Modernizing building security

Thursday, December 8, 2022
By Jason Chiu

For a condo to operate smoothly, it must be efficiently managed with streamlined security, maintenance, and owner feedback procedures. As a property manager, refining even one of these three factors allows them to devote increased attention and consideration to the other two.

The simplest of the three is condo owner feedback. Here are some ways it can be streamlined.

Common condo owner concerns

Studies show that the most common complaints made by building owners pertain to the upkeep of common areas, disorganized management, maintenance concerns being ignored, security concerns, insufficient lighting, and preventive maintenance being side-lined.

Disorganized management will inevitably exacerbate issues faced by tenants, as their concerns go unheard and unaddressed. The best property managers have systems in place to receive tenant feedback and quickly address concerns in a reasonable timeframe.

It is essential that condo owners can easily reach management or building staff to voice any concerns they may be experiencing. Property managers can also be the ones who reach out, contacting owners ahead of time to check in on how they’re doing. An approach that isn’t too formal makes owners feel heard and valued. If owners feel heard and valued, then half the work is done. All that remains is resolving the problems they’re facing.

Be present, quick to respond, and invested in tenants

The best property managers are not magicians who resolve owner concerns in the blink of an eye. They understand that owner concerns can be nuanced, complex and in need of more involved solutions which can take time to implement. The best thing a manager can do is keep owners in the know about the progress of their complaint.

Some complaints take a long time to fix, and if the owner is unaware of the progress being made, they can become frustrated with a perceived lack of movement regarding their issue. For some people, having their complaint acknowledged and a timeline provided is enough to assuage their worries.

In the case that maintenance issues are a common complaint, property managers should have a list of professionals prepared to perform repairs and upkeep work quickly. Typically, delays in complaint resolution are caused by a lack of availability of relevant industry workers who can solve maintenance-related problems.

When owners feel that their concerns have been heard, and a system is in place for tracking the status and timeline of issue resolution, property managers can design and implement a comprehensive maintenance plan.

Proper and regular maintenance

Put simply, proper and regular maintenance contributes to the safety, structure, and security of a building.

Failing to carry out proper maintenance can cause not only tenant dissatisfaction, but security complications. If building lights, intercoms, access units, locks, or answering units are not properly maintained, they could malfunction and put the safety of a building’s owners at risk.

When owner feedback is quickly addressed and maintenance is performed regularly, then property managers must concern themselves with building security. Modern building management technology offers end-to-end solutions which make security simple and centralized. If a property manager can efficiently manage building security, then they can easily focus on the other important aspects of running their building.

Complete or retrofitted building management systems

The top companies in the building management industry offer solutions for today and tomorrow. For multi-unit dwellings, they will come with extensive portfolios which contain intercoms, answering units, access units, and more. A building could be outfitted top to bottom with offerings from one single company and installer or instead integrate new products into an existing building management system.

Perhaps the best way to improve building security is through the implementation of a robust access control system. Modern systems can control who can access the building and can impose restrictions for individual entrances based on customizable timeframes.

For example, service elevator entrances can be locked overnight, even for registered owners, but allow entry during the day when reserved by residents. In condominiums, all manner of people pass through its doors every day, including guests, repair staff, deliveries, and other services. Professional property managers must carefully balance security and the convenience of their residents’ lives.

High quality intercom systems, viewable from anywhere

Most top-tier companies have a dedicated mobile application which works in tandem with their intercom systems to grant residents the luxury of viewing visitors, even on the go. If residents are expecting visitors, but running late on their journey home, they can still be notified of visitors and remotely grant entry to friends and family. Even if the resident is travelling in another country, they could still view their intercom in real time to allow a courier to drop off a delivery.

Since they receive a high-definition video feed on their mobile device, they can clearly see who is trying to gain entry and turn away unfamiliar faces if necessary. Modern intercoms also come equipped with video cameras capable of infrared night vision, enabling residents to recognize visitors even in total darkness.

These advances offer increased security over simple buzzer or call-based intercom systems, as they can easily identify exactly who is requesting access to their unit and turn them away accordingly. Even if a multi-unit dwelling has a modern intercom but chooses to forego installing modern answering units for every resident, an image of a visitor’s face can be seen through a mobile companion application or delivered via email to the resident.

Modern intercom systems have made significant advances in usability and integration. For property managers, they are easy to install, configure, and maintain. Premium offerings are water-resistant, dust-resistant, and vandalism-resistant.

When software updates are released, they can be provisioned through a centralized application, and the need to run proprietary analogue cables throughout a building is a requirement of the past.

Modern solutions can be connected via a regular ethernet cable, which will provide power and connectivity on an IP network. In cases where running ethernet cable is too difficult, in the case of older buildings, some companies, such as 2N, offer LTE solutions which can be installed and allow residents access to high-definition, two-way voice communication with visitors, without the challenges posed by cable installation work.

Modern building security solutions set themselves apart through their versatility and the convenience they offer to residents and property managers. The ability to install LTE units to avoid running ethernet cable has already been touched on, but it is possible to upgrade the intercom system without installing answering units, or just install secure access units along with an intercom, and so on. The flexibility provided by modern building security solutions is one of their biggest selling points, as it grants property managers of new and old properties the ability to increase security incrementally.

If a building already has answering units installed, they can upgrade their existing intercom and secure access systems and integrate them with existing solutions. The concept of upgrading an entire building using a complete portfolio of products initially sounds like a daunting and expensive task, but being able to pick and choose what is most important and achievable for a multi-unit dwelling at a given time is invaluable.

Video answering systems with streamlined installation

High-quality products offer luxurious displays that can receive calls, connect to a video intercom to show residents who are trying to gain entry, and even integrate with home automation systems. Units provide high quality audio and video, allowing residents to carry out clear conversations and accurately identify visitors.

Premium answering units are installed with a single ethernet cable providing internet connectivity and power. If new cabling can’t be installed, certain companies offer WiFi enabled versions which can accommodate older buildings and allow for quicker installation processes.

Units can come equipped with Android OS support, which allows for easy installation of third-party applications, such as smart home control or monitoring applications. This means a resident can control lights, blinds, thermostats, and other smart home devices, all from their answering unit. They can also, through a mobile companion application, access their answering unit remotely to utilize all its features, including watching past video footage and reviewing missed calls from anywhere in the world.

Customizable access systems

Who can enter the building, and when? This question has traditionally formed the basis for all security decisions that are made by property managers. Physical keys were once the only way to secure access to locations, so hundreds of keys had to be catalogued, monitored, and distributed to ensure an uninvited guest did not gain unauthorized access to the structure.

Modern access systems have begun utilizing RFID cards which can grant access to the building and be remotely deactivated if lost or stolen. This offers better security but is still bogged down by the need to physically distribute credentials and replace them if an authorized user loses them. This could also lead to situations where authorized users are unable to enter their unit if, for example, they happen to forget their card at home.

Secure access systems are seeing a transition to mobile access systems, which are not only more convenient, but can open doors much faster with the use of pre-authentication technology.

They are also more secure, with the ability to detect when an authorized user is approaching a door, as opposed to leaving a door or simply sitting near an entrance. These systems operate on secure Bluetooth channels using AES-128 and RSA-1024 encryption keys. These access units eliminate the need to distribute physical credentials or RFID cards, as they can be opened with fingerprints, PIN codes, and mobile devices. If a contractor is coming to perform repair work, their mobile device can be authorized before they arrive and de-authorized after the work is done to maximize convenience and minimize security risk.

How a building can be secured and monitored, all at once

Perhaps the biggest sell of modern building security solutions is their centralized operation. From one station and one piece of software, an entire building can be managed and overseen, down to each individual intercom and access unit. Top companies offer software solutions that are available as a virtual machine, which means they can be easily scaled and deployed to any server regardless of the operating system.

In real time, property managers can modify who has access to the building and monitor the status of access control units. Firmware updates can be pushed in bulk with just a few clicks, ensuring continuous optimal performance and security of all devices.

The software will grant access to detailed logs and instant alerts which can be sent via email or appear in the software itself. If an incident has taken place, relevant figures can be granted full access to camera logs at specific timestamps to review footage and better understand chosen events. Visitors can be granted credentials or time-limited access to individual areas remotely, and an audit trail can be kept for compliance purposes.

End-to-end solutions which have the future in mind

The best solutions will make the lives of property managers easier, while passing on benefits to a building’s residents. Owners can enjoy high-quality, intuitive hardware and software which streamlines building access for them and their guests, and property managers get to work with systems which are easily installed, maintained, and integrated.

In the case where upgrading an entire building with brand new devices in every residential unit is too expensive or complicated, then premium companies will offer solutions which can be easily integrated with existing hardware and software.

If security is supported by integrated network solutions, then property managers can devote more time to maintaining the quality of a building and quickly responding to condo owner concerns. Both are conducive to a safe living environment.

Jason Chiu is the professional services group manager with Axis Canada. He has a background in IT and networking and has spent over 15 years in the security industry, from being an integrator, consultant, and manufacturer.

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