The Digital Race: How IoT Can Empower Self-Storage Operators and Make Them More Competitive

The self-storage industry is in the midst of a technological evolution, and facility operators are exploring the use of all kinds of tools. To make the most of them, consider the integration of an Internet of Things (IoT) platform, which will increase your ability to manage all of your devices while giving your business a competitive edge.

Reza Raji, Senior Vice President

November 9, 2023

5 Min Read

Self-storage operators who implement modern technology at their facilities such as facial recognition, motion sensors, smart gates and flawless internet connectivity are poised to improve security, increase customer satisfaction and boost average revenue per tenant. Not only are these and other implementations necessary to stand out in today’s competitive landscape, they’re part of customers’ expected digital experience in a post-pandemic world.

However, the ability to truly reap the rewards of technological investment, particularly a disparate collection of tools and resources, doesn’t happen on its own. It requires effective management. An Internet of Things (IoT) platform can be integrated with various hardware and software product to provide a seamless experience for the business and its customers. Let’s look deeper at its value and how it can give your self-storage operation a competitive edge.

The IoT Advantage

Using intelligent, connected products like smart locks, temperature and humidity controls, cameras enabled by artificial intelligence (AI), and other tech tools not only increases operational efficiency to save you time and money, it helps fulfill the self-storage industry’s core promise to keep customer belongings secure. The advantage of using an IoT management platform is it interconnects all devices and subsystems, regardless of the provider. The result is a greater level of oversight and control through a single interface that collects data from each component and generates alerts if certain thresholds are crossed.

For many self-storage operators, moving to IoT is the next step of an evolutionary process that began with adjustments made during the COVID-19 pandemic. The implementation of contactless services, digital rentals and app-based experiences have allowed prospective tenants to quickly and easily find a facility, reserve a space and access their unit. Customers now expect these features and actively search for them when exploring their storage options.

This is certainly true for the rapidly emerging Gen Z demographic and consumers living in smart-home environments, which should push storage operators to move forward from manual processes and reliance on human staff to handle myriad tasks including in-person rentals and daily lock checks. Among those leading the change are the five largest U.S. self-storage companies: Public Storage, Extra Space Storage, U-Haul, CubeSmart and National Storage Affiliates Trust. Together, these industry drivers are ushering in a new era of enhanced customer experiences and pushing the entire market toward digital transformation.

What to Connect

The self-storage technology that can be integrated through an IoT platform includes:

Wifi extenders. Self-storage facilities are generally built with metal walls and doors, which can make site-wide internet connectivity a challenge. However, you need this to ensure your smart devices function properly and your staff and tenants can access their apps and programs. One way to overcome connectivity obstacles is to add WiFi extenders, which enhance and spread network coverage.

AI-enabled cameras and facial recognition. The ability to track who’s entering your self-storage facility and where they’re going creates an auditable chain of custody. This allows you to go back into the digital record to check when something happened or determine who accessed an area without authorization.

Floor, wall and ceiling sensors. Combined, these can create a virtual view inside a storage unit and allow tenants to see their stuff without being physically present.

Motion sensors. The ability to detect unexpected or unusual motion, activate lights or cameras, and send text alerts if something suspicious occurs is a security enhancement that can be a market differentiator.

Water sensors. These help boost emergency preparedness and risk management by detecting leaks before they become a costly disaster.

Humidity and temperature controls. True climate control that monitors and adjusts for changes in humidity and temperature is essential for the storage of specialized items like wine, fine art, musical instruments and others that require precise conditions.

Access codes. Offering digital access to your storage facility and rented units is a modern customer convenience that eliminates the need for tenants to use a key or punch in a gate or door code.

Though many operators have added some or all of the above technologies, most still lack an overall management solution that breaks down the silos that prevent these systems from working together. To create a cohesive ecosystem, you need robust, site-wide internet connectivity to serve as a backbone and then a versatile, device-agnostic IoT platform to seamlessly unite all your smart devices. The bonus can be a personalized mobile app that empowers tenants to easily manage their accounts and monitor access to their units.

Moving Forward

Self-storage operators of all sizes have IoT options at their disposal, whether they prefer an off-the-shelf solution or a customized one. Providers in this space can collaborate with you to provide valuable insight and effective strategies. The industry’s current technological landscape is exhilarating. Just as self-service kiosks made a transformative impact had a decade ago, IoT has the potential to further elevate the business.

Look a few years into the future. Where do you see your self-storage operation? Will you be at the forefront, harnessing cutting-edge IoT to lead your market, or are you at risk of falling behind competitors who seized the moment? I’ve seen this play out in multiple industries over the years, and if the decision were mine, the choice would be clear.

Reza Raji is senior vice president of the Smart Spaces IoT division at Vantiva, a technology firm and global provider of broadband and internet products. It offers Smart Storage, an end-to-end, IoT software for self-storage operations. Reza has spent more than 30 years developing IoT solutions and the technologies behind them.

About the Author(s)

Reza Raji

Senior Vice President, Smart Spaces

Reza Raji is senior vice president of the Smart Spaces IoT division at Vantiva, a technology firm and global provider of broadband and internet products. It offers Smart Storage, an end-to-end, IoT software for self-storage operations. Reza has spent more than 30 years developing IoT solutions and the technologies behind them.

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