Smartphone Technology Is Revolutionizing the Intercom; many New York co-op and condo buildings are equipped with video cameras so residents can see who’s at the front door. Now a growing number of boards are opting for cutting-edge technology that allows residents to see and speak with visitors and buzz them into the building – even if the resident is in the coffee shop at the corner or on the beach in Cancun.
Intercom systems that integrate with smartphones may cost several thousand dollars to install but are still more affordable than hard-wired systems. Boards overseeing buildings that use copper telephone lines for their intercoms may be pushed to use more modern options – whether they like it or not.
Both AT&T and Verizon will no longer install or maintain copper telephone lines after the year 2020, reports Richard Sedivy, director of marketing and regulatory affairs for DoorKing, which manufactures access control systems such as telephone entry and intercoms, vehicle gates, and parking-control equipment. He says the lines will continue to work, but it may be a challenge to find someone to maintain and repair them.
“When it comes to programming these systems, we’re trying to mix 1960s modem technology with 21st century telecommunications technology, and it’s getting to the point where they are no longer compatible,” says Sedivy. “Building managers and owners need to start looking at the newer technologies available and move away from old-fashioned telephone lines.”
For the time being, though, those lines are required in certain cases. All intercoms installed in New York City must meet the building code, which requires a live-wire link between the front door and the intercom in all apartments 125 feet or more above the street, according to city officials.
Smartphone-based systems also provide tighter security controls – even if some people are uncomfortable with the idea of their neighbors buzzing in visitors from a remote location. “Every door transaction is recorded with a photo and time/date stamp and is documented in the property management console,” says Matthew Knoff, chief operating officer at ButterflyMX, which has installed smartphone-compatible intercom systems at more than 130 properties in New York’s five boroughs.
The new technology has also made it easier – and safer – for residents to handle package deliveries, even when they’re not at home. Many buildings have set aside a package room right next to the front door where buzzed-in messengers can drop off bulky deliveries. “It really strengthens the security of the building, and there is a strong convenience factor,” says Jeremy Kilts, a property manager at WayFinder PM, who works with buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn. He adds that buildings that have no video intercoms can be especially vulnerable to crimes. “People will hit all the buzzers until someone gets tired of the annoying buzzing sound and lets them in. They were letting package thieves in.”
Michael Mintz, CEO of MD Squared Property Group, says residents and board members should expect to see even more innovations in the future. He points to emerging technologies that will use facial recognition and work with Bluetooth devices and wireless hotspots.
“Intercoms last for a period of time,” Mintz says. “It doesn’t make sense to install an old-school system that costs more to install and maintain. New systems are simply better products and more cost-effective.”
Lisa L. Colangelo in Building Operations on May 30, 2017