The key to everything

Victor D’Allancé of Intratone explains how intelligent access control systems can keep maintenance simple for housing managers and provide the best security for tenants

Managers of apartment blocks and those in charge of access to social housing face similar problems – how can they protect the residents of their buildings from the risks posed by fire; and how do they keep them secure in their homes and in their local areas. This is not an easy task in today’s world, especially in this time of austerity and reduced budgets for local authorities. One of the main priorities is ensuring the entrances to such properties remain secure day and night. Issuing physical sets of keys is costly and has proven difficult to manage. Keys are often mislaid or not returned by residents when they move out of a property, creating an almost impossible administration task.

Fob-based systems

Some local authorities and housing associations have moved towards fob-based systems, but again a similar problem can arise with the management of the fobs. We have seen a situation where one block of just six flats had 99 fobs issued to it. If a resident loses a fob, their property manager or housing association is instantly and remotely able to establish the identity of the fob and disable it for future use. A new fob can be easily activated on a free and secured cloud-based management site and sent out to that individual. This saves time and money, enhances the security of each property and provides the greatest ease of use for housing associations or facilities managers and their residents. It is not possible to clone these fobs, so there is only a set number of fobs per flat. If a tenant loses a fob, we are able to check that the fob is in fact no longer being used, as well as cancel its functionality. However, there is another issue that we have encountered – some platforms can only be accessed with one log in and from a dedicated PC. Often when that user is out of the office or on holiday fobs cannot be programmed.

Cloud-based platforms

Cloud-based platforms that can be accessed by anyone from any computer or smartphone mean that FMs can update, delete or issue a new fob to a tenant almost instantly. Using these platforms contractors can be given allocated time slots for maintenance visits – and their mobile phone numbers can be used as the door entry code. The platforms can provide an auditable timeline and trail should there be any cause for one. Unfortunately, the groundworks required for some installations can be disruptive and expensive. Many door entry system manufacturers have introduced panels that include 3G and 4G connectivity. One of the major headaches of existing systems that are ‘pay as you go’ is what happens once the credit has expired and who is responsible for meeting the ongoing cost. This problem has been overcome by providing a pre-paid SIM that lasts for 15 years. Not only does this remove the risk of a new system becoming redundant through lack of funds, but it also brings more certainty and visibility to pricing and future running costs. Further cost-efficiency benefits can also be achieved with this technology: since there is no handset for intercoms, maintenance and hardware installation costs are kept minimal. The requirement for overall systems’ maintenance is virtually non-existent as everything is managed on a secure, free of charge web platform. That is not to say that keys can be replaced altogether. Many property managers have keys for communal areas, lift voids or to utility cupboards and keeping these safe and secure at all times is obviously essential. In such situations key safes are the best solution, and they have advanced significantly over recent years – many can now be accessed using a mobile phone or a keypad. Reminders can even be set to alert managers when keys have not been returned by a specified time. We work with a number of housing associations throughout the country and in some blocks where residents are more elderly, they have found that soon after moving into apartments, electricians were regularly being called to site to relocate the existing fixed door entry handsets. Installers were called back to site to install a more cost effective and time efficient solution that was easy for the elderly residents to use. Each of the residents was given their own fob which allows them easy access; for visitors, the system calls the house phone via GSM, and if no one answers it then rings a second designated number, normally a mobile phone. Residents simply have to press any key on their device to allow entry. The combination of these systems provides best-in-class security, alongside flexibility and ease of use. Access control can make life easier for managers and residents alike.

Victor D’Allancé is UK country manager at Intratone