UL: What are your thoughts on access control for self-storage?

Sebastian: Adding access control to your self-storage isn’t cheap. It used to be maybe 300 euros per door. Perhaps it’s down to 200 euros per door for the general solutions available, but it’s a lot of money. Imagine you have done 500 units; that adds up. At the same time, if there are any problems with that, access solution – you rip it out, buy new locks, and so on. It’s an insane amount of money for operators.  So in access, what we are still looking for is more affordable, reliable solutions. We are talking about a hundred euros or less for all the hardware. It seems to be like a magic number for operators.

If you ask them, they’ll tell you: ‘well, below a hundred euros a door. It makes sense for us.’ With Entryfy, we’ve reached it – we got below a hundred euros, per door. There are some operators who don’t want to spend even that amount. For those, you will have to find some solutions, like pin codes at the entrance or keypad locks. This is a low-cost solution, which gives you some benefits of automation. Then the fancier solution would be to have smart locks on every door. But under a hundred euros.

UL: How do you think AI and the internet of things will impact access control or storage?

Sebastian: With the internet of things, it’s already possible to equip your facility with all types of sensors: video, audio, temperature data, etc. Using that, you can create alarms or just an integrated experience where an alarm is triggered and immediately on your mobile phone; you can see who’s in the storage facility. I even think it’s a necessity to have internet of things enabled sensors on-site. You want an alarm if someone breaks in, and you don’t just want an email sent somewhere, but maybe you need to notify some IT system. It needs to be integrated, to talk to each other.

With AI, it’s a bit of a buzzword, but for example, one application that is realistic and you want to have is you want to observe the prices of your competitors and adjust accordingly, right. If everyone in the market is raising prices or having some rebates, discounts at the moment, you want to know about it. There are some services in the US, for example, that are tracking prices already.  I think we will see something like this in our markets as well, sooner or later. This would be a lot of data to process. It makes sense to have some AI detection of prices and proposals to you as an operator.

UL: Where do you stand on standards, should it be self-regulated by the industry or dictated by the government.

Sebastian: Take, for example, in the EU, the GDPR. It’s a pain to become compliant. Then you realize, no company out there is. Well, except Storeganise, because we tortured them to become compliant. But a consumer, it’s good, you’re happy that companies have to go through that, right. There are attempts at some industry-internal regulation. And I think it’s good, but it will take a long time.

In Smartlock access, you want some standardization. Otherwise, you are locked in and dependent on your provider of smart lock solutions. This is why we went with Entryfy. Even though it’s not a government standard, we could use standardized door components, which then comply with government norms, national and international. Even the Entryfy platform itself is based on Axis.

Axis is a camera developer from Sweden. They developed an IoT platform, which is called Axis Open Platform –  AOP. So if you have a company, you can get the AOP documentation and build solutions on top of that. Entryfy is one of those companies: they built an access solution on top of this AOP. So if I’m now teaming up with Entryfy and I don’t like them anymore, I can always move on to another company working on the AOP platform. I could even choose to do my own development. Axis is big; they have partners internationally. You are not stuck with a small startup with ten employees, which might not be around in two years.

UL: This all sounds very exciting, but as tech advances become more and more sophisticated, how can less tech-savvy users and operators be integrated?

Sebastian: In the case of operators, they should definitely team up with consultancies. With unmanned self-storage, the idea is that at some point, it’s all running by itself. You do need some people on-site from time to time, but that could be a local facility management provider. If you combine the right technology with some facility managers from a region, you can have a company that you don’t need to be involved in. So you don’t have to deal with the technology. It is important to find consultancies that you can trust to have an eye on everything and react when needed.

UL: And when it comes to end consumers?

Sebastian: I’m seeing that some operators prefer to have pin codes. With smart locks, you can have mobile phones with Bluetooth and NFC and all that stuff. But operators say that they prefer not to give the clients an app because people don’t like apps. They’d instead provide them with a pin code. So that’s one way that they avoid something. Still, you have to make an online booking. How could you do that if someone doesn’t want to book online? Well, you can arrange a call center – people call in and make the bookings. It’s a possibility; you have to watch out for the costs, however. In the end, the most efficient will be by the internet. I’m thinking large operators could afford to have a separate call center where they’re making bookings. But it could have a few more implications later because those clients won’t use self-service. Maybe many operators will prefer just not to serve these clients.

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