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An Arizona company appears to have reinvented the wheel, prompting speculation it could revolutionize the tire industry. Such a radical change to one of the most consequential tools in human history is enough to make one ponder what a similar shift would look like in self-storage. The clues are apparent in the industry’s current metamorphosis.

Tony Jones

September 23, 2022

4 Min Read
Self-Storage Is Undergoing a Metamorphosis

Have you heard that the wheel is in the process of being reinvented? Phoenix-based startup Global Air Cylinder Wheels (GACW) has raised more than $5.5 million toward bringing to market its Air Suspension Wheel (ASW), which the company touts as having the potential to revolutionize the tire industry.

The brainchild of CEO Zoltan Kemeny, the ASW is “a mechanical wheel constructed mostly of steel with in-wheel pneumatic suspension through cylinders. It is both environmentally friendly as well as cost-efficient. The ASW is engineered to have the same lifespan as the vehicle it is mounted on. After that, unlike rubber tires, it can be reconditioned or can be completely recycled,” according to Benzinga.

With eight patents granted and 52 pending, the ASW is initially targeted for the OTR (off-the-road) mining market, but its greatly reduced rolling resistance has the potential to “make combustion engines more efficient and reduce emission gases,” which Benzinga reported could extend the driving range of electric vehicles by up to 30%. If true, we could be on the verge of a big leap forward to one of the most fundamentally critical and consequential tools of human culture.

This sounds like a potentially significant development to something most of us take for granted, which got me thinking about what the reinvention of the self-storage industry might look like. The problem is I’m not entirely sure an industry can be reinvented. The tire is a specific tool with a fundamental purpose. Though the self-storage concept does have a certain utilitarian simplicity, the industry is much more complex. Industries do, however, have the ability to evolve, and I firmly believe that self-storage is in the midst of a rapid transformation.

Consider where these areas of the business are today compared to just a couple of years ago:

  • Operations – Operators have increasingly adopted levels of automation and self-service including contactless services that allow customers to move in without any in-person interactions. In some cases, fully automated, unmanned facilities have incorporated virtual managers who can assist customers with the move-in process via live video.

  • Marketing – The ability to track potential customers and create touchpoints across multiple platforms has transformed lead generation and helped operators gain insight to the customer journey and increase conversions.

  • Security – This is an area of the business that is likely to continue to expand and grow. Smart technology has crept its way into access control, unit locks, and video cameras that use artificial intelligence to assess activity and provide alerts. The next step could very well be the deployment of drones on patrol.

  • Rental rates – Not long ago, most operators raised rates only periodically, often based on set schedules. Today, dynamic pricing and strategic algorithms can be leveraged to set unit rates based on market and customer data to optimize revenue management.

  • Architecture – The pandemic brought into focus the role buildings, particularly ventilation and surfaces, can play in public health. Going forward, the notion of healthy buildings is likely to play a bigger role in self-storage facility design.

  • Market research – This is another area that’s come a long way in short order. The industry has quickly gone from needing boots on the ground or familiarity with specific markets to conduct reliable research on potential development sites to multiple vendors offering access to robust platforms with real-time market data including rental rates of existing facilities and planned projects in the pipeline. The ability to conduct preliminary research prior to obtaining a full feasibility study has never been more advanced.

That’s an impressive amount of progress in a relatively short period of time. It’s difficult to say where the next level of leaps will occur, but creativity, technology and integration will undoubtedly continue to push the industry forward in ways that will allow it to flourish.

While these enhancements may not collectively be akin to reinventing the wheel or individually amount to being revolutionary per se, they do signal a metamorphosis. For many longtime observers who used to complain that self-storage was slow to evolve and adapt, the progress we’ve witnessed the last few years is a clear sign that the industry is no longer spinning in place, stuck in the mud.

About the Author(s)

Tony Jones

ISS Store Manager, Contributing Editor, Inside Self-Storage

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