Owners, property managers, HOAs, and leaseholders can all agree that building security technology makes sense. It's a subcategory of property technology, often called "proptech," that has widespread appeal. There’s no downside to protecting your property and the humans inside it.
Better security protects your investment, the people and/or goods housed in it, and the neighborhood. It makes the building more attractive to buyers or renters, too. This is true whether your investment is a seaside vacation condo, an office park, or a highrise building in a core urban area.
Solutions, not disruptions
In 2019, TechCrunch called real estate the last major industry to remain largely undisrupted by technology. From construction to the selling process to management, every link in the real estate chain has resisted the go-fast-and-break-things tech imperative. But some tech companies are making headway.
Whereas security system providers try to sell you a building-wide systems overhaul to bring in their own hardware, proptech companies are creating technology that works with existing equipment or hardware.
Security packages and systems are widely varied in scope and cost. Before you start looking at options, figure out what you want the tech to do for you:
- Is your priority to attract and retain tenants by making them feel safe?
- Is it to know who’s coming in and out of your building at all hours?
- Do you want to keep a watchful eye on your rental properties from a distance?
- How about call in local law enforcement if there's a possible breach?
- Is it to reduce the risk of vandalism and property theft?
- Is it to provide extra layers of security in certain areas to safeguard valuable or sensitive material?
The best security tech depends on your needs and the type and size of your property.
What’s popular and what’s next
Doorbell cameras like Ring and Nest Hello are widely known due to their mass homeowner appeal and their backing by tech giants. But many other companies are innovating for single-family homes and other types of housing.
For example, Doorport, which lets tenants gain building access for themselves or guests via smartphone app, might be a good choice for a slightly older, medium-rise building because it doesn't require a proprietary buzzer system. In many cases, the Doorport hardware can be wired into the buzzer system already in use at the building.
Homeowners in gated or affluent retirement communities might desire security that goes beyond the basics and does more to ease their minds. Hence the immediate buzz around Aegis AI software. It was developed by a military veteran to prevent school shootings but is rapidly gaining clients in private-sector and government buildings. The Aegis AI subscription software can read a video security feed, use AI to identify a gun on camera, and take next steps. It requires no additional hardware or systems modification and almost nothing in the way of staff training.
Sensor-activated security and smart locks, state-of-the-art security cameras, and connected doorbells might require some new hardware, but overall, cloud-based and Internet of Things innovation less physically invasive than wired systems.
What is "smart" security?
A smart device isn't the same as one using artificial intelligence (AI). It's simply wireless-networked or otherwise set up to communicate with other networked devices.
A smart security system is one where components are wirelessly networked and can communicate with other components far away.
Examples of smart security
- An in-doorbell camera, such as Ring or Nest, that captures video in real time and can feed it to a connected mobile phone.
- Motion detector sensors that send push notifications via text or email when a sensor is triggered.
AI, the next frontier in smart technology, will enable smart devices to process information and take next steps based on the result.
If a device is "smart," does that mean it’s thinking like a person? No.
Will AI take the place of human vigilance? It’s yet to be determined across the security space. We just don't know yet.
In large buildings or complexes, there’s no substitute for a security staff -- but at the same time, smart devices and AI-enabled technology provide enhanced monitoring and immediate communication in a way that humans can’t.
Popular security features for single-family or small multifamily rentals
- Smart doorbells with cameras that connect to a computer or smartphone so homeowners can view the activity on their doorstep.
- Home security systems that combine sensor technology, video cameras, and centralized 24/7 monitoring.
- Motion sensors that perform specific functions like monitoring windows, alerting a user when someone’s in the pool area, differentiating people from pets, and not triggering an alarm for non-suspicious movement.
- Sensor security that doubles as a fire/flood emergency system.
Popular security features for multifamily buildings
- Tenant-controlled smart locks for the main entry points and individual units.
- Apps that share general tenant information like notifications of building construction and personalized updates on package dropoff at the front desk.
- 24/7 video monitoring with dual feeds to onsite security and a centralized hub.
- "E-keys" -- cloud-based temporary permissions for day workers (maintenance, dog walker, etc.) to access a home with entry and exit monitoring.
Popular security features for offices
- Video monitoring with enhanced features such as wide-angle, zoom, and searchable cloud-stored video archives.
- Smart locks and other app-controlled individual security features, like garage access.
- Facial recognition capabilities on smart locks.
- Sensor technology that locks down an office or room once it determines (by the heat footprint in a room) that no one is in it or that it’s after-hours.
- Door and window sensors that are triggered when an entry point is breached after hours and programmed to issue alarms, push notifications, and make 911 calls.
- Encrypted business VPNs that enhance cybersecurity to protect proprietary information, customer data, and other important confidential information.
The question of whether a security upgrade will come from your bank account or your tenants' is debatable. Certainly, there’s a case to be made for the individuals paying through their homeowners association (HOA) fees or common area maintenance (CAM) charges, since these fees often cover security. But, on the flip side, tenant law in most states require some sort of minimum security -- and if you can upgrade that security from old-fashioned key locks to a streamlined new smart system, it may prove to be a selling point for your customers, creating a return on investment.
Keep in mind that if you install an integrated security system throughout the building, it doesn’t mean management needs to pay for the monthly monitoring bills of each unit. Those are generally left up to the tenants -- they pay if they want the security. Installation merely prevents a situation where tenants who want an extra layer of security have to get their own system -- with hardware you didn’t choose, protocols that the HOA may not approve of, and different contacts to keep on record.
A smart improvement for your investment
The bottom line on security tech is that it makes sense for landlords to be proactive about this smart property enhancement.
Just make sure you keep in mind:
- what your tenants want,
- what will make the property more attractive to potential tenants or residents, and
- that no brand meets everyone’s needs -- shop around for the solution that meets your own needs and budget.