Allegion’s door products have been a presence in the commercial real estate sector for 114 years and most recently with smart apartment locks through subsidiary door hardware company Schlage.
Allegion unveiled its Schlage control mobile-enabled, Bluetooth-compatible smart lock for multifamily in August 2019. The lock enables simplified visitor access and maintenance scheduling and lets residents grant entry to the unit for grocery delivery, pet sitting and cleaning services, while helping management deal efficiently with package management and access to concierge level amenities at the community, said Robert Gaulden, director of Allegion multifamily channel strategy.
Allegion’s smart access control system integrates with all the major property management systems.
“This shaves minutes if not hours from staff’s daily tasks, but owners still get confused as to what infrastructure they need to be able to deploy the system. We recommend starting with offline locks because they require the least amount of infrastructure.
“It is a common misconception that smart locks need community WiFi or need to be online to be efficient. Most of the locks we sell today are offline battery-powered, but still allow residents to gain access via a fob or more recently the mobile credential, he said, explaining that staff no longer has to rekey whenever a unit turns and the credentials give staff audit capabilities around maintenance and residents the ability to see who has entered their unit and when,” he said.
Meanwhile, a new or potential resident can download an app onto their mobile device and gain access to the building and unit for a self-guided tour, complete a background check and obtain insurance and sign a lease the same day and then reserve an elevator on the day of move-in without having to wait for a leasing agent.
Credentials for each individual resident are programmed onto the fob or card (like at hotels) and all other transactions are stored on the device.
Gaulden recommends that multifamily owners and operators partner with vendors who have open architecture and ecosystems that allow for future customization of the tech stack as needs change. “Initial cost of the system can be minimized by starting with offline locks with the ability to migrate to online ecosystems over time,” he said.
Security and battery life
Today, most keys are easily and cheaply duplicable at many of the big box stores with KeyMe kiosks. So are the proximity cards, which are most of the cards in use today, said Gaulden.
“The next level up are smart cards and they use an encrypted technology that is harder to duplicate. When we launched our multifamily-centric unit lock it only came with smart credentials, because we wanted to provide the maximum security for those locks.
Some of the smart credentials today are beginning to show cracks in security, but the higher levels are extremely solid. Ours run in both full online and offline mode,” he said.
Gaulden notes that anything less than 12 months battery life in a unit lock creates a burden for the apartment manager.
“We found that Bluetooth low-energy BLE locks in offline mode get 18 months plus of battery life. Most WiFi locks consume quite a lot of battery power, so that is one of the limitations with WiFi today. As we move forward those protocols will change. For now, we use off-the-shelf AA batteries inside our locks,” he said.
Gaulden believes the industry is on the cusp of access control becoming an enablement. “At Apartmentalize we saw so many new user experiences through the smart mobile app that generate new revenue for the property management group.
He explained how some apartment communities are even providing “amenity experience closets” where items too bulky to be stored in individual apartment units, like camping gear and bicycles, are available for residents to use for a nominal fee. They can reserve these items and gain entry to the closet with their mobile app.
“At the end of the day, smart tech is about driving efficiency for owners and providing resident experiences that will increase retention and generate good property reviews. We live in a five-star world today and smart apartments are the key to earning those five stars,” said Gaulden.