WEB FEATURE: Biometrics: The Future of Multifamily Security Technology

Biometrics are already being implemented into multi-housing communities, replacing old security with technology that can identify residents by the way they look, talk and walk.

Retina scans, fingerprint door locks, hand-geometry readers—these may sound like futuristic security measures that you’d find only at high levels of military intelligence buildings, but biometrics are already being implemented into multi-housing communities. Proponents say the technology saves money while providing residents added safety.

Avi Lupo, CEO of FST21 America, is one of those proponents. His company recently won two different security-technology awards for SafeRise, a biometrics system that identifies residents by the way they look, their voice and the way they walk. In addition to identifying people, Lupo tells MHN, “the system can talk, listen, understand the content and take an action—to open doors, to automatically call the residents, to connect to the remote monitoring system. It can do almost everything a human guard can do.”

Standard lock-and-key security has been getting replaced in many communities by access cards and keypads—cyber locks—which have their own advantages. As Mark Visbal, director of research and technology at the Security Industry Association, tells MHN, ” These locks can be decommissioned so you don’t have to get a locksmith to change out the lock for you.” And Visbal says that these kinds of access screening are not going away. However, he adds, with biometrics, “you can’t forget your key or your code; it’s part of you.”

Lupo says, “When you think about access control—you swipe a card, punch in a code—the access-control industry is building for only one type of population. Those are the people who are authorized to get through the door. These technologies don’t have the capability to deal with other groups of people who need to go through the entry points.”

So, for instance, if you live in the building, a biometrics system like SafeRise will recognize your face (or your voice or the way you move) and let you in automatically. But if you’re a delivery person or visitor, it has a way to handle that, too. The system will speak to you, asking which apartment or resident you’re visiting, and then call that resident. The resident can then let the person in, talk to the person, deny access, or forward the call to the system’s remote monitoring system. The system can even take a picture of the visitor at the door and email it to the resident. It can also recognize regular visitors like mailmen and be programmed to let them in during certain hours.

Lupo says that SafeRise is extremely accurate. In the cases where it’s necessary, the person at the door can always be directed to the remote monitoring system, where a real person is always standing by. This is where the money savings comes in. These remote attendants are handling several buildings at once, which has an obvious cost benefit over paying doormen to watch a single building 24 hours a day. Lupo estimates, “The cost of a guard in New York City over five years is about $1 million.”

A number of third-party monitoring companies can provide the off-site services: ion247, Kent Security, Datawatch. FST21 uses Cyberdoorman. Lupo says, “Technology combined with a person behind it is part of the overall solution.”

FST21 is currently servicing seven senior-living communities with SafeRise across different cities. After three months using the system, the company spoke with residents about how they feel about the change.” The reply from the residents was that they feel more secure,” Lupo says. “They would tell us, ‘With the guard, sometimes he was sleeping. Sometimes he’d have a good day, a bad day. Today the system is always working. It always talks to us, listens to what we have to say.'”

Lupo says one of the catalysts for developing this technology was the influx of people to urban areas. “In 2007 50 percent of the population lived in big cities. The projection is that by 2040 about 80 percent of the world population will live in big cities,” Lupo says. And with this migration toward cities, people will naturally be living in more high-rises than low-rises, putting divergent demographics in close proximity to one another. With more bodies coming and going, security becomes increasingly important.

It’s hard to say how prevalent biometrics might become in multi-housing dwellings. But the technology is definitely not a far-off thing. In a sense, the future is already here.

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