A PDF version of this article is available with the intension to be shared and distributed to Property Management and Condo Board and Strata Board. The PDF is available as: Multi-Family_Intercoms-What_You_Need_To_Know.pdf
Intercom technology for Multi-family Buildings has come a long way in recent years.
How secure is your building?
One resource that has seen some of the biggest advancements in technology is the main building intercom system. This is certainly not a new amenity. However, their functionality has significantly improved to allow residents to have both security and convenience – for their individual homes and the building as a whole.
Many condo buyers are now including innovative building technology like advanced intercoms into their key criteria when purchasing a property. Having the latest generation equipment leads to faster selling times and higher valuations for unit owners.
Why does this matter to Property Management companies? What do these advancements mean to you?
In the past, intercom systems required a property manager to physically visit each site to update the system. This is intensive in terms of labour and time spent. Depending on the age of your system, paper directory cards must be updated. Cryptic dial codes on the telephone-style keypad may also be required to update entries as changes to residents and their contact information are needed.
Thankfully, today’s intercoms are largely digital. This means the paper sheets or plastic button labels are no longer needed as names or unit numbers show up on a digital screen.
When residents move in or move out, the intercom can be updated remotely. This reduces the time and effort required from Property Management companies. Depending on the make and model of the intercom, the options for connection are Internet, legacy modem or dial-in voice menu. Internet is by far the most convenient and easy-to-learn but requires a dedicated internet connection at the building. Ask us how we can provide the Internet access you require.
What are some other technological advancements to improve security for the residents?
Audio intercoms have been standard since intercom systems found their way into Multi-family Buildings. Now more frequently, video is also supported so residents can physically see who is requesting access “at the door”. This important feature allows the caller’s identity to be verified visually without the resident needing to physically go to the main door.
For many intercoms, the video element may be provided through the “lobby cam” feature of Shaw or TELUS. The resident turns on their TV and goes to the lobby cam channel to see the person requesting access. For newer intercoms, the video is available through their smartphone. However, this requires a special intercom app to be installed on the resident’s smartphone.
For security purposes, the video can be integrated with existing security cameras and recorded for future evaluation. Images of those granted access can be added to the audit log to show who entered, when, who granted them access, and what the guest looks like.
Most current-generation intercoms have access reports called audit logs. These allow a property manager or condo board to review who was granted access to the building and by whom (these often include a picture of the guest). If you consider audit logs important, we recommend you use internet-based administration. This dedicated connection makes it easier to access the audit log and export it into a more commonly used program, like Excel.
In the recent past, the use of delivery services, such as UberEats, DoorDash, Skip the Dishes and Hello Fresh has risen exponentially. What if your system allowed residents to grant one-time access to delivery drivers? It’s easy to do – with the right intercom. This feature can also be used for house/pet sitters or a small event like a birthday party. Temporary codes can be created by the intercom and then sent to guests. Packages could be left securely or authorized guests could have easier and trackable access to the building. Temporary codes are not available on all Intercoms.
Integration with Building Access
The use of digital key FOBs is increasing. Integrating them with your building access has shown to be an important cost-savings and security improvement. When using FOBs, if one is lost or stolen, there is no need to rekey the whole building, that specific FOB is simply disabled. When used together, a consolidated audit log can be produced to include both FOB-authorized entry and intercom-authorized entry. The integration can also provide more control over access to restrictions you would like to place on the building (i.e. based on time of day). To provide additional security for residents, in the case of lobbies with an inner and outer door, you could lock the outer door overnight but unlock it during the day.
Integration with Camera Systems
Many current-generation intercom systems have options for a surveillance camera. This can be added to a security system to allow the video from that camera to be archived for later review, should that be required. Uses could include unauthorized building access, garbage dumping, break-ins or other property damage.
Calls to a cell or home phones
Legacy intercoms installed prior to the 1990s usually have in-suite, intercom panels to answer calls and release doors. The current generation of these panels usually includes video and other convenience features not available in previous generations.
However, most modern intercoms now call cell or home phone numbers. Not only is this is more convenient for the residents, it substantially lowers the cost, as all the individual in-suite intercom units, wiring, and labour are not required.
As mentioned above, newer intercoms also have options for dedicated smartphone apps. These provide additional features like video, door release, and personal audit log access.
A Final Word
The safety, security and quality of life for residents in Multi-family Buildings are essential considerations for property managers and condo boards. A well-maintained, modern intercom provides security and convenience to residents in a cost-effective way. To buyers, this often equates to a more attractive building, with higher satisfaction for residents and better selling prices for unitholders.
Want to discover more about how HELIA can help improve the security and safety of your building?
HELIA is here to answer any questions or provide additional detail you need on upgrading or servicing your current Multi-family Building intercom, Internet access for your intercom system or other security-related technology. Contact us to arrange for your free in-building consultation.
About HELIA Infrastructure
HELIA has been an infrastructure company in Alberta since 2006. We provide service, install and support for most brands of cameras, intercoms, building access fobs, and sensors for Multi-family Buildings. We’re happy to provide a free statement-of-work with pricing for installation or replacement for the technology infrastructure in your Multi-family Buildings.
For more information:
Phone: (403) 455-9966