By Jon Loftin
Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed the smartphone revolution. According to a recent survey by research firm Nielsen, 61 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers use a smartphone, and this percentage is increasing every year. Moreover, the Pew Internet Research Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, reports 44 percent of cell phone owners have slept with their device next to their bed to make certain they didn’t miss a call, text or other important update during the night.
Self-storage operators are recognizing this increased use of technology and shift in customer behavior and are capitalizing on it to increase occupancy, customer satisfaction and retention rates. In fact, this technology evolution has allowed providers and operators of access-control systems to take advantage of the smartphone revolution, increasing and enhancing security while providing a safer and more secure facility.
Is there always an owner or manager at your facility? The answer is most likely "no." Incidents can occur when you’re at home, running errands or away on vacation. Fortunately, access-control software is being developed for mobile applications that allow you to control your property remotely from any place at any time using your smartphone or tablet. The days of driving to the facility after hours to open a gate or check an alarm is a thing of the past. With these applications, you can remotely open unit doors or gates regardless of your physical location.
If you need to see who’s on site or the activity occurring at your property, some security software even displays a real-time activity status on your mobile device. With these applications, you can easily be notified, view the property if an individual unit door alarms sounds off, and then take the appropriate action in a timely manner.
The newest innovations from access-control providers are apps that allow self-storage customers to access the property via their smartphones. They may forget an access code, but tenants are rarely without their phones! With these apps, they can open unit doors or gates with a simple click, without leaving the comfort of their vehicle. They no longer have to stop at the keypad or remember a code. And they appreciate not having to roll down their window during inclement weather. They simply open the phone app, select the gate, and they’re automatically allowed access to the system.
Some access-control software even allows the operator to specify which tenants are allowed to use the application. This can even be another stream of revenue. Operators can charge a small, monthly fee for this convenience or provide it free to all customers as a perk.
New mobile apps have another benefit for your tenants as well: an added layer of security. Customers can be immediately notified via the app any time their unit is opened. The software can also keep an access log. The ability to notify tenants immediately when their unit door is opened enhances the power of individual door alarms and takes your facility’s security to another level. Just knowing they can view their unit’s activity via their mobile devices gives customers a better feeling about the safety of their belongings.
Video cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) have become commonplace at self-storage facilities, as these devices are helpful for documenting crimes, vandalism or accidents. Now, many DVR manufacturers offer apps that allow operators to view live images of camera views on a smartphone or tablet. This allows them to see what’s happening at their property even when there's no one in the office.
“As technology continues to move forward, so do customer expectations. One of the biggest questions I have been asked is, ‘Can I view my security cameras on my cell phone?’” says Douglas Ratliff, president of Storage Maintenance Specialist Inc., an Indianapolis-based provider of security equipment. “Think about the things you will be able to accomplish when you can control your security and cameras from anywhere one your smartphone. You can check in on your employees and facilities while traveling or away from the office.”
Technology is changing quickly, and access-control and security providers are creating new applications that allow self-storage operators and customers to use their mobile devices. Contact your access-control provider to learn how you can upgrade your existing system to take advantage of these new technologies. They'll not only allow you to manage your site security from a remote location, the convenience factor to your customers will give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Jon Loftin is vice president of business development for Phoenix-based PTI Security Systems, a provider of self-storage security solutions with more than 25,000 installations in 30-plus countries. Mr. Loftin has more than 25 years of industry experience. For more information, call 800.523.9504; visit www.ptisecurity.com.