The Necessity of Technology-Based Security

Property managers need to do more with less, without compromising service.

A trickle-down effect is evident in technology-based security, says April Noblitt, director of Carmel, Ind.-based Commercial Real Estate Vertical, a security business focused on health care, education, government and commercial real estate.

“It comes down to the level of security required,” she says. “Government requires the highest levels of security. That level of security is developed, and then government requires greater levels of security. And the previous generation migrates down to serve the institutional and hospitality industries,” Noblitt explains.

One of the next steps in the trickle-down chain, Noblitt suggests, is the multifamily industry. And here, several “next big things” in technology-based security have arrived, or are on their way. The first is wireless technology, embraced because it’s easier to implement in existing structures.

Another trend is video analytics, often referred to as CCTV, or closed-circuit TV. “Managers can leverage CCTV to have better and more security across their properties, to better respond to events and limit their risk,” she says.

“You can go from low-tech to high-tech. There’s passive monitoring, where you know what you’re looking for and can respond. And there’s also active monitoring, a systematic protocol to identify patterns that are out of the ordinary, such as someone walking the wrong way down a hallway. It can go all the way up to facial recognition monitoring, where you’re looking for a person who should not be there, or making sure faces recognized should be there.”

Another security initiative underway in many multifamily properties is the use of smart cards, which can be leveraged by management to allow or deny access to given areas of an apartment community, Noblitt says.

“As multifamily continues offering more amenity services, whether health clubs, laundries or convenience stores … that smart card would allow access to the building, to the residences. Property managers can offer or withhold access to settings and services within the building, based on residents’ payment of fees or their preferences.”

The smart card allows optimal levels of convenience, flexibility and efficiency. It can be easily enabled or disabled by managers who might once have had to go out and collect keys from residents.

“More can be done with fewer people on the property management side,” Noblitt says. “And not only can I do more with less, but I can maintain the level of service that makes me a preferred property. The residents are likely to be very familiar with this technology—and very comfortable with it.”

The number-one security development, however, may be the integration of everything from simple door access to video monitoring to alarm systems in one technology-based security package. So says Eric Overhage, whose Atlanta-based Multifamily Services Group LLC is a distributor of key control systems and water conservation programs to the multifamily housing industry.

This integration is made possible by the availability of Internet and cloud networks (see next month’s Tech column for more on cloud computing). “It’s all IP-enabled,” Overhage says. “Now that you have secure cloud networks, it opens up all kinds of possibilities. You have integration companies that will combine access control for parking garages with video surveillance, and allow you to be able to view that via the Web.”

Integration of high-tech security systems is in its earliest stages, and is most prominent in high-rise, rather than garden-style, apartments, “but is creeping in pretty quickly” to the industry, Overhage adds. The early adopters are found in the niche of student housing, he adds, estimating at least half the student housing built in the last three years uses this technology.

Some of the most exciting technology-based security developments are those that save the greatest time and/or cost. SmartKey from Lake Forest, Calif.-based Kwikset Corporation is one such advancement. Kwikset began incorporating SmartKey into its locks in 2007, allowing the rekeying of a lock in seconds while it remains on the door, says Product Manager Margo Fevergeon.

The whole process might take, at the most, 10 to 15 seconds, as opposed to the 10 or 15 minutes it generally would take a maintenance person to remove, re-pin and reinstall a lock, adds National Account Manager Dave McGraw.

In early 2010, Kwikset launched Key Control, providing master key function with SmartKey technology, for companies that prefer to stay with master keys, but want to leverage SmartKey convenience.

Looking ahead, Noblitt predicts technology-based security advancements continuing. “It’s evolving not quite at the pace of mobile and Internet and computer technology, but at the speed of technology,” she says. “It’s not going to slow down.”

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