Smart technology is easy to find – from smartphones to smart speakers to smart refrigerators.
Now a Minnesota construction and management company has introduced “smart apartments” to Blaine. They seek to use modern technology to improve the lifestyles of residents.
“What really inspired it is – our purpose as a company is to create a better way for people to live,” Mike Kaeding, president of Forest Lake-based Norhart.
Residents can use the technology in various ways, ranging from fun and flashy manipulation of lights to more practical methods of improving security and monitoring utilities.
Many of the features are centralized into a hub in each apartment. The hub, along with a few other pieces of hardware, are stored in metal containers mounted on the wall.
Some functions, like lighting, can be used via a smart speaker. Kaeding illustrated the point by using an Amazon Alexa to turn lights on and off and make them change color in different rooms.
By downloading an app onto their phones, residents can control several functions. An extra feature includes changing the color of the LED light fixtures, which can be synchronized with music to provide atmosphere for social gatherings.
On the more practical side, the apartments also come with sensors to detect when a person enters the apartment.
To access the apartment residents get a keycard that can be loaded with all of the relevant information, such as whether they have a garage.
Kaeding was particularly excited to show off the “stories” feature of the system. They are automated processes that can be used to enhance lifestyle choices.
“Wake up is my favorite,” Kaeding said. “Today it’s dark out when you get up in the morning, it is so much easier to wake up with light. So this one can actually turn on the lights for you before you wake up and before your alarm goes off, so it is a more natural way to wake up in the morning.”
Another story regulates temperature throughout the night, keeping it cooler while residents sleep and warming up for them in the morning.
One called “vacation” will simulate someone being at home while the owner is away. By turning on and off lights to appear as if someone is coming and going, the system aims to increase security.
Norhart intends to continue to construct new smart apartment buildings with additional features like door locks that can be opened with the owner’s phone, which could allow would-be renters to take a self-guided tour of the property.
There are also smart functions on the backend that users don’t see. Within the building, the beating heart of the smart technology resides in a room on a lower floor. Kaeding hopes to continue to advance the features to improve the function of the buildings.
“Within a couple of years we expect the buildings to be 100 percent automated,” Kaeding said.
Emberwood is Norhart’s first stab at smart apartments. Kaeding estimated that each apartment equipped with smart technology costs about $800 extra to produce.
So far the smart apartments are moving fast, Kaeding said. He added that some of Norhart’s other locations are also asking in the technology.
“We didn’t know if there was going to be demand for them or not, but since we built them people have been clamoring for them,” Kaeding said.