Automated Smart Entry Systems For Self Storage
LAST UPDATED ON 15 FEBRUARY, 2024
Automated smart entry lock systems have opened up an entirely new way to offer self storage. Which one you'll use is one of the most important decisions you will make when setting up your self storage facility. Your smart entry system controls how your customers access your facility, and can have a long term impact on your business.
This guide will explain the types of smart entry systems you'll need to choose between, and detail the specific access control solutions currently available. It will cover their features, benefits, and provide practical advice on selecting the most suitable system for your self storage facility.
What to consider when selecing a smart entry system
The type of system you go for will determine, or even limit, your ability to offer flexibility around access to your facility and how you operate your business. It will affect things like:
- Letting customers access the facility outside of staffed hours
- Letting new customers move in (or out) themselves when there are no staff on site
- How customers gain access (app, pin code etc)
- Upselling additional access hours
- How you overlock customers who aren’t paying (manually or simply lock them out)
- Being able to do remote tours when there are no staff on site
- The self storage software options you can use
Choosing no access system, or the wrong access system, early on in your project can mean you either have limitations to what you can do as the business grows, or you might have to replace it at some point in the future.
The increase in remotely managed and automated self storage facilities has made smart entry systems even more important - for remotely managed sites they are a must. But even for staffed sites, getting the right access system can be very important and have a meaningful direct impact on your bottom line.
Types of smart entry systems
There are hundreds of gate access systems spanning many different industries, all of which generally provide physical access to property via a code, fob or using information that communicates with the system in order to open an entry point, for example ANPR, cards or QR codes.
For this guide, we are only going to look at systems that are designed specifically for self storage. Systems focused on self storage tend to be much more suitable because they take into account the specifics of the industry (for example, overlocking and tail gating) and design their solutions to address these. While other solutions can work for providing access, another consideration is whether they integrate with your self storage software system. Most systems integrate with the major self storage solutions but do not integrate with systems beyond that due to the cost of integration and subsequent support for that integration.
In self storage, there are a few different types of systems:
Shared gate access systems
These are systems that open the main point or points of entry. At their most basic, this will open a shared gate. Sometimes, they will also open additional internal doors or gates such as roller shutter doors or secondary gates. In these systems, the customer must use an additional lock of some sort to secure their unit.
Shared and individual access systems
These are systems that open the shared gates plus the individual storage unit door or doors related to a specific customer. The customer does not require an additional lock to secure their unit as there is a lock already built in.
Padlock management systems
These are systems designed to help operators manage padlocks at their facility. These systems are usually low tech but are also low cost and can typically achieve many of the benefits of automated access systems, though will require more manual intervention.
Many systems also come with additional features such as door alarms, unit sensor alarms and CCTV integration. If these are important aspects of your facility, it is important to understand these solutions or even how they can work alongside similar solutions from third parties.
Self storage smart entry systems
Nokē Smart Entry
Nokē is a smart entry system from Janus International, who also do fit outs. Nokē locks can be installed at the shared entry doors as well as on unit doors. Nokē is a popular solution amongst Stora customers, especially those wanting to install cutting edge locks into every unit. Your customers access the facility using a mobile app from Nokē which they get a link to download. Nokē also has a movement based sensor alarm for inside units, which connects to the operator app to alert them if there are any security issues.
Nokē is very popular for automated indoor sites.
Listen to an in-depth conversation with the Nokē team and Stora CEO Gavin Shields about how it works on the Self Storage Explained podcast.
BearBox is a popular smart entry system across Europe, Nordics and the UK. It’s biggest selling product is a gate entry system that supports codes, ANPR and QR codes. BearBox won the Innovation award for a new two factor authentication system that provides additional security to your facility. They also have a unit door system that has been installed in sites around Europe.
BearBox is a popular system amongst Stora customers, particularly those operating container sites.
PTI Security Systems
PTI Security Systems is used in 1,000’s of sites around the world and have been on the market for more than 20 years. With a wide range of solutions including shared entry solutions, door entry locks, bluetooth padlocks and with a sole focus on self storage, PTI are always worth checking out when considering a smart entry system.
Check out a discussion about how PTI's smart entry options work on the Self Storage Explained podcast.
Sensorberg is a very popular solution across Europe and provides a smart entry solution for shared entrances, unit doors, as well as lifts and lots more. They can be fitted during the initial install or retro-fitted to existing units, so are ideal for updating an existing facility from padlocks. Sensorberg comes with a branded app for your facility, and a back-end system to monitor entry at your facility.
Listen to our discussion with Sensorberg about how it works.
SpiderDoor is a very popular and low-cost option with over 6,000 locations already using it across the US. Keen to enter the UK market, SpiderDoor have a range of self-install smart entry locks that start from just $1,000 (including Stora discount). SpiderDoor also have unit alarms (also self-install) and an access control app.
Listen to our discussion with SpiderDoor about how it works.
OpenTech Alliance INSOMNIAC CIA
OpenTech is a US-based business that has recently entered the UK, Nordic and European markets, signing up European self storage giant Shurgard as a customer. With a range of technology solutions, OpeTech is an innovative provider of smart entry solutions.
Sedisto is a new European-based entrant with a focus on smart entry for self storage facilities. They have an innovative range of shared entry and unit entry solutions.
Listen to our conversation with Sedisto about how it works on the Self Storage Explained podcast.
Your choice of smart entry system is a critical step in setting up your self storage business for success. Get it wrong and you’ll either have to replace it, or be limited by the features of the system you choose. Get it right, and you can set up and run your business the best possible way for both you and your customers.
How to pick your smart entry system
Now that you’ve learned about the different smart entry options available, here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you decide if a smart entry system is for you, and if so which suits you best:
Do you want to control access from anywhere?
If you want the benefit of not having to be physically on site to give access, smart locks are the most obvious solution.
They enable you to give and revoke access as required. It also means you don’t have to ever visit a facility again to manually overlock a unit.
Do you want to eliminate the need for forgettable codes?
It’s easy for customers to forget codes. In that scenario, all they can do is contact you or your staff to regain access, eating up valuable time. App-based access is an alternative that helps with this. It means customers just have to remember their phone to get access. If they get logged out and forgot their password, it’s fully in their control to reset it and regain access.
Do you want to give facility access to new online bookings automatically (without having to be on site)?
The only way to provide access automatically is with a smart entry system. Smart entry systems can be integrated with self storage software to completely automate this process.
Stora gives you a free website with an industry leading online booking flow. When a website visitor books, Stora can automatically reserve a unit for them. On their move-in day, it will then communicate with the smart entry system you've chosen to integrate to auto-sync the customer with their unit and generate unique access information. It then digitally sends the access details to the customer automatically that morning.
Payments are then collected autoamtically on a billing cycle of your choice. If the customer cancels their subscription, their unique access is revoked on their last day, giving you a fully automated smart access system.
Do you want to automatically lock out customers who fail to pay?
Most smart entry systems will let you manually lock out customers as required. Some providers only work with your main gates while others will lock customers out of every door including their unit door. To automate it so that later payers are automatically locked out you will again need to utilise a self storage software platform like Stora.
This will let you choose how longer after a payment fails in which a customers access is revoked. It will also send your customers emails with a link to pay online and instantly restore their access.
Do you want to control exactly who has access to your facility and units?
Most facilities have numerous gates or doors that may need to be opened to access stored items. The most secure way to do this is to offer each of your customers a method of access that is unique to them. For example a unique code or account associated with a smartphone app. This way you know who is using which code and when. Unique digital access controls mean you don’t have to share one code for a main gate or copies of a key. It also means you can individually turn off access to specific people at any time—perfect for customers who have moved out.
Do you want visibility of who accesses your facility, when and how often?
It’s hard to know exactly who is accessing your facility without a smart entry system. To do so requires on-site staff or CCTV. With a smart access system, you get a full log of who accesses your facility thanks to unique controls attributed to them. You also get data on the times of day they visit and how often.
This data can be further used to help your business—for example, to spot when customers might be getting ready to move out based on their visits.
What level of access security do you require?
Traditionally, self storage has been an industry of standard locks and customer padlocks. Unfortunately it’s possible for these to be broken. Electronic locks are different. These locks are built into doors, meaning there isn’t the same physical component that can be tampered with, thereby increasing security.
Each provider has different approaches to security. Review each to decide which matches your criteria.
How much are you willing to pay?
The upfront investment required in a technology-based solution is more than traditional access control methods.
However, it’s important you consider more than just the initial cost. The potential long-term savings of a smart entry system and unique benefits can be worth it in the long run. Try thinking about it in these terms:
How much money will I save over the long term?
Smart entry systems reduce man hours needed on site. Work out roughly how many hours each month could be saved by no longer needing to visit a site to deal with customers and problems. Once you have, put a monetary value on your time and extrapolate it out over the number of years you think you’ll be running your business.
What unique benefits will smart entry have on my self storage business?
Smart entry opens up new avenues previously unavailable to operators. It makes it easier to automate sales, access, security, removes the need for staff, and gives you data previously would have been extremely time-consuming to gather. It also opens up the possibility of same-day One Minute Move-Ins.
Consider how these unique benefits will impact how you run and market your business. For example, will it give you a unique selling point compared to competitors approaching things in a more traditional way?
Which will you choose?
It’s a great time to start a self storage business. All of these exciting options open up new ways to automate your business, increase your profit margin and compete with existing facilities. We hope this info makes your decision about which smart entry system to use a little easier.
If you have any other questions about the smart entry options available, and how to make the most of them, feel free to schedule in for a chat. We’d be happy to help!
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