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About 13 years ago, my wife and I embarked on a building project to upgrade our family home. Nothing flash, but good quality materials and modern features.

One of those features was the result of advice from a specialist data cabling company, who enlightened us with the adaptabilities of a full data cabling set up with a central hub in the cupboard under the stairs. We would be able to have music, TV and internet in every room, multiple devices all interconnected, and even a media centre. We could also connect our lighting, appliances, heating, etc. In essence, a leap into the Jetsons lifestyle.

The cost for installing all this was more than $6,000 and it all looked really great. There was even a data point for our fridge so that the fridge could notify us when we ran out of milk. Or so we were told.

Fast forward through those 13 years, and the media hub and data cabling is all but redundant, quickly outmoded by wireless internet, Bluetooth, and a smart TV. Thus, no need for a media centre, endless cables and wall sockets throughout the house (not the prettiest, I’ll admit).

As for the fridge ordering the groceries – well, that never happened. We just go to the supermarket tbh.

What new Hell is this?

Now Amazon are offering landlords and property managers their Alexa product so that tenants can connect all their smart appliances, media devices, mobile phones, PCs and tablets into a voice activated “internet of things”. Even your video doorbell!

Amazon are also very careful to state that property managers would not have access to the user’s personal data (uh huh…), and any voice recording of the tenants are deleted on a daily basis. How very disquieting.

Why would a landlord install such a device?

One of the features is of course your tenant’s newfound ability to place a maintenance request via Alexa. It’s clearly not enough that tenants can already contact us quickly and easily through email, phone, door knock, Twitter, Messenger, Facebook, Skype, mobile, text, or leave a written note on the bench.

Some questions to ponder and research

  • Who pays for the Alexa device?
  • How many Alexa devices would go missing?
  • Would this device leave a landlord or PM open to abuse?
  • How many phone calls, texts, emails, and notes left on the bench would be generated by tenants who can’t get it to connect?

To my mind this is a solution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist. None of my tenants (and as a PM I have several hundred) have bemoaned the lack of “internet of things” opportunities in any of our Client’s properties. People that have smart devices use them in their own creative and connected ways.

Careful now…

Alexa may be a technological wonder of the age, but it also looks like a trojan horse quietly allowing a giant of the retail world into every home that has one. The fact that recordings have to be deleted daily, and data on tenants is being gathered, should see a few red flags popping up. The last thing property managers need is yet another communication channel bringing them more stress, work and confusion.

(Nearly two years ago I wrote another blog on this subject. You can read it here.)

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