With so many tools at our disposal, sometimes it’s difficult to sort through what is really necessary. The same holds true for technology in the storage industry. Some advancements really will make your business life easier. The trick is finding out what works for you and your facility. Possibly, you aren’t even aware of all the options.
Facility access has been greatly affected by technology. Our company typically sees increased activity from Memorial Day until Labor Day, a period we affectionately call “Lightning Season.” During the summer months, many facilities are struck by lighting or experience power surges, which may cause a power outage or the system to restart improperly. Because most access-control systems are computer based, this used to be a big problem. The system would be down and the facility would be at a standstill. Recently, smart technology has played a part in overcoming this.
When a computer or controller fails, keypads can now store all necessary information to provide normal access until the computer is restored. This should be a standard feature with new systems offered by security-system manufacturers. Keypads should also display user-defined and customer-specific messages on entrance and exit. You should have the option to send individualized messages on a tenant-by-tenant basis.
Many wireless keypad communications use the popular WiFi 802.11b platform. Wireless technology continues to advance all the time. The days of carrying your laptop everywhere are a thing of the past with today’s PDAs and smart phones. Facility reports can be sent directly to your device within seconds. You can effortlessly keep up to date with everything at your facility without even using a computer. The new devices can also access camera systems to monitor and review on-site activities. Numerous customized options are available.
The Internet has expanded the way we do business as well. Online payments make it more convenient for tenants to access account information and pay bills. When a payment is made, it should be a seamless transaction into property-management software. Integration is the key to making this work smoothly. Some vendors offer the ability to create and host a web page. And this only begins to scratch the surface of what will be available in the future!
Mobile storage is one of the newest and most popular additions to the storage market. People can have a “unit” delivered directly to their door and keep it as long as it takes to fill.
Though the service is convenient for clients, it’s a challenge for storage owners to manage. The ability to track the location of the container at any given time is mandatory. Modern software can enable you to map the location of containers and identify addresses. The option to print maps and directions for the delivery and pick-up driver is a nice feature. In addition, the program should make it easy to access, track and understand scheduling.
Automatic Zoned Lighting
Another smart use of technology is the ability to automate lighting systems based on the location of units. It’s accomplished via zone input at an electrical control panel: A customer enters a pass-code at the gate or door, which in turn signals the computer to send a message to the electrical panel identifying the zone to illuminate and, bingo, let there be light! When the customer exits the facility, his pass-code signals the computer to flip the switch.
With an individual door-alarm system, you can control the lighting in each unit. This device works with the door-alarm contact, activating unit lights when the door is open. Once the door is properly closed and latched, the lights power down. Lower electric bills is a side benefit to not relying on tenants to douse the lights.
Each self-storage facility operates differently. What might be right for one store may not work for another. Select tools that meet your needs while keeping an eye on flexibility—you’ll likely want to make system upgrades down the line. Staying on top of evolving technology isn’t an easy task, but adopting the right advances will save you bunches of time and money.
Jon Reddick is vice president of Sentinel Systems Corp. of Lakewood, Colo., which has manufactured self-storage software and security systems since 1975. Mr. Reddick has extensive experience in sales and marketing in the electronics and telecommunications industries. For more information, call 800.456.9955; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.sentinelsystems.com.