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Getting Smart-Connected in Self-Storage: How the IoT Is Improving Facility Operation

The Internet of Things is changing the way we live and work. In the self-storage industry, it’s transforming the way we do business. Learn how a smart-connected facility is more efficient and profitable, plus get tips for developing an implementation plan.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the way we live and work. Experts predict that by 2025, there will be more than 64 billion active IoT devices worldwide—a number that’s likely to grow exponentially as consumers and businesses expand their application of smart devices to everyday tasks.

In the self-storage industry, IoT has the potential to deliver significant opportunities for improved revenue and efficiency. But to achieve those benefits, your operation needs to move beyond basic IoT device management and centralized reporting. This article will help you understand how to effectively leverage a smart-connected facility and develop an achievement plan. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, you need to get started now.

Smart Products, Connected Facilities

The IoT ecosystem, populated with smart devices, connects an impressive range of physical products to the Internet. These products can capture and share a tremendous amount of data. They range from home-based devices like washing machines and light bulbs to the security and energy devices found in today’s leading self-storage operations.

The applications for smart products in self-storage are virtually limitless. Any physical device that performs a clearly defined task at your facility could be a candidate for smart technology—if not now, then at some point soon. Our industry is a natural fit for the smart-connected concept because it allows facility operators to take advantage of massive amounts of data generated at their properties every day, such as video, customer behavior and site conditions (temperature, air quality, etc.).

A smart-connected facility uses the data captured from its devices to improve business insight and generate operational efficiency. However, it involves more than just a network of smart products; it requires a centralized platform to visualize and ensure those products work seamlessly together. A robust, smart network makes it possible for devices to operationalize routine activities.

Leveraged data and unparalleled connectivity will help self-storage operators take a more proactive approach to facility management, resulting in lower costs, better security and an improved tenant experience. For example, you can quickly notice rising air temperatures and address an issue with the HVAC system or close a door that’s been propped open, rather than wait for a customer to complain or investigate an issue prompted by an unusually high electric bill.

Unpacking the Benefits

Smart-connected facilities can radically transform self-storage for operators and tenants. Many of the challenges and pain points that have historically plagued the storage industry are solvable with a network of smart devices. Let’s look at some of the primary benefits.

Customer acquisition and retention. Smart devices drive revenue gains by improving your ability to acquire and retain customers. With a smart-connected facility, you gain visibility to data-driven insights about customer behaviors and preferences, allowing you to improve the customer experience based on facts, not speculation.

A smart-connected facility also creates opportunities to perform activities that increase customer engagement. For example, site staff often spend several hours a day away from the management office, performing security checks, handling maintenance tasks, etc. By monitoring the operation in real time, a smart network can reduce walkthrough time in a 1,000-unit facility by three or more hours per day. Employees can reallocate a sizable portion of their time to interactions with prospective customers and existing tenants.

Operational efficiency. Efficiency separates successful self-storage operations from the rest of the pack, and smart technology improves it. Although there are myriad ways a smart-connected does this, energy-related activities are obvious targets. By monitoring door activity and quickly notifying staff when doors had been left open, one 10,000-square-foot, climate-controlled facility in Arizona was able to reduce its energy spend by 15 percent, preventing $8,000 in excess energy costs—each month!

Safety and security. Self-storage customers value security, and facility operators with a strong security setup have a shot at capturing the most loyal, highest-paying tenants in the marketplace. Moreover, those who can efficiently provide first-rate security are further ahead of the game.

Smart-connected facilities strengthen and streamline security through the integration and networking of door-level security, surveillance cameras, unit alarms and other devices. The centralization and automation of security activities improves response times and operational efficiency. It also leads to a better customer experience, resulting in additional revenue opportunities.

The Journey to Success

Every technology implementation presents a unique mix of challenges and opportunities. Your smart-connected facility begins with a clear understanding of why you’re implementing the technology and the pain points you aim to relieve. It’s essential that everyone understands the goals behind the initiative. Here are a few tips to help ensure a seamless process:

  • Choose a central platform. You’ll need a solution to serve as the “brain” for your network of smart devices. This’ll ensure you get the most out of your setup and determine how devices will be connected across your site.
  • Determine the right number of smart products to implement. Although it’s possible to convert nearly all devices into smart ones, they’re not all good candidates for an IoT makeover. Unless you can articulate a pain point the connected device will solve, resist the temptation to add it to your network.
  • Consult a trusted expert for help. Installing smart devices is easy but creating a highly integrated smart-connected facility is not. Consult a trusted expert with experience in self-storage to increase the likelihood of success.
  • Secure buy-in across your organization. The journey to a smart-connected facility requires the commitment of your entire team. Solicit buy-in from employees at every level of your organization and communicate with tenants and vendors to avoid hidden snafus.
  • Leverage the data you collect. This is the most important step! Smart-connected facilities capture a tremendous amount of data; but a mountain of information can’t benefit your operation until it’s transformed into actionable insight. Select a core platform with advanced analytics to help convert the data you collect to real-world improvements.

The age of IoT is here. For self-storage operators, the cost of doing nothing far outweighs the challenges of planning and implementing a smart-connected facility. If the process still sounds intimidating, consider that the right IoT platform mitigates risk while improving site security and efficiency. It creates an overall better customer experience, which leads to greater revenue opportunities. Trust me—you and your tenants will welcome the change.

Chadwick Macferran is director of marketing at PTI Security Systems, a global provider of access-control technology solutions for the self-storage industry. For more information, call 800.523.9504; e-mail sales@ptisecurity.com; visit www.ptisecurity.com.

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