Smart Locks & Access Control Systems: The Combination for Better Buildings

Illustration: © IoT For All

Developers and property managers are going all in on smart home technology. IoT is rapidly becoming essential for attracting tenants. That trend is reflected in the numbers: The global smart building market was worth about $63 billion in 2020. By 2027, it’s projected to grow to a value of over $124 billion. That’s a compound annual growth rate of over 10 percent. But smart building technology covers a lot of tools, and a combination of smart locks and access control systems could make all the difference for your building.

“The global smart building market was worth about $63 billion in 2020. By 2027, it’s projected to grow to a value of over $124 billion.”

-STRATIS IoT

You might offer smart lighting, smart thermostats, and even smart leak detectors. These are all essential for averting disaster. Almost 60% of damaging leaks could have been detected by surface-mounted leak sensors. Whether you’re retrofitting an existing property or building a brand-new multi-family skyrise, that variety leads to a tough question: Where do you start with smart home technology? For answers, look to the resident’s journey itself. The first thing they encounter as they approach your building is, of course, a door. Start there.

Smart Locks and Access Control Systems

In any building, smart or not, access is as simple as it is fundamental. Whatever solution you choose, it has to let the right people in and keep the wrong people out. But how you handle that simple task has an outsized effect on everything from your bottom line to the all-important resident experience. And, as we’ll explain below, one smart technology isn’t enough to deliver all the benefits. Today’s IoT offers two tools that solve the problem of access:

  1. Smart locks: These are standalone devices that secure individual doors via mechanical deadbolts. Users control the locks with numerical codes, key fobs, or mobile apps. Smart locks are relatively affordable and can be programmed to work with smart home ecosystems like Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
  2. Access control systems: These are sometimes called physical access control systems, or PACS, and are centralized digital platforms that manage locks on many doors or barriers—up to and including every gate, elevator, and door in your building. They allow managers to schedule access; control users and permissions for each entryway; and make changes to these parameters remotely.

Smart locks alone offer building managers a lot of benefits. They replace physical keys, for one thing. That’s a huge advantage on its own. It allows building staff to save all the time they would have spent creating brass keys and re-keying lock cylinders. But don’t be afraid to think bigger. By integrating smart locks into a broader access control system, you can start to realize the true promise of smart building technology: a unified, seamless resident experience, from the front door to the foyer to the family home. Here are just some of the benefits you can achieve by integrating smart locks into an access control system.

5 Benefits of Access Control Systems & Integrated Smart Locks

#1: Full-Spectrum Visibility

Some property managers put smart locks on unit doors. Then they manage public spaces with an access control system. That creates a fragmented data environment, which is to say it gives you two jobs at once. It’s not the most helpful approach.

With smart locks integrated into an access control system, managers get the full picture of building usage. You can see how many visitors an amenity gets, and when. That gives you the power to adapt. Maybe no one’s using your game room; with the data visibility of combined smart locks and access control systems, you’ll know. Then you can convert the space into a revenue stream. Co-working room, anyone?

But building staff aren’t the only ones who deserve visibility into building usage. A centralized smart access system can also feed data to residents through a mobile app. Say they schedule some maintenance; they’ll get a log of when the technician entered their unit and when they left. One-time digital keys ensure your staff loses access when the work is done, so residents can always feel safe and secure.

#2: Simplification or Elimination of Manual Workflows

Let’s stick to the scenario of maintenance staff accessing a residential unit. A unified access ecosystem might allow that technician to generate a one-time digital key from anywhere on the property. In a large, garden-style campus, that saves a lengthy trip back to the leasing office. It eliminates inefficiency. And remember how smart locks do away with key-making and re-keying? With the right access control system, the whole process of granting and revoking access can be utterly automated. To fully explain that benefit, however, we’ll have to discuss the next item on our list.

#3: Integration With Property Management Software

Smart locks aren’t that smart. Access control systems make them smarter. And with the right combination of both, you can integrate your access ecosystem with existing property management software. That creates a single source of truth (the property management system) as the access control system syncs with your software. That means, among other things, all you have to do is register a new resident’s move-in and move-out dates in your existing system. Those lease dates will automatically determine when the resident receives and loses access, automating an otherwise time-consuming set of tasks.

These benefits save a lot of time and money for property owners. But any investment in smart home technology should focus on creating better experiences for residents. The combination of smart locks and access control systems does that, too.

#4: Better Control for Residents

Typically, smart locks go on unit doors and access control systems handle everything else. A unified system allows you to offer residents a single app to control access everywhere. That means they can invite visitors to their front door with a few taps of a smartphone. It also means front desk staff doesn’t have to constantly call up to ask if a resident’s expecting guests or pizza delivery. And by handling access requests through smartphones, you can avoid the considerable cost of an intercom system.

#5: Unified Resident Experience

A comprehensive access system extends the residential feel of an apartment to the whole building. As we mentioned above, residents can invite visitors straight to their doors; no more going out to the parking garage to meet your sister. They use the same device to get into the fitness center, the pool, or the elevator as they do to enter their home unit. In short, by integrating smart locks into an access control system, you extend the feeling of home across your entire property.

A Seamless Experience: Smart Locks & Access Control Systems

Ultimately, that’s what a unified access system is there to do: Create a seamless, inviting, and secure experience that gives residents power over their interactions with physical space. Talk about fundamentals. Just remember that it takes both IoT access technologies to create a truly intelligent building.

Smart Locks & Access Control Systems: The Combination for Better Buildings

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