Robert Chiti, president and CEO of OpenTech Alliance, Inc.
When self-storage operators first
started using technology it was in the form of PC software that was by its very
nature isolated and rarely integrated with other systems. Early integrations
included exporting data files other systems could read, including credit card
processing software and access control systems. Because the unencrypted data
files were automatically created and exported to a shared hard drive, the
originating software vendor could not control who could use the data, resulting
in a true Open Integration.
Today, things are a bit different.
Software systems now send data and commands back and forth through what is known
as an Application Interface (API). Here is where the problems start; for
security reasons, some type of authentication code is needed to ensure the
system trying to access the API has been authorized and is not a hacker. This
means use of the API needs to be restricted. In most cases, these restrictions
are good for the self-storage operator; they make the entire system more secure,
protect the self-storage operator’s data, and ensure the systems using the API
are programmed efficiently so they do not cause performance problems for the
users. However, in some cases, vendors put restrictions in place to limit
competition or control the operator’s data. These closed, end-to-end type systems
can have a very negative impact on the success of a self-storage business.
Closed, end-to-end platforms get self-storage
operators “hooked” and then limit the other solutions that can be integrated to
only solutions they sell, in some cases forcing the user to implement
substandard technology. This approach can be very good for the vendor but
disastrous for the self-storage operator. These platforms typically end up costing
the self-storage operator much more, because they have no choice but to use the
products offered by the vendor.
A truly open technology platform
offers its APIs to all other vendors, so a self-storage operator has the
freedom to choose the specific solution they feel is best for them, instead of
having to be held hostage and forced to only buy solutions from one vendor. A
truly open platform, sometimes referred to as Internet of Everything (IoE)
platform, allows all kinds of devices, applications, systems, and people to
work together regardless of the vendor.
For example, with a truly open
platform, an internal or third-party call center storage counselor can have
real-time access to all the transaction data recorded in an access control
system and can open a gate for a customer stuck behind the gate after hours
without having to give out a temporary code that has been changed late, regardless
of if the call center vendor competes with the access control vendor in other
So, my “last word” is OPEN. End-to-end
platforms that try to lock out competitors are bad for self-storage operators
and bad for the industry as a whole. Self-storage operators would be wise to
make sure they are only investing technology that is backed by a vendor
committed to providing open technology.