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Coming to a Self-Storage Near You

Tom Lewellen Comments
Posted in Articles, Technology

Wireless has so many flavors and uses, it’s a bit dizzying: wireless handsets for our phones; Wi-Fi networks for laptops and PCs; cell phones; keyless entry for cars and offices; door alarms, garage-door openers, motion detectors, TV and radio.

In self-storage, wireless technology is mainly focused on security solutions for door alarms, remote-site connectivity and emerging solutions for keypads and card readers.

After years of relying on wires, the multitude of wireless choices can be overwhelming. But, with a little education, it’s easy to see how wireless is a useful solution to self-storage security.

Door Alarms

The most prevalent application of wireless technology in our industry is wireless door alarms. Generally, we use them:

  • To update an older site that has no door alarms and is fully occupied, making it impossible to access each unit to wire an alarm.
  • For new sites where security is the top priority regardless of installation costs.
  • For special needs related to RVs where motion detectors can be placed inside the RV to prevent theft.
  • In areas that would otherwise be prone to lightning damage.

Retrofit and Site Upgrades

Self-storage operators often consider security upgrades when local competitors have high-tech systems that may lure away prospective tenants. Wireless door alarms are a great way to compete in a stiff market. They are easily and quickly installed on doors, with repeaters placed in key positions around the site. Most site installations can be completed in one to two weeks.

Wireless technology costs more than hard-wired solutions in the beginning, but over the long run, they require more maintenance and repair. Wire and door contacts are subject to wear and tear; little nicks in a wire can cause shorts; conduits between buildings crack and can retain water after rain; door contacts are broken or pulled loose by customers, and as time passes, costs add up.

Recreational Vehicles

RVs can be protected from theft by placing a motion detector in the cab. Like a door alarm, when the owner comes through the gate, the alarm is disabled. If a thief breaks into an RV, the wireless motion detector sounds an alarm—making wireless technology a great friend for RV storage sites.


For those in the lightning belt, each season brings costly threats of getting zapped by lightning. A direct hit burns electrical equipment linked to power, including security devices connected by low-voltage wires.

Most security systems have lightning-dampening circuitry to help reduce damage, and surge protection is also helpful. Still, if lightning scores a direct hit, no power-protection investment can prevent all damage. One preventative measure is to take the wire out of the equation. Wireless door alarms—as well as other wireless solutions—are a perfect solution for warding off lightning disasters.

Techie Talk

Two basic technologies are used for self-storage wireless door alarms. In the simplest terms, one sends a single message from the door alarm, while the second sends several messages on several frequencies. In other words, one technology sends a message on channel 4, whereas the second sends messages on multiple channels, maybe 4 through 12. The first solution provides no way to recover the message if it’s not heard by the wireless receiver. The alternative technology sends a variety of messages on many channels, guaranteeing the message will be received. In business terms, solution one is adequate, working most of the time, but solution two covers all bases.

What Lies Ahead

Today’s wireless solutions are one-way, sending a message to a receiver. This system is a perfect for alarming doors and monitoring RVs. In the very near future, two-way wireless will allow for smarter devices to be wireless. For instance, keypads will send access information to the security controller, which decides if the user can enter. The controller then sends a message to open a door or gate. Keypads, card readers, door multiplexers, relay boards—just about any hardware for security—will be able to be connected to the site’s wireless network.

This will be a huge boon for owners retrofitting their sites. For older sites, where wire is suspect and conduit runs retain water, using wireless keypads can reduce costs and make it easier to switch to technology such as custom messaging and credit card payments at the keypad.

Whether you are retrofitting a site or building a new one, investigate the options of wireless technology. Many of the solutions coming to market will make sense for your business. 

Tom Lewellen is the commercial business development manager for Scottsdale, Ariz.- based PTI Integrated Systems, offering a complete line of integrated management software and access-control systems for self-storage facilities worldwide. For more information, call 800.331.6224; visit Click here for more info!


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