Today’s communities, from residential and commercial to municipalities, are increasingly managed by professional property management firms. In the U.S. alone, 21% of the population lives within a homeowners’ association, with 50,000 community managers responsible for managing properties. These community management firms all face a common dilemma: providing amenities that residents want, such as pools and tennis courts, while efficiently managing the properties to conserve energy and utilities.

With the advent of smart cites and the IoT (Internet of Things), could the concept of a managing a connected environment via software-driven technology that uses realtime information and communication technologies be applied to a labor-intensive, field-based operation such as managing property and communities?

Challenge: Automating a Labor-intensive, Field-based Operation

Consider the experience of San Marino Park, a smart community park in California. The irrigation systems, pool equipment, and lighting are outfitted with sensors connected to a secure Internet network for continuous and automatic monitoring.

As do municipalities everywhere, the Westpark Maintenance District in charge of San Marino Park takes water leaks seriously. After all, in Southern California, with its arid climate, water conservation is crucial. A suspected major water break would typically involve dispatching emergency maintenance crews to locate and stop the leak—a process that could take hours or even into the night.

Alas, the phone call no community manager wants to get arrived early on a Saturday morning. The city water company was calling about reports of a water leak at Irvine’s San Marino Park. Area residents were frantically notifying the Public Works Dept. Water District’s 24 hour emergency hotline that water was running out of the park, down the street.

In this instance, after analyzing the data, it was clear that the actual water flow in the park coming out of the valve—down to the minute—was perfectly normal. That meant the actual break itself either had to be before the water meter (indicating utility company responsibility) or the water was coming from somewhere else. It was later determined that the leak was located at a neighboring park.

What if the break did come from within San Marino Park itself? Since the platform continually monitors irrigation systems for large leaks or broken water lines, it will shut the system down immediately if it senses a break and send an alert.

According to the U.S. EPA, an irrigation system that has a leak 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month. Even an undetected broken sprinkler head that goes off in the middle of a park every morning at 2:00 a.m. (and therefore is never seen) could waste significantly more water and be subject to hefty fines from the local water company.

While this particular phone call did inspire momentary panic on the part of the community manager, alarm turned to peace of mind that the connected smart community model works.

From Smart Devices, to Smart Communities, to Smart Cities

As communities are discovering, technology and the Internet of Things can do a lot of work that used to require rolling a truck and a technician to a site. For example, by using sensors and the Internet, the operation of a lighting system can be monitored and an alert sent when a single light is out.

As for future plans, possible additions to the Common Sense IoT service include surveillance, vehicle charging stations, access control, and more.

Three Phase Electric is a California licensed electrical contractor specializing in services for community associations. Working with Persistent Systems, Three Phase Electric developed and introduced the Common Sense Internet of Things service designed to improve efficiencies, conserve natural resources, and improve quality of life for residents.

Community associations today have a responsibility to the environment, just as businesses and cities and individuals do. A service such as the Common Sense Smart HOA platform keeps managers informed of unusual patterns so that corrections can be made before excessive expenses are incurred and precious resources are wasted.

By Sanjeev Srivastav, SVP and GM IoT Industrial Solutions, Persistent Systems

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