by Russell Fike
Access denied! Depending on who receives this message, it can either be a source of great frustration or relief. A delinquent tenant will grimace, but when it comes to vandals, thieves or another unauthorized presence, self-storage operators breathe a sigh of relief when access is denied.
One of those items frequently taken for granted until it's not working, the keypad is on the front lines of security and the cutting edge of technology. The access-control keypad does a lot more than open gates. From how it is used to how it's viewed as part of a facility, the keypad has multi-faceted talent.
What is the first item a tenant interacts with at your storage facility? Before he gets to his unit, before he waves to a site manager, he enters his code into the access-gate keypad. The keypad is what tenants see first every time they visit your site.
The key to good marketing is to make an impression on the customer, so why be generic? Facilities are no longer limited to the use of cold, metallic keypads. These days, housings of aluminum, stainless steel and polycarbonate among other materials provide a choice in keypad appearance. Housings have also evolved beyond rectangular boxes.
Keypads can even feature a storage facility's custom logo. Match that with personalized greetings on well-lit displays, and the keypad can be a friendly face that represents a business. Adding a pinhole camera in the keypad even allows you to see tenants' faces.
Like an injury-prone athlete with all the potential in the world, what good is a keypad that can't take a licking and keep on ticking? Perhaps no keypad works optimally when run over by a negligent tenant, but keypads are designed to withstand significant punishment, and where the keypad falls short, a strong warranty should kick in. What's your warranty like? Leading security companies feature warranties upward of five years, with a few who even offer seven years of protection.
Anyone who said, "Lightning never strikes the same place twice," didn't work in self-storage. In states like Florida where more than 1,500 people were killed or injured by lightning last year, metallic keypads are a sitting duck. To prevent lightning damage, keypads should be cleanly grounded per the manufacturer's specifications. Some use replaceable "super fuses" that can intercept a surge and safely redirect it to the ground. The super fuse acts as a money-saving martyr―it takes the bullet when it comes to lightning.
The keypad should be not only strong of body, but sharp in mind. When a keypad is intelligent, it makes decisions internally. If the wiring to the office was cut, or the office was swallowed by the Earth (don't ask me how), some keypads can still make the decision whether to allow someone access to the property. Now that's independence!
Communication With Humans and Software
What good is a tough, good-looking keypad if it lacks communication skills? A great keypad nurtures communication with two-way speakers or pinhole cameras, thus bridging the gap between the self-storage site and tenant. However, keypad communication goes beyond human language. In fact, your management software and access-security systems talk to each other. While many gate systems will integrate with software, some companies offer management software and access-security systems designed to work in partnership.
When cell phones became a nearly obligatory possession, people found joy in identifying incoming callers. Great management software can do the same thing with your access control. When your software and security are intertwined by a common company, the keypad sends a real-time feed of incoming and outgoing tenants directly to your software program.
You'll never have to miss that tenant you were "meaning to talk to," because your security system and software will tell you he's there. Or, avoid that grumpy tenant, as your pay-at-the-gate feature prevents an unpleasant exchange. Regardless of your management style or how interactive you care to be with your tenants, the keypad is customizable enough to cater to any approach.
At its core, access control is about eliminating unauthorized presence. True, keys and locks are still a common form of access control, but a keypad's customization gives it versatility. Self-storage access control is a matter of who, where and when. Who do you want on your grounds, when will they be allowed there, and where do you want them to go?
To begin, who, when and where can be customized. Assigned key codes can be programmed to allow tenants in at certain times, and proximity key fobs can be programmed in a similar way. For example, customizable time zones can limit a tenant's access to office hours while employees are allowed 24 hours. You can have as many time zones as you want, so you may give a business 24-hour access, where another tenant only has access from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Perhaps another customer gets extended hours for a fee.
Keypads can also be used to design zone-specific access. If a tenant has a unit in building A, why should he have access to any other building? Anyone caught peeking over the shoulder of a tenant to steal an access code will be unable to run rampant when he finds the code doesn't work on most of the buildings. What if the codes for the gate and the buildings are different? Some hooligan could hop a fence to no avail, finding every building inaccessible.
Reaching even greater levels of security, a facility can place keypads on elevators or stairwells. Secure access at the front gate, the building entrance, and then the elevator might just persuade that paranoid tenant to believe there's enough security for the family heirlooms on floor three. Certain codes can allow access to only specific floors. Just because a tenant can get an elevator door to open doesn't mean he can travel to any floor he pleases.
Finally, consider security for the wine cellar, or that muscle car the wife said to get rid of when the kids were born. Storage units that house specialty or high-price items can offer exclusive security with a customizable keypad specifically assigned to a single unit or group of units.
From being aesthetically pleasing to dictating the movements of tenants and eradicating unwanted intruders, keypads are truly versatile. A staple in the technology of security, it continues to act faithfully in old roles while showing that it is useful in new ones. Who says you can't teach an old keypad new tricks?