Trends in Security Technology for Self-Storage: The Latest Features and Capabilities

By John Carlisle Comments
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Locks, Alarms and Keypads

Imagine a facility with no traditional lock and key locks where everything is fully automated. If it seems far fetched, it may not be much longer. Automatic doors—or facilities where each unit has a keypad instead of a traditional lock—will mimic the progression already happening with climate control, Johnston says. Many facilities will build or convert part of their facilities to this type of door, while the rest of the facility will have traditional locks. Cost, he says, is the greatest barrier now, but as time passes, equipment costs will decline.

Overlocking is already becoming more technologically advanced. Dahlquist describes an system where a wireless device mounts to outside of the door, adjacent to the hasp, allowing for simple, non-intrusive installation. If a tenant is late beyond a certain grace period, software synced with the device sends a wireless signal to disable the hasp automatically until payment is received.

Aside from convenience, this provides an ostensible theft deterrent. Thieves or dishonest and late-paying tenants will see the overlock device on each unit. It can discourage break-ins, as well as encourage on-time payments.

However, David Essman, vice president of marketing for Sentinel Systems, is a bit skeptical of the cost-effectiveness and practicality of automatic doors and unit-overlocking systems. “There’s no doubt a mechanism behind the door may wear out sooner or later, costing you money in repairs and trip charges. Lastly, would any problems arise if your power goes out? Such a system can make overlocking a delinquent tenant easier and more automated, but does it justify the costs? That is a question for the property owner.”

Fogg champions individual door alarms as the most effective and important component in thwarting theft. “As soon as a potential burglar opens the door to a unit, an alarm sounds,” he explains. “This demands a response to the situation. Certainly cameras have a use for securing areas of the property, but they do not let the manager know when an attempted burglary is taking place.”

Surveillance Cameras

Though quite a few security experts share Fogg’s view on cameras, they are still a necessary component of an overall security strategy. Earlier in the decade, 360-degree and dome cameras were all the rage. Now, they’re fairly commonplace. What’s on the frontier for cameras in the next five to 10 years?

“I see a trend toward motion video,” Johnston says. Motion-activated video works when a camera is triggered by a motion censor to capture a 10-second (or other short-term) video clip of the area where motion was detected. An off-site monitoring center then determines the threat level and notifies appropriate facility personnel if necessary. This type of monitoring can reduce the endless streams of videos managers might have to pour through to view footage of a potential problem.

Nowadays, everyone wants a wireless camera, Johnston says. The problem with wireless cameras, according to Dahlquist, is the balance hasn’t been struck yet between cost and quality. Ten years in the future, Dahlquist says wireless cameras will be everywhere. In the meantime, some operators are heading to their local big-box retailer and paying as little as $300 and installing the cameras themselves, rather than forking over $1,000 or more for a quality system and installation by an industry professional.

RFID Tracking

The same tracking technology that allows travelers to scan onto a subway platform without a ticket or farmers to monitor their livestock is making its way to self-storage. Radio frequency identification (RFID) is in its infancy in the industry. Many operators were introduced to it this past March at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas.

It’s not hard to see how RFID could change the way facilities handle security. It works like this: A device called a reader (think in terms of a wireless router) receives signals from other devices somewhere within its range if any of those devices move at all. The reader then can communicate via the Internet through e-mail, text message or other electronic communication to let a manager, owner or tenant know something has been moved. Someone will be notified of the movement 30 to 60 seconds after it happens.

Katie Pavlasek, business development manager for PureRFid, says there are several different products self-storage operators might find useful. One is a motion-alert device, which resembles a key fob and can be attached to any item, such as boxes or furniture, inside a unit or even to bigger, mobile items such as facility golf-carts and rental trucks, as well as tenants’ stored boats, RVs and other vehicles. Whenever these items move without be disarmed first, the system engages and notifies a designated person with a text message.

If the security benefit weren’t enough, Pavlasek sees a revenue-generating potential. Once operators  purchase these devices, they can rent them to tenants as a add-on security product and allow the tenants to be contacted via text messaging when items are moved without being disarmed.

“We’ve gotten so much feedback from people that this technology is what they need,” Pavlasek shares, adding that her company is still seeking  its first batch of self-storage operator-customers, though a facility in North Carolina is currently testing its products. “Because almost everyone these days has a cell phone and sends text messages, especially the younger generation, we think it’s a good way [for operators] to market security.”

Cutting-edge technophiles and slow-adopting luddites will agree on one thing, though: Security is something tenants won’t compromise on. If they don’t think their items will be safe, they’ll store somewhere else. It may not make sense to put a bank vault-esque system in a self-storage facility, but some kind of modern, ostensible security—to go with statistics that back up a low-theft history—can go a long way in getting tenants to commit, keeping insurance premiums low, and keeping calls to the police to a minimum.

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