Embracing the Evolution: How Proptech Is Transforming the Security Industry

Sean Miller headshot
Sean Miller, chief revenue officer at Sensor Industries, is a member of SIA’s Built Environment Advisory Board.

SIA’s Built Environment Advisory Board defined proptech, or property technology in its long form, as “Technology connecting people and information to simplify how commercial real estate is owned, sold, managed, operated, researched, rented or bought and invested in.”

The security industry historically protected commercial real estate (CRE) assets (how CRE owners refer to buildings) and the people within them with access control, networked security systems, fire suppression systems and exterior cameras. In the age of proptech, the security industry needs to increase our involvement with commercial real estate owners and operators because there are opportunities to evolve how security can help better protect buildings, residents and staff.

To understand how the security industry can evolve with our clients’ needs, let’s first examine how smart properties (properties with some proptech installed in them) create value for property managers, owners and residents:

  • Resident amenities: Products and services that drive higher income, directly via rent or through incremental fees paid by residents, guest or outside vendors and/or higher retention/shorter vacancies by providing in-demand, differentiated amenities. Examples include smart apartments, community Wi-Fi, dog parks and resident experience apps.
  • Operational efficiency: Proptech that helps on-site and external staff get their work done more quickly, including cloud access control systems that tie access credentials to work orders, self-showing and chatbot services, package delivery lockers/rooms/services (so long as it removes work from onsite staff) and work order management systems.
  • Asset protection: Products that help property managers better protect and maintain assets. Legacy systems in this bucket include access control, exterior cameras, monitored security and monitored fire suppression systems. 

Now, there is a lot of proptech that is outside of the security industry’s comfort zone – for example, most security dealers or low-voltage integrators would not feel very comfortable configuring a leasing chatbot or setting up a property management system. We know a lot, however, about how to install cameras, access control, intercom and fire control systems.  We’re also building up capabilities around Wi-Fi and network troubleshooting, resident door locks and environmental sensors such as water leak detection devices. As these products evolve and lines between historical systems blur, I would encourage those in the security industry to contemplate how they could serve multifamily apartments, student housing, senior living, low-income housing and offices with the following next-gen use cases:

  • Holistic security as a resident amenity: Many residents don’t consider legacy monitored systems necessary in multifamily buildings, but then again, many residents don’t think of cameras as potentially part of a monitored and intelligent security system.  There is an opportunity to shift expectations from legacy monitored security to a more modern monitored life safety. At a general level, most buildings have cameras, but many of them provide little proactive value. Artificial intelligence systems are evolving to help cameras, both at the edge and in the cloud, proactively identify objects and events.  But if you think one step ahead, you can see how the combination of more intelligent cameras integrated with other systems can become tools to help residents not only feel safer, but also live more conveniently – traffic counting to let residents know how busy a common area is, coordination with access control systems and work order systems to confirm when jobs were started and stopped, and notifications to staff when a resident is potentially tailgated.
  • Predictive maintenance improves operational efficiency: Equipment always follows Murphy’s Law and breaks down at the most inconvenient times. When on-site staff can get a heads-up about something that will need maintenance soon (and, even better, what maintenance it will need), it allows them to make sure they have the right person scheduled at the right time with the right equipment. When this information is actually available, such as runtime information from an HVAC system that can predict consumable and maintenance needs or infer it through things like people counting and traffic flow, it allows us to help maintenance teams by making sure the systems we install today are sharing the appropriate data in the appropriate way to make sure dots are being connected proactively.
  • Protecting assets from water leaks: NMHC recently released data that water damage is still the biggest driver of insurance claims. Gen 1 leak sensors have been out for a while, and while they have found success in owner-occupied single family homes, their one-size-fits-all approach and subpar battery life have severely restricted their use in commercial real estate. But the need is there – with insurance claims on the rise, reducing the number of leaks reduces insurance and remediation costs, which raises operating income and keeps residents happier. 

Change can be scary but is a natural part of us continually evolving. We’re still in the early stages of proptech – don’t be afraid, lean in.