From conception to completion, self-storage
owners spend several million dollars and years developing state-of-the-art
facilities before they can turn a profit. Nowadays, most are designed to
include all the latest and greatest amenities that self-storage customers are
seeking, such as climate controls that regulate unit temperatures, access
controls that restrict and/or record who comes and goes on site, and self-service
kiosks that enable them to complete move-ins and payments on their own, as well
as motion detecting lighting, motion detecting cameras, and infrared sensors
that are intended to keep facilities safer.
Smart self-storage developers conduct
rigorous due diligence before breaking ground. Smart self-storage builders
utilize top-notch materials and experienced crews to erect facilities that are both
appealing and secure. Smart self-storage owners protect their
multi-million-dollar investments with various insurance coverages. And smart
self-storage operators employ data to create effective marketing campaigns,
budgets, rental rates, and the like.
With all the time, effort, and money
that you put into your self-storage facility, Franklin Young, CEO of Scottsdale,
Ariz.-based PTI Security Systems, has one question: Why not make it more
functional and interactive by making it a “smart”, connected facility?
Young compares the capabilities of
connectivity to the essential gauges of your vehicle. “You wouldn’t know how
fast you are driving without the speedometer,” he says, adding that, similar to
gas gauges and temperature gauges that warn drivers of impending issues, self-storage
operators can be notified of problematic situations at their facilities thanks
to the Internet of Things (IoT). “You can see things in real time and get
Basically, an IoT platform connects
smart devices in one place—the cloud—and connecting all the smart devices
within a self-storage facility provides the self-storage operator with
real-time data that could potentially protect the property from damage.
For instance, according to Young,
self-storage facilities with smart units (those with door sensors and/or smart
locks) receive notifications if/when doors are left open. The significance:
That one simple notification about a door left ajar can prevent theft, risk, or
liability from occurring. In addition to notifications, facility owners who
utilize an IoT platform can monitor, control, and/or command their sites’ smart
devices through an online portal.
Endless Possibilities Just like residential homes, self-storage facilities can be equipped with smart devices to create efficiencies and automate tasks. Young mentions that PTI has integrated the Ecobee thermostat into the company’s new IoT platform, PTI CORE. Connected, or smart, thermostats enable users to enjoy both energy efficiencies (also known as reduced expenses) and custom automations through pre-programmed settings. What’s more, they can be controlled remotely from any location with internet access. So, you can adjust the facility’s thermostat to correspond with that location’s current weather conditions—even if you are at a self-storage trade show on the opposite side of the country.
Light bulbs/switches, power sockets,
televisions, window blinds, door locks, doorbells, video cameras, toilets, HVAC
systems, garage doors, flood sensors, motion sensors, smoke detectors, and
appliances are some of the numerous smart devices being used in homes. Any of
those devices, and others, could be utilized at self-storage facilities as
For starters, connected devices can
make self-storage facilities more secure. Smart cameras, smart locks, smart
doors, smart gates, and smart alarms are all available for self-storage
application. According to Young, sites secured
by smart devices offer more protection than non-connected devices. As an
example, standard industry locks can be picked or cut. However, smart locks
have no keys, codes, or shackles, which makes them a smarter option. Instead of
relying on key fobs that can be stolen or used by unauthorized individuals, a connected
access door or gate can be remotely unlocked with the swipe of a phone’s
touchscreen. And smart cameras can be monitored remotely from any location with
an internet connection.
Aside from security features, Young
points out that any connected device could provide self-storage operators with
information about maintenance issues and/or detect malfunctions. These kinds of
predictive maintenance reports have the potential to greatly reduce equipment
expenses. According to Young, smart solar panels connected to an IoT platform
could alert self-storage operators of damage to panels. The notification would
enable the property owner to repair or replace the damaged panel(s) more
quickly, thus minimizing the loss of solar power. This would be especially
advantageous in states like Texas, where hail storms have been known to dent
He goes on to say that connected
elevators could prevent expensive and dangerous situations. For example, an
elevator that is malfunctioning would send a notification to the self-storage
operator, who could then prohibit access to that elevator and send for a repair
person before a tenant has the misfortune of becoming trapped inside it. Once
repairs are completed, the self-storage operator could restore access to
it—remotely, of course. While this scenario may seem unlikely, Young notes that
having the fire department rescue someone from an elevator in a big city is a
huge expense compared to the cost of connecting it to an IoT platform.
Smoke detectors and sprinkler systems
that are connected to an IoT platform could be beneficial in a self-storage
setting as well. These sorts of smart systems could minimize water damage by
restricting water flow to only the affected area instead of dowsing the entire
facility or floor. On the flipside, flood sensors could alert self-storage
operators of an area that’s experiencing flooding from a pipe that has burst or
Similar to the smart thermostats, a
self-storage facility’s lighting can be connected to an IoT platform. Motion
detecting lighting could notify authorities of after-hours activity, or the
lighting could be controlled remotely to conserve energy. Like high-tech timers,
the settings of connected lighting could be programmed to automatically turn on
and off at specific times; many smart bulbs even have dimming capabilities.
GPS tracking devices can be
incorporated into an IoT platform too. Self-storage facilities that offer free
moving vans or trucks to new renters may find this to be helpful, especially on
busy weekends when customers may be waiting to utilize a vehicle that’s already
in use. The property manager would be able to monitor the vehicle’s whereabouts
and provide a waiting customer with an estimate as to how long it will take until
its returned to the facility. GPS tracking devices could be attached to other
facility items that renters use as well, such as hand trucks, carts, or
While smart TVs are already being used
within some self-storage facilities across the country, Young is quick to
suggest that they aren’t being used to their full potential. For example, smart
TVs connected to an IoT platform could make the facility more interactive. He
says that they could be used as a form of digital signage, displaying
customer-specific ads on screen when they enter the site. Young’s scenario:
showing advertisements for Jersey Mike’s Subs, Jack In The Box, or any other
fast food restaurant that’s open late when a tenant access their unit at 2 a.m.
Last but not least, there is no less
than one smart appliance that make sense in any office environment: a connected
coffee pot. A manager could have their favorite brew percolating while sitting
in rush-hour traffic.
As you can see from the examples
above, you can connect just about every aspect of your self-storage facility—as
long as the device has internet connection capabilities or software that can be
incorporated into an IoT platform.
Big Data According to Young, big data is another reason self-storage operators should seriously consider having connected facilities. “Owners don’t know predictive analytics,” he says.
Fortunately, an IoT platform can
provide highly-sought-after insights about customers’ behaviors, sales, and
revenues. For instance, facility owners can monitor a site’s access points.
Access data can show how long customers stay on site and how much time they
spend in their units. It can also be used to “draw correlations and identify
patterns in customer behavior”.
Additionally, data can be collected
and analyzed about the occupancies. Calculating each unit’s tenancy can reveal
patterns based on unit size, type, and location within the facility. The
facility’s marketing can be adjusted to reflect those insights. As an example,
a hard-to-access unit with high turnover could be made available at a
discounted rate to attract and retain a long-term, price-conscious tenant who
won’t mind walking a farther distance to access the unit.
A Smart Future Whether you’re seeking data, security, or efficiencies at your self-storage facility, there’s most certainly an app for that. And PTI CORE is proof that the self-storage industry can be part of the smart future that lies ahead.
Erica Shatzer is the editor of Mini-Storage Messenger, Self-Storage Now!, and Self-Storage Canada.