By Meghan Hall
More than $80 billion is spent every year on residential property maintenance and is one of the most unpredictable aspects of property management. However, a number of technologies, including Dwellwell, are looking to make maintenance easier through real-time analytics and reports. The Registry spoke with Dwellwell’s CEO and Founder Dan Simpkins about how technology has the potential to change the residential sector.
Please tell The Registry a little bit about Dwellwell. What first prompted the creation of a platform specifically geared towards residential property maintenance?
Like many innovative products, Dwellwell has an origin story. Several years ago, Dwellwell’s CEO and Co-Founder, Dan Simpkins, had a home catastrophe. While away from home, some pipes froze, thawed, and burst, causing extensive damage to the house.
Being a recognized expert in the field of sensing technology, Dan had his “aha” moment. 100 million cars on the road in the U.S all have a “check engine light” to alert the driver to an impending problem or possible repair. So why don’t the 130 million homes in the U.S. have the same feature? And so, the concept of Dwellwell was born.
This technology is specifically built for owner/operators of large residential property portfolios, like apartment buildings (or MDUs, multi-dwelling units) and single-family rental (SFR) communities. The remote monitoring capability (a la a “virtual super”) is especially applicable to these audiences.
Dwellwell intends to operate as a “check engine light” for homes. From a technological perspective, can you talk about how the platform works?
Dwellwell is ostensibly a SaaS product that ingests its own data. That is, the product includes sophisticated, multi-functional sensors that are placed inside the residence to gather relevant data from the ambient environment and the home’s major systems (like HVAC, plumbing and electrical).
This data combines with AI and external information (e.g., outside weather conditions) to determine how well the home’s systems are functioning. Once a baseline of typical operations for the home is established, Dwellwell then can sense when something is amiss, like reversed wiring in an electrical outlet, or a toilet that is flushing and filling at an abnormally high rate.
These anomalies are reported to the user via a web-based app and can also be delivered via email and text. The property owner (and/or the maintenance/operations team) is now informed of small issues in the residence before they escalate into larger, more expensive, or even catastrophic problems.
What are the most important metrics to measure when evaluating the health of a home and its systems?
We consulted extensively with our target customers to determine the most important and valuable metrics they needed yet did not have access to.
For owner/operators of large residential portfolios, it is vital to understand how the HVAC is operating, because this is the largest and most expensive system to operate, maintain and replace. Knowing how often the HVAC is running or when the air filter is dirty, for example, are important metrics to help understand the health and expected lifespan of the system.
Next on the list is plumbing. It is easy NOT to know if a toilet has a leaky flapper. However, if left unchecked and the toilet overflows, now you have a flood on your hands. That is a much larger and more complicated repair to address than a leaky flapper. It is also a big inconvenience to the resident/tenant.
What are the merits of a system such as this?
Dwellwell is the first-of-its-kind proptech/smart home product. It provides a comprehensive approach to home system monitoring. Most of today’s smart home technology is siloed, showing only basic data about one system in the home (e.g., a smart thermostat). Dwellwell is an all-in-one solution that monitors and displays the status and health of every major system, from HVAC to plumbing to electrical, and even monitors environmental concerns like mold and carbon monoxide (CO) levels.
In addition, this product identifies and alerts the user to maintenance concerns while they are small in nature (like a plumbing leak). As such, these can be addressed early so they do not escalate into larger, expensive, more complicated problems.
We expect our customers to see savings of at least 25 percent in their maintenance costs, due to their new ability to triage maintenance, optimize operational processes, and address repairs early.
Of note, Dwellwell is not available to individual homeowners yet. Dwellwell is initially focused on B2B customers, namely MDU and SFR companies.
Dwellwell recently secured $12 million in seed funding. Can you talk about your investor pool? Why do you believe they feel compelled to back Dwellwell?
We secured the funding in three rounds over the course of time. Our investors include the State of Maryland (via the TEDCO fund) and individual investors from the real estate, technology, and engineering industries.
Once our investors understood the vast market potential and the full scope of our product’s capabilities (i.e., its comprehensive approach and the proprietary technology), they got excited to partner with us.
How does Dwellwell plan on using its newly-raised funds?
Our technology is quite complex so we will continue to fund product development. We will also use the funds to fuel our sales and marketing efforts.
When it comes to residential-based tech, where do you see the industry going over the next few years? What potential innovations are you most excited about and why?
The next several years will see significant advances in building smart homes. For example:
- AI-based personal assistants will advance and be capable of providing more personalized attention. We will see more applications emerge that make these devices a part of our everyday lives as much as our cell phones are today. In particular, we expect to see a blending of security and automation platforms so that our homes can adjust and adapt to our needs more seamlessly.
- We will also see growth in technologies to help homeowners manage energy; we expect off-grid solutions to begin to take hold. Making homes more efficient will become paramount as energy costs increase.
- Work from home has become a permanent way of life. This necessitates internet connectivity improvements, and technologies like 5G should help. With more people working at home, we also expect to see a growth in products that help us maintain our homes.
- Not only will devices to help with everyday chores proliferate (e.g., robotic cleaners), but we will also see new products that help us maintain major residential systems. We will want to understand what systems or appliances are wearing down before they break down and identify issues early to mitigate disasters. No longer will owners of residential properties have to piece together a multitude of apps or devices to provide intelligence about the operation of critical systems. Various home appliances and systems will be wirelessly connected to the cloud and will be monitored by a web of sensors.
Finally, we are particularly excited about the emergence of standards like Matter that facilitate the integration of technology, allowing for more seamless interoperability of automation, security and maintenance devices. Siloed services will not achieve the type of scale that we see in the computing or communications markets. To make the smart home fully smart we will see advances in connectivity, intelligence and user experience.
Is there anything you would like to add, or anything we should be asking?
Why create a product that supports the whole home when other companies are focused on single systems (e.g., monitors plumbing only)?
We did this because our customers — owner/operators of large residential real estate portfolios — don’t have the resources or expertise to integrate multiple siloed products. In addition, our customers have a great need to understand the status and health of their multiple properties in one user interface. Repair and labor costs are increasing, yet you can’t scrimp on maintenance – it is vital to protect and maintain the assets (i.e., the residential properties) to ensure steady revenue and occupancy.
In terms of value, Dwellwell is unparalleled. That is, for the price of one of the siloed products available on the market today, Dwellwell delivers whole home visibility.