From media streaming apps to managing home security cameras, to programming smart home features such as lighting or HVAC, smartphone apps have increasingly become the default interface used by homeowners or renters to control different aspects of their home environment. And access control is no different. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a significant increase in residents of multifamily properties using their smartphones to operate and interact with access control systems.
The Evolution of Access Control in Multifamily Properties
Traditionally, multifamily properties relied on physical keys for access control — but this approach had a number of downsides. Keys could be lost, stolen, or copied, and once they had been distributed, control over their use was limited. Following a security breach, multiple locks would need to be changed, at considerable expense.
Later, electronic methods like card readers and keypads emerged, offering more control and the ability to change access codes without replacing locks. But, these had their own issues, such as lost cards or forgotten codes.
The Rise of Mobile Access
The introduction of mobile access control resolved many of these problems by combining smartphone convenience with improved security and tracking. According to a recent study by market intelligence firm Parks Associates, 15% of MFU operators report having a secure access system for property common areas, and a similar number also have connected access solutions for individual units.
What is Mobile Access Control?
Put simply, mobile access control describes the use of a smartphone to gain access to a property. Where before residents would use a physical key, swipe card or fob to unlock and enter areas of a property as needed, today this can be done using an app on their phone.
There are several types of mobile access control available. Bluetooth access control connects a smartphone to locks through Bluetooth technology. Near Field Communication (NFC) involves tapping a phone against a reader to grant access, in the same way as tap-to-pay systems work. Wi-Fi access control connects through a secure wireless network, and the phone communicates with the locking system over the internet.
How Mobile Access Control Works In A Multi-Family Setting
In a multifamily setting, mobile access control can provide added convenience while enhancing security at the same time. Residents are able to use their smartphones to access common areas, their individual units, or amenity spaces, without the need for additional cards, keys or codes. Guests such as family members or delivery personnel can be granted temporary access for the duration of their visit, using their own smartphone.
Property managers can easily manage access rights, giving or revoking access to specific areas as needed, and usage patterns can be monitored and tracked, providing valuable data on which areas are being accessed and when contributing to better overall security.
Benefits of Mobile Access Control for Multifamily Properties
By allowing managers to easily grant or revoke access remotely, mobile access control systems ensure that only authorized people have access. If a resident moves out or loses their phone, their access can be immediately revoked. The availability of access logs is also useful if incidents occur and need to be investigated.
With mobile access control, residents no longer need to carry around physical keys or access cards — only their smartphones, which most people carry with them at all times anyway. This reduces the risk associated with lost or stolen keys and eliminates the hassle of duplicating keys for visitors.
Better user experience
Users have a central, easy-to-use interface for all their access needs, and, depending on the system, can set up notifications when their door is accessed, grant visitor permissions directly within the app, and have a real-time view of the security of their home.
Although mobile access control systems require an initial investment, the costs associated with lock replacements, key duplications, or management of physical access cards can be substantially reduced or even eliminated, not to mention the savings associated with better loss prevention.
Integrating Mobile Access Control in Multifamily Properties
Depending on the access control system you already have in place, the process for integrating mobile access control will vary, but generally speaking, you’ll need to consider the following:
Requirements capture — list your specific needs, considering factors like the size of your property, number of residents, and types of spaces requiring access control.
Research possible options — look for providers that offer products with the features you identified during the previous step, offer robust customer support, and have a solid track record in the industry.
Assess the security of potential systems — ensure they utilize secure communication protocols and offer features like encrypted data and regular software updates.
Evaluate integration options — talk to providers about how they can integrate the new system with your existing infrastructure such as smart locks, alarm systems, cameras or property management software.
Consider scalability — find out if the system can be expanded and updated as your requirements develop in future, or as new technologies emerge, without having to refit the whole system from scratch.
Mobile access control systems represent the future of residential security — removing the need for dedicated devices or tokens such as keycards or fobs, and instead using the ubiquitous smartphone for greater convenience and flexibility.
With residents accustomed to using apps to control smart home features such as lighting and climate control, demand for similar functionality in access control is increasing, and mobile access control systems are moving from a “desired” to an “expected” feature.
Property managers who wish to increase the attractiveness of their multifamily accommodation should therefore seriously consider investing in this area of access control technology.