supply line leak on a Christmas Day. We detected a broken gas stove that was leaking carbon monoxide. And we’ve identified homes that had conditions for mold, which ultimately was caused by undiscovered water leaks.”

Simpkins predicts building monitoring of this kind will become a standard feature and save building owners time and money by driving improved labor efficiency, staving off catastrophes, and creating differentiation for buildings, which could lead to higher rents. “As costs are going up, especially insurance costs, Dwellwell will be an important part of managing that cost structure,” he says.


Powering Innovation

Since 2019, REACH Commercial has helped launch and accelerate dozens of promising new technology companies into the commercial real estate space. “From being part of the REACH Commercial cohort, we got a ‘crash course’ in the commercial real estate industry. It would have otherwise taken us years to gain that depth of knowledge,” says Dwellwell CEO Dan Simpkins. The REACH accelerator program is operated by Second Century Ventures, the investment arm of the National Association of REALTORS®.

Learn about REACH

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