By Jack Stubbs
In the current era of commercial real estate tech, different companies are striving to implement technology into their operating strategies. New York-based ButterflyMX, a platform founded in 2012 and launched commercially in 2015, is a company looking to impact the property management industry through the use of a “smart intercom” integrated into residential buildings.
We recently spoke with Cyrus Claffey, CEO of ButterflyMX, about the company, how it is looking to impact the residential real estate market and what lies ahead for an increasingly tech-oriented industry.
What can you tell me about ButterflyMX (where and when the company was founded, current objectives of the company, etc.)?
We are now adopted by 150,000 apartments coast-to-coast. Our goal is to change the way residents and property owners think of and use an intercom. Our core function is to make video calls from the ButterflyMX touchscreen at the front entrance to the mobile app on a resident’s smartphone. But since our front entrance hardware is a touchscreen, it opens up a world of possibilities for new features and services.
Just think of the variety of apps on our phones, from maps to monitoring health to lighting control—and through our solution you can now also open your building’s door. Ultimately, we see ourselves as the first step in turning a property into a “smart building” by connecting the building via our cloud platform to a host of delivery and other services developing in the PropTech space.
Where does the company operate and who are some of its primary clients?
ButterflyMX has a national footprint from Boston to San Diego and Seattle to Miami. Our customers range from large high-rises to small three-unit condo buildings. Most of our customers tend to be the larger property owners because they want to standardize on an enterprise platform that can improve building operating efficiency. Many of these large property owners view ButterflyMX as an innovative tech amenity that their residents can interact with on a daily basis.
What are some of the day-to-day services that the technology provides, and how is the platform looking to impact and change the construction process for multifamily projects?
Our main function is to serve as the smart intercom for a building. We do so at the fraction of the cost of traditional video intercoms by eliminating all the building-wide wiring and in-unit hardware required for a traditional system. We were able to do this by a developing a mobile app to receive video calls from the front entrance touchscreen. Not only do properties see significant cost savings, but it’s a much better resident experience, since anywhere residents have their Smartphone they can use ButterflyMX to see and let a visitor into their building.
Are you seeing more developers looking to position or market their properties as “smart buildings?” What are some of the factors that go into this category of projects, and how does ButterflyMX look to save time and money throughout the construction process?
As the cost of the technology has come down significantly over the last 10 years and residents continue to use their smartphones for everything from getting a shelf installed to buying groceries, there’s definitely been more interest in adopting smart technology in buildings. This is also why we’re seeing increased adoption of home automation systems to control thermostats and lights, as well as networked electronic door locks at more and more buildings. As a cloud-based platform, ButterflyMX reduces the cost of a video intercom system at a property over traditional systems by 90 percent by eliminating all the wiring and hardware in every apartment. The mobile app makes controlling visitors at the front door convenient and efficient.
We are seeing developers experiment with smart home technology in markets that are commanding higher rents like Miami and downtown Dallas, but also in markets where there’s a high concentration of technology workers, like Seattle.
What can you tell me about the company’s integration and collaboration with different apps and services? How well does the software integrate into the existing systems in residential buildings?
One of the exciting developments in real estate technology is that there of so many new technology platforms. It creates an opportunity to work together to create wholly new workflows to improve building efficiency and how a tenant interacts with the physical space around them. The simplest example is tying into the property management system (e.g. Yardi) so that the resident directory is always up to date and only reflects the current residents. The more complex examples are triggering the air conditioner in an apartment when a resident enters the building. People have talked about that for a long time, and now it’s finally possible.
Specifically, what can you tell me about the cloud-based smartphone intercom? In the currently-booming construction industry (which has led to higher construction costs, shortage of labor and pressurized jobs sites and schedules), how are companies like ButterflyMX looking to shape the industry?
Any time technology can eliminate the need for physical infrastructure, there’s an opportunity for dramatic cost savings. A typical video intercom will cost around $650 per door, driven mostly by the cost to wire the apartment and install the in-unit hardware. By comparison, in 100-unit apartment building, ButterflyMX will cost $55 per apartment for the front entrance touchscreen and the $30 per year for the platform.
Does the company have plans to expand into other sectors in the future (e.g. healthcare, retail, education)?
Absolutely. Our technology platform makes sense at any property with a locked door that has regular visitors. We recently did a soft launch on a commercial product in fourth quarter of 2017 and plan on entering some additional verticals very soon.
Is there anything in particular that concerns you about the rapid rate at which the property management and construction industries are changing? What do you think lies ahead?
I think the biggest challenge is understanding the complexity in commissioning any technology platform in an industry where technology is a relatively new thing. There is lots of opportunity in PropTech for smart construction and forward-thinking professionals understand the value of harnessing this technology. As we look ahead, many property owners are seeing this not as a luxury, but a necessity for their buildings.