Chase Harrington: Knowledge, Trust of Artificial Intelligence on the Rise

For some individuals, nothing beats old-fashioned human interaction. They are uncomfortable interacting with anything machine-based. Then there is everyone else — a contingent that continues to grow, according to a recent Entrata study about artificial intelligence and apartment living. 

Artificial intelligence — the ability of a computer program or a machine to think and learn similarly to a human — is just beginning to gain traction in the apartment industry, as 38 percent of respondents indicated they either just learned about artificial intelligence or have no idea what it is.

But that means a whopping 62 percent of people do possess a solid understanding of what it is, and that number is positioned to steadily rise over the next few years. Keep in mind, similar figures were reported in the early days of the internet and smartphones. Many unwittingly use AI on a daily basis through smart-home devices such as Alexa and virtual assistants like Siri. It is estimated that 40 percent of people now interact with AI in some capacity on a weekly basis. 

Here is a look at some of the additional key findings from the study and their potential implications in the multifamily sector:

Chatbots remain misunderstood, but are gaining acceptance

Many believe technologies such as Alexa and Siri are chatbots, but that would be wrong. Chatbots are an AI-based tool that chats with prospects and residents in instant-messenger fashion. They provide real-time answers to common questions and — with natural language processing gaining steam — are able to provide detailed feedback to a wider range of inquiries. Renters like them most because they are eternally available. Thirty-nine percent indicated their favorite feature of a chatbot is the 24/7 availability.

While chatbots continue to become more human-like, 36 percent said they don’t care about those traits as long as they get useful information. Meanwhile, 30 percent of respondents reported that they don’t believe they would recognize if they were interacting with a chatbot. Look for the industry’s use of chatbots to accelerate, particularly with regard to prospect-facing interactions. 

More than half of respondents are comfortable interacting with AI

Fifty-two percent of people indicated that they are comfortable interacting with AI, although 20 percent cited the lack of human touch as their chief complaint. Some of that concern will likely take care of itself, as many AI features continue to become less machine-like and more intuitive.

Keeping in mind that real-time answers are often the primary objective for apartment searchers, their distrust for AI might take a backseat — or be somewhat alleviated — if they are able to find quick, accurate answers to their inquiries through something such as a chatbot. Likewise, residents who can remotely lock their doors from afar or utilize other convenience-based smart-home features to better their lives will likely keep the “comfortable interacting with AI” percentage trending upward. 

Smart-home and AI boost a community’s allure

Twenty-seven percent of respondents believe an apartment community’s use of AI and smart-home technology makes it a more attractive place to live. While that percentage might seem low, consider that a smart community is more alluring to more than a quarter of renters, which might tip the scales favorably when dealing with less tech-savvy competitors.

Of note, home security (56 percent), smart thermostats (47 percent), smart lighting (44 percent) and leak detection (43 percent) are among the smart-home features respondents would find most useful.

On an overall basis, AI might be just scratching the surface of its potential impact in the industry. As renters gain a better understanding of the concept and begin to trust it more (45 percent of respondents are afraid AI is stealing personal information), its effect on the industry will become more pronounced. That day will come sooner than later.

See more insights from the study here.

Chase Harrington is president and COO of Entrata.