The Internet of Things: Lockboxes are Just the Start for Realtors


When a Weichert real estate agent shows a house, one of the first things he or she does on arrival is wave their phone at the lockbox. Apps like SentriLock or eKEY have revolutionized lockbox security, giving agents access to keys without the homeowner having to give out a code that could be shared. Not to mention the peace of mind for the homeowner, this small improvement in ease of use while improving security is a great way to signal an agency able and willing to enter the new age of smart technology to impressed clients.

It’s the small things, like a phone-unlockable lockbox, that tend to pass unnoticed amongst the flow of technological advancements, a stream that is quickly becoming a river as Moore’s Law takes effect. Though they may not have the wow factor on their own as virtual reality headsets or 3D printers, these small ease-of-use upgrades are building into a new frontier all their own – the Internet of Things, or IoT. Defined as the connected digital web created by dozens of household devices communicating with each other, an IoT is both the end goal of the new generation of technology and a mindset that the generations to come will grow up within. Our children will walk into older houses and wonder why the lights don’t automatically turn on upon entry.

From a real estate perspective, smart home devices are currently a goldmine for sellers and agents to wow potential buyers. A home with a thermostat that turns cooler 15 minutes before an owner returns, or a coffeemaker that begins brewing at 8:09 sharp to get an owner’s coffee optimally warm as they head to work – it still seems like something out of a Ray Bradbury novel. But in the coming decades, these sorts of devices will shift into necessities; why would this house not have a refrigerator that sends notifications to your phone when your chicken is about to expire? We can already see the demand, and we can anticipate the eventual ubiquity of an IoT equipped home.

This technology has the potential to revolutionize the showing itself, as well. Alongside virtual reality applications, the augmentation of IoT technology into more traditional viewing tours is much more immediately feasible. Realty Beacon LLC, based in Indiana, uses Apple’s iBeacon technology to interact with data on for sale signs themselves. Viewers driving by can find information about a house by opening their phone and heading to the dedicated app, which senses the nearby home. But that degree of convenience isn’t enough for them; they’re already working on cutting that middle step out to have a notification greet the viewer without them even having to open their phone.

“Cutting out the middle” is the bottom line of many smart home technologies, sometimes to a needless degree; automatically brewed coffee is much more a novelty than it is a genuine timesaver. But it’s when these technologies provide something new to an older way of operating that IoT devices really show potential. Avid Ratings recently released an app called GoTour Onsite, which uses the same iBeacon technology to allow viewers to pull up a floor plan and details about building materials and wiring. They can even simulate potential customization options tailored to each room as they enter. For a millennial generation that prizes a certain degree of individuality in each aspect of their lives, this sort of augmented reality tour is more than perfect. But even older customers that might not gravitate toward the customization would still find floor plans and HVAC system information indispensable in their search considerations. The versatility in this sort of app is what it offers for everyone.

Experts such as Realtor Magazine point to the second half of the 2010s as the permeation point of IoT devices into daily life. Even so, these devices now face the challenge of not only having to work together, but with future improvements and innovations. As well, in a world where data hacks regularly threaten political campaigns and corporations alike, the risk of an IoT breach would be potentially devastating. These are all things that will be smoothed out in the transition toward a data-driven and improved world. For now, as the technology continues to develop, real estate agents would be well served to keep abreast of how their listings incorporate smart technologies. Even if it’s just a smart lockbox, the technologies we marvel at today in an IoT home could pale in comparison to their future updates. As the old saying goes, an IoT-equipped home is greater than the sum of its parts.