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Safe and sound

Today’s technology-enabled security and access control systems offer flexibility and protection

By Journal of Property Management
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Rooftop pools. Pet-friendly units. Proximity to public transit. Resident preferences run the gamut, but there’s one thing every prospective renter seeks: security.

Thanks to the latest technology, today’s app-controlled and AI-powered access control and camera systems can give owners, residents, and property managers the security everyone demands.

While keys, PINs, or keycards are still used based on the property or resident preference, newer access systems use technology through mobile devices, video, or even biometrics (think fingerprint or facial recognition). These cloud-based systems allow property managers to control doors or gates remotely and program who can and cannot enter a building.

Chase Teschendorf, Inland Residential Real Estate Services LLC

Chase Teschendorf, AVP director of systems and implementation at Inland Residential Real Estate Services LLC, oversees multifamily systems and property technology. He says several factors make cloud-based solutions appealing.

Among these factors is the reliability of app-based solutions compared to phone-based intercoms. “As cellphone carriers move to 5G calling and compress audio more and more, the ‘press 9 to open the door’ functionality isn’t as dependable as it used to be,” he says. “And with initiatives such as self-guided tours, centralized teams, and integration with other systems, advanced cloud-based building systems become a prerequisite.”

Pepe Gutierrez, CPM®, a property manager with Megafincas Alicante S.L., says one thing is fueling the future of security and access control: AI.

“At this moment, we’re talking about a variety of technologies. Those branch out like a tree, and at the top of the tree is artificial intelligence,” says Gutierrez, who manages several condominium buildings with more than 700 units in Alicante, Spain.

Customizable peace of mind

One of the perks of this technology is that it is customizable while remaining secure. Gutierrez says his residents use an app to access the condo building’s main door. For example, a resident may give access to a specific housekeeper for certain hours during the week. Or if someone rents out their apartment for one month, the renter’s access will expire after 30 days. “You can really do everything,” says Gutierrez.

Teschendorf agrees. “Inland Residential is configuring intercoms and access control systems to update automatically based on the rent roll,” he says. “If someone moves, their fob is turned off, and the resident is removed from the directory with just one click.”

Pepe Gutierrez, CPM®, Megafincas Alicante S.L.

For upgrading security systems, Gutierrez says that a mix of cameras, artificial intelligence, and face recognition is ideal. “You need to be proactive, not reactive,” he says.

Cloud-based camera systems are also less vulnerable to cyber risks compared to low-tech DVR camera systems.

“The newer cloud-based systems also allow for better retention management,” Teschendorf says. “When an incident occurs, it can easily retain mass amounts of footage with only a few clicks—no more spending hours in front of a DVR reviewing footage.

“In fact, many systems have automated tools that turn hours of camera watching into minutes of data processing,” he continues. “This means that risk management teams can have full visibility of an incident much quicker.”

Gutierrez says that AI can take it one step further to prevent an incident from occurring.

“This is a prescribed algorithm that says, ‘If this happens, do this,’” he says. For example, if people are gathering in front of the building late at night and shouting, the prescribed direction could be to turn the exterior lights on and caution any residents from exiting the building until it’s safe. With this functionality, Gutierrez points out, “Residents see that you are working with technology to reduce the potential of crime near the building.” This reassurance gives residents peace of mind.

Property management prep

Property managers must be careful when rolling out a new technology and after it’s up and running.

  • Analyze your needs for an ideal fit. “If I manage the headquarters of a major company, I’m going to have different needs than if I manage one residential building,” Gutierrez says. “I need to use the right technology according to the use of the building.”
  • Confirm the technology has no legal limitations in your area. For example, Illinois has laws preventing facial recognition, and Florida has laws favoring robust camera systems, Teschendorf says.
  • Consider long-term tech plans and budget. “Many solutions that seem expensive up front may have the best long-term value,” Teschendorf says. “Likewise, some of the solutions with low upfront costs have high ongoing and consumable costs. Many high-priority projects, like self-guided tours, only work with specific solutions. Envision the next five years before making any decisions.”
  • Review a building system’s track record. “Many of these systems cost tens of thousands of dollars. Some vendors have a history of supporting their customers for the long haul. Others will discontinue a product line two years after launching, and parts become unavailable,” Teschendorf says. 
  • Ensure the system is compatible with existing building systems and technology. “The API [application programming interface] and integration support are incredibly important,” Teschendorf says. “There have been cases where companies spend $20,000 on a new access control system, only to find out that it’s incompatible with their preferred self-guided tour provider.”
  • Pilot a new access control system at one or two locations to see if it works and is a good fit. “Once the capabilities are tested and verified, we move quickly if the economics support the investment,” says Teschendorf.

The resident perspective

App-based access control systems are preferred and even expected, especially for younger generations. But as property managers roll out these exciting programs, it’s imperative to remember that not every resident will be on board with the changes.

“Even today, not everyone has a smartphone. Not everyone wants to scan their fingerprint to enter,” Teschendorf says. “Make sure that implementation accounts for the tech-savvy as well as the tech-averse. Residents and tenants want to be able to choose what works for them.”

He says this flexibility has been well-received at Inland, which accepts a mix of security options such as NFC (near-field communication) locks like Apple’s home keys and more traditional features like fobs.

Access control upgrades also make it easier for prospective residents to embark on self-guided tours outside business hours. While the tours are proving to be “very beneficial and well-received,” Teschendorf says that Inland Residential keeps the offices open during business hours when residents need assistance and to follow up with prospects.

Whether accessing the front door, tennis courts, or pools, the residents in the building Gutierrez manages all use an app to enter, and their feedback is positive.

“When it comes to technology, it’s an app. They don’t use a key anymore,” he says. “That is what the residents are looking for.”

As for concerns over what happens to all of the collected data, Gutierrez says they guarantee residents and guests “100% privacy.” He says they only release access information per police request. 

“If something were to happen in the building, the police would send us a document asking for specific information for that apartment on that date. So if someone entered the gate at 11 a.m., and something happened at the same time, they may want to speak to that person,” Gutierrez says. “If we have the information, we help find that person.”

The takeaway

Gutierrez encourages every property manager to become familiar with AI and its capabilities.

“Every property manager needs to know what tools are in the market,” he says. “AI is not going to be a substitute for a property manager; it’s the property manager using AI who will replace a property manager.

“That’s the way we need to think about this. Technology is not the end. Technology is the way—a way to help us.”

New system cheat sheet
Interested in a tech upgrade for your building or portfolio? Use these expert tips to guide you during the process:
• Analyze your needs to find a solution that matches.
• Confirm that the technology has no legal limitations in your area.
• Consider long-term tech strategy and budget, and make sure the system fits within those plans.
• Review a building system’s track record.
• Ensure the system is compatible with existing building systems and technology.
• Pilot a new access control system at one or two locations to see if it works as expected.

Journal of Property Management

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