June 1, 2003

4 Min Read
The Future of Access Control

When choosing a self-storage facility, prospective customers review a number of features and options. For most, the final decision is not only influenced by rental rates. Especially during recent times, security is paramount. Knowing this, self-storage facility managers and owners make great investments in their security products and strategy.

Access control remains one of the top priorities, not just for individual units, but the facility as a whole. Many self-storage owners still rely on keypads at their entrance gates or other basic methods to control vehicle access. However, there are new products on the market that are more effective, efficient and user-friendly thanks to advances in technology.

New products on the market provide detailed information and services not available through standard keypad-entry systems. These products implement video-conferencing hardware, Internet data transfer and database management to tie different elements together into one system.

In addition to improved security, this system can be more user-friendly and deliver a higher level of service to a facility's paying customers. It uses a kiosk that transmits video and sound via a secure Internet connection to one central monitoring station, similar to what an alarm company would use. Trained professionals at the station then perform the task of verbally greeting the customer and verifying his request for access to the self-storage grounds.

In addition to providing or denying access, the system implements a series of cameras that capture the images of a face, license plate and other details simultaneously in a database. This information can be easily retrieved and instantly forwarded to authorities in the event of a security breech. When a customer makes return visits to the facility, past pictures stored in the database can be retrieved and used to identify him. This provides operators an additional tool to ensure high-quality access control.

Terry Wenzel, owner and operator of Gate Packages Unlimited, developed one such system. As a veteran manufacturer and installer of entry gates for communities and other projects, Wenzel watched as his gate systems were coupled with existing access-control methods that were often unproductive.

"Security guards, dial pads or telephone entry, can be inefficient and, in some cases, ineffective," he explains. "Guard costs continue to rise, turnover is high, and record-keeping is often inaccurate. Telephone entry systems feature very limited capabilities. There is no record of the guest's name, vehicle or who authorized entry. Keypads face similar limitations." Wenzel set about to develop a system that addressed these issues while delivering services at lower costs. While originally developing the system with gated communities in mind, the end product has a number of effective applications, including self-storage.

Another benefit to the new access- control system is monitoring can be completely outsourced. Once a provider has installed the system, it handles the monitoring and maintenance from a central location. It can greet and provide access control for a client anywhere in the United States. Gated communities already testing the new access-control system have been pleased with the increased security. One community in Naples, Fla., reported no crime activity in the initial nine-month period after using the integrated access- control product.

One of the aspects often overlooked by facilities when selecting an access-control system is how to handle the data acquired. It is important the database-management method is able to retrieve names, photos and access times for security audits. It is also important this information be instantly retrieved and forwarded to law-enforcement authorities in the event of a security breech. "One of the biggest advantages I have found with the kiosk system is the record-keeping," says Bryant Hampton, a community association manager in Florida.

The new technology is not only appropriate for control of vehicle access to the grounds, but also foot traffic to an individual building. Visitors entering a building are greeted by an operator, and have their image captured and stored in a database before being granted access.

Providing for appropriate security measures, including access control, can lead to improved economic benefits. Many of the new high-tech tools can actually be implemented at a cost savings to current methods. With maintenance and monitoring being handled by an outside provider, self-storage managers will not be responsible for hiring additional staff, which not only comes with salaries, but insurance and tax implications.

More important, prospective customers shopping for a self-storage facility may be swayed to spend their money with a facility implementing new integrated systems because of the higher level of security. And, in many cases, they are willing to pay more for it.

Doug Luciani is an independent marketing consultant representing a variety of businesses and organizations, including Hidden Eyes Guard Service. Hidden Eyes has received a patent from the U.S. Patent office and has a wide number of applications to better secure areas where access is restricted. For more information, call 877.504.2837 or visit www.gatepackages.com.

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