Better living through this smart building IoT platform

A woman holding a tablet with smart home screen at home
For building residents, device connectivity on the IoT platform is managed from a single, easy-to-use app on their phone or desk, which gives them the ability to lock and unlock doors, manage thermostat conditions, pair various smart devices, and more.(Halfpoint / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

When it comes to intelligent functions and features for apartments, a smart thermostat may have started the trend. But for Quext, temperature control is just one feature of its new IoT platform Quext IoT, which it says is the first turn-key solution for the commercial apartment industry.

“Powered by AWS IoT, Quext IoT uses a custom thermostat as an IoT gateway for connecting residents’ smart devices and a LoRaWAN network for device-to-cloud connectivity across an entire property footprint,” said Tray Johnson, VP of Innovation, Quext. “Residents can control all their smart devices through a mobile app, from lights to custom entry door locks, and property owners and operators can gain remote access for activities such as planned maintenance and use the back-end software for reporting, analytics, lease management and more.

Quext and partner Klika Tech, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Advanced Consulting and IoT Competency Partner, developed the IoT platform built on AWS to provide multi-unit property owners a cost-effective and streamlined approach for creating a smart living environment coupled with property management software.

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“We built the system on AWS services, including AWS IoT Core to simplify management of the complex interactions between a range of smart devices, AWS cloud, and a custom backend,” said Gennadiy Borisov, Klika Tech President and Co-CEO. “AWS also enables scalable expansion into more properties, including retrofitting existing apartments for smart connectivity with minimal resident disruption.”

A solution that addresses industry challenges

The decision to develop the platform came from first-hand experience: Madera Residential, a real estate management company, recognized the shortcomings of technology within the multi-family industry.  The multi-unit property industry faces challenges in managing capital costs, creating better tenant experiences, and reducing energy waste.

“The first-movers for IoT in our industry quickly brought effective solutions to the market, but they were expensive and adapted from single-family use cases,”  said Johnson. “So, through our technology subsidiary, Quext, and partner Klika Tech, we decided to develop a cost-effective, streamlined smart device management platform specifically for multi-family properties.”

Rather than taking the more typical approach of Wi-Fi, the platform uses LoRaWAN network technology, both for lower energy costs and a greater connectivity range.

Another benefit of LoRaWAN network technology is less required hardware and ease of installation. The structure of implementing the solution is simple, requiring only a LoRaWAN gateway located at the apartment office, and a network of smart-hub thermostats within each residence. From there, LoRaWAN supports the connectivity of various Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Z-wave devices, including the Quext IoT Lock.

Johnson said that one of the company’s goals was to develop a highly valued amenity at an affordable price point. The LoRaWAN network effectively achieves this, he noted, with fewer components required to connect apartment communities to the wide variety of available devices. With less hardware, Quext can attain a lower capitalized cost than its competitors in the industry, as well as lower cost per unit/per month.

 For residents, the device connectivity is managed from a single, easy-to-use app on their phone or desk, which gives them the ability to lock and unlock doors, manage thermostat conditions, pair various smart devices, and more. Building operators also have those capabilities but at a property-wide scale, offering complete visibility of units right from their dashboard. They can check and change lock access and manage vacant units automatically or manually with the ability to monitor and bulk-edit temperature ranges for energy efficiency.

With the completion of firmware, software, and hardware, Quext anticipates the adoption of thousands of units within Madera Residential properties in Q3, and with availability nationwide by the end of 2020.

As far as the architecture itself, Borisov said that the platform is fully-adherent to infrastructure as code (IaC) concepts with instances defined in AWS CloudFormation templates. “No manual steps are used when provisioning an instance for a new customer and all communication links between devices and data payloads are encrypted and connections are authenticated through X.509 certificates for security on all levels,” he noted. “The Web Application is monolithic, using a responsive approach for better experience on all screen sizes and the front-end is stored in an S3 bucket. The back-end is hosted on EC2 within an Auto-scaling group. Each client provides an IoT connection endpoint, device authentication certificates, Web access URLs, and access authentication."

This case study is a winner in the Fierce Wireless IoT Challenge 2020. See the full details here.

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