Community conveniences via property apps
Aliff Yusri 
More developers are turning to mobile property solutions to promote brand continuity and foster community relations across their projects

More property developers are leveraging on mobile technology to launch project-centric solutions, streamlining services from grocery delivery and bill payments to facilities booking as a value-add for their purchasers.

Players delving into the space include Gamuda Land Sdn Bhd, with its Residence Management app, and the Aspen Group, whose Aspen Vision City project in Penang will incorporate next-generation smart services.

While still an emerging segment, software developers such as Megasap Sdn Bhd are already setting the standard for property management solutions, with software suites such as Harta offering customised solutions scalable for a wide range of project types.

Intelligent analytics is the next step for property services solutions, says Firdaus

“We estimate a potential market for property management solutions of 2.8 million commercial and residential units, including 3,498 non-landed developments, worth RM66 mil annually,” says Megasap CEO Firdaus Mah.

He says the benefit of property management solutions is the centralisation, automation and optimisation of routine functions in a project, reducing the paperwork and manpower requirements associated with legacy systems.


Driven by security concerns

Security is a major driver of demand for such apps, with visitor management as a commonly requested feature from property owners and managers among Megasap’s clientele.

“If an unexpected visitor comes calling at the security counter, for example, you can opt for a push notification on your phone to let you know something’s amiss. Other security features include CCTV support, which allows you to monitor common areas,” says Firdaus.

These features and more are included in Harta which was launched in August. Harta was built from the ground up with mobile in mind, avoiding the pitfalls associated with online platforms created with mobile as an afterthought.

“The app is fully scalable, from boutique projects to larger developments, as its systems are stored on Amazon Web Services, which means we can add computing power and storage capacity as needed,” says Firdaus.

Amazon Web Services is a subsidiary of Seattle-based, Inc, specialising in on-demand cloud computing platforms on a paid subscription basis. It is the largest cloud services provider in the world.

Moving forward, Firdaus sees the integration of intelligent analytics into property services solutions as they grow in sophistication and uptake.

“When adding functionality, we focus on problem solving for issues that might come up. For instance, Megasap is working on a smart ID management feature which allows users to scan ICs and drivers’ licences automatically, saving time for visitor registrations,” he says.

Positioned as an enterprise mobility consultancy, Megasap’s portfolio includes JobForHire, a headhunting platform, and Survival-Travel, a social travel solution.


The bigger picture

With property management apps generally seen as the purview of luxury high-rise projects due to their emphasis on lifestyle and amenities, Gamuda Land’s Residence Management app is notable for having been developed with townships in mind.

“The incorporation of mobile technology into everyday life has become a necessity in order for us to remain relevant. Our app was launched in early August, at Valencia, our township in Sungai Buloh,” says Gamuda Land chief operating officer Ngan Chee Meng.

Developers must incorporate mobile technology into their portfolios to remain relevant, says Ngan

Launched in 2002, Valencia is positioned as Gamuda Land’s flagship boutique development near the Forest Reserve Institute of Malaysia in Kepong. It encompasses 900 landed homes ranging from townhouses and bungalows to SoHo (small office home office) units over 113ha.

“We are targeting to roll out the app to our other towns and high-rise developments, including Jade Hills, Kota Kemuning, Madge Mansions and others with a total of over 4,600 homes by the end of this year,” says Ngan.

Envisioned as a two-way communication tool between township management and residents, the solution includes defects management, visitor registration, events booking, billing, announcement and “panic button” functionality.

Defects management gives users a platform to share photos of defects in their properties, while also tracking their reports and feedback.

Visitor registration allows for the pre-registration of guests or frequent visitors to ease security checkpoint bottlenecks, particularly during events, while the “panic button” lets residents key-in up to three contacts in case of an emergency.

“We took some time to research the various property services apps already in the market. We couldn’t find one that fits our criteria, so we decided to build and customise our own,” says Ngan.

“The Residence Management app has an estimated 290 users to date, and feedback has been positive. This is more than just a trend. Eventually, property services solutions will be a feature that buyers expect to see when they purchase a home.”


Changing paradigm

Other developers which have launched or are launching property services apps include SkyWorld Development Sdn Bhd, Eco World Development Group Bhd and IJM Land Bhd, with the SkyWorld Connects, EcoWorld Community and Rimbayu Community apps, respectively.

“We will be introducing SkyWorld Connects for all our projects in March. It was developed internally by our e-business department, with the help of our vendors,” says SkyWorld Development COO Lee Chee Seng.

“Aside from facilities booking and defects reporting, users will also be able to use the app as card access, using Bluetooth to sync card readers, as well as an intercom to the project guardhouse.”

Even though mobile property services apps are still in their infancy, they are already evolving beyond their project-centric roots, with developers positioning their solutions as portfolio-wide initiatives for their client base.

This is seen in the EcoWorld and Rimbayu Community apps, which cater for residents across multiple townships including Eco Majestic, Semenyih and Bandar Rimbayu, Telok Panglima Garang.

Aside from reinforcing brand continuity and fostering a sense of community among residents, Ng says such apps are also convenient for repeat purchasers, who would be able to use a single app to manage multiple properties.

Ahead of its time

Nowhere is the impact of mobile technology on property planning more clearly apparent than in Aspen Vision City, the Aspen Group’s RM10 bil collaboration with Ikano Pte Ltd in Batu Kawan, Penang.

Envisioned as the first “intelligent” city in the northern region, the 99ha township will see the deployment of high-speed converged information and communication technology (ICT), next-generation smart services and Internet of Things (IOT) enabled infrastructure.

Last year, the developer signed an agreement with IBM Malaysia Sdn Bhd via its subsidiary, AG Innovation Sdn Bhd, to establish a cloud infrastructure and technology services platform in Penang.

The deal included the purchase and subscription of IBM Blue Box and Bluemix cloud solutions as well as application development, technical services and consultancy for the Aspen Group.

The IBM partnership facilitates the integration of smart city solutions into Aspen Vision City as well as other Aspen Group projects.

The developer has allocated RM100 mil for its smart city infrastructure and ecosystem to date, with the IBM deal representing an initial RM10.3 mil investment.

IOT-enabled infrastructure in residential projects will offer applications previously unseen in the segment, such as remote checking of swimming pool temperature, according to Aspen Group president and group CEO Datuk Murly Manokharan.

The first phase of Aspen Vision City, comprising Ikea’s first outlet in the northern region, the Columbia Asia Medical Centre and the developer’s Vervea commercial launch, is slated for completion by end-2018, and will set the tone for mobility solutions in property for the near future.

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 258.