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Teri Lanza

Teri Lanza
Editorial Director
tlanza@vpico.com

Self-Storage Talk Members Discuss Tech Items, Debate Industry's 'Next Big Thing'

By John Carlisle Comments
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When people think self-storage technology, they usually think of tech products that are useful in self-storage specifically, such as kiosks, gates, keypads or lighting paths. But self-storage, like all other retail businesses, is affected by the ubiquity of certain consumer-focused tech products, such as tablet computers and smartphones. The ongoing question, though, is "What is the next big thing?" Which products should my operation be using if we want to stay on the cutting edge, work more efficiently and connect with our customers in the newest ways?

Enter this recent discussion on the industry' largest online forum, Self-Storage Talk: "Use of Technology in Self-Storage - Where Are You?" Member Jim1970 started the discussion by posing the example of managers using iPads as their point-of-sale (POS) devices. While showing units to potential tenants, the manager starts punching in the sales information into the iPad instead of waiting until the group walks back to the office. It's designed to make the rental process more efficient, and if the wireless network at the facility is configured correctly, it will speed up the process. But some operators will say this technique is overkill, that they simply aren't busy enough or working fast enough to mandate anything more than a desktop office computer.

Of course, aside from using tablets as POS devices, managers can also use them to watch surveillance video of the office or unattended parts of the facility when they are walking and doing rounds. Additionally, tablets can be useful marketing tools for an facility representative who happens to be out in the community working at an event, such as a local trade show. Taking perspective customers on a virtual tour of a facility can be done with a few hand swipes on an iPad.

Another tool Jim1970 asked about is text-message billing. A tenant recently asked him if he could text her bill to her, or at least text a notification that her bill was ready. Wireless carriers such as Verizon and AT&T already use this practice. Would self-storage facilities join them if they could take payment information securely via a text message? Feedback so far seems to indicate most tenants are unfamiliar with this process and don't expect it from their facilities. But that may change with time.

One tech tool whose usefulness is seldom debated is SST, and you can add to the discussion if you have feedback on this tech-related discussion. To post on discussion threads, you must be a registered member, but joining is free and can be done by visiting www.selfstoragetalk.com and clicking "register.”

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