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Apartment intercom systems are an integral element of a comprehensive security system for multi-tenant apartment complexes or other multi-unit residential sites, such as condos or gated communities. The role of a multifamily intercom system is to enable residents in each unit to grant convenient access to visitors without compromising the overall security of the property.
Modern commercial intercom systems such as multi-unit intercom systems offer many important benefits to residents, property owners, property managers and security professionals. Multi-unit residential door intercom systems can be installed as a new solution for visitor management or used to replace or upgrade a legacy apartment buzzer system for apartments.
The latest intercom systems for apartment buildings have come a long way since traditional telephone entry systems, now offering residents a choice of audio or apartment video intercom systems, many with the convenience of operation by smartphone app. For installers and property managers, apartment intercoms are available as a residential wireless intercom system for apartment buildings, or as traditional hard-wired apartment intercom systems.
This guide highlights the many options available for an intercom system for apartment complexes and the benefits. Also outlined are the installation costs, process and management requirements for intercom systems for apartment buildings.
Residents in a multi-tenant apartment building receive different kinds of visitors they need to grant access to. Visitors may be friends or family, couriers delivering packages or food, contractors or tradespeople carrying out maintenance work and more.
When visitors arrive at the building entrance, they need a method of contacting the people they are visiting to gain access. In a small apartment complex, visitors could go to a front desk, concierge or security office, but in a complex with hundreds of units and large numbers of visitors, a front-desk operation could be difficult to manage.
Multi-tenant intercom systems or a multi-unit intercom system offers a more practical alternative. Visitors can use an intercom system to contact individual occupants to request access. A multi-tenant video intercom system allows each resident to check the identity of the visitor before they grant access by voice using an audio-based intercom system, or by sight, using a multi-unit video intercom system.
Apartment intercom systems with door release also enable residents to unlock doors for visitors without having to leave their apartment and open the door manually. An apartment building intercom that works with a smartphone (a cloud-based intercom system) further improves convenience for residents. Even if they are not at home, residents can receive access requests on their smartphones. If they recognize the visitor, they can unlock doors remotely using a mobile credential via a smartphone app.
For owners of apartment complexes, apartment intercom system installation can strengthen security in the building, add value to the property and increase tenant satisfaction. A multi-tenant intercom system also reduces the workload of the building’s front desk or security staff.
Intercom systems for multi-unit buildings provide important benefits for residents, visitors, security teams and property managers:
Apartment intercom systems are fitted to the entrances of apartment complexes. You will also find an intercom system for condos at the entrance of the condominium, or at the entrance of gated communities (such as a gated community video intercom system). The intercom systems enable two-way audio or visual communication between visitors and residents. When visitors arrive at a building entrance, they use the intercom system fitted to a door panel to contact a resident and request access. The door panel incorporates a directory, which enables the visitor to contact the right tenant.
Visitors identify themselves by talking into a microphone. If an apartment intercom system with video is installed at the entrance, visitors can identify themselves via a video camera. The entrance hardware may also incorporate a door buzzer for apartments, which visitors can use to alert residents before identifying themselves.
Residents view or listen to the visitor on a computer screen, dedicated unit or smartphone. If they recognize the visitor and want to allow access, they can send a signal to the entrance, either by pressing a button on the apartment building intercom system or using an app on their phone for a wireless apartment intercom system with door release to open the electronic door lock.
If you are using a multi-tenant access control intercom that forms part of an access control system for the building, all data from the system is captured by the security team. This creates a record of access events that security professionals can review to identify any unusual activity or attempts at unauthorized entry. Property managers or a property management system can also use the data to assess the capacity, usage patterns and performance of the intercom system.
User-friendly video intercoms with AI voice recognition
Vet visitors with two-way audio and live video on mobile
End-to-end encryption and offline functionality
Remote unlock and secure access for authorized users
Hassle-free site management on a single dashboard
There are three main types of intercom systems for multi-unit apartments:
Each of the solutions can be configured as an apartment intercom system with door release to enable remote door unlocking.
Buzzer systems for apartments provide the most basic form of access control. A visitor selects a resident’s name from the directory and activates the buzzer. A microphone and speaker at the entrance allow visitors and residents to speak to each other to establish identity (also known as a telephone entry system). When residents verify the visitor’s identity, they send a signal to release the door and allow property access or visitor access.
While door buzzer systems for apartments are simple and convenient to use for quick building access, they provide minimal security. The resident must be able to recognize a voice without any way to visually verify who the visitor is. For example, an intruder could pose as a delivery courier by just giving the name of a delivery firm. If a person gains entry by giving a false name, security teams have no visual records to help identify the intruder.
When it comes to a phone video intercom system, apartment building residents need convenience and reliability. A building intercom that works with cellphones adds a further level of convenience, but, like apartment door buzzer systems, basic cellphone-based systems lack the features for visual identification of visitors. For added security, an apartment building phone video intercom system setup is recommended.
Visitors using an apartment intercom cellphone system locate the resident they wish to visit from a directory. The directory holds the contact numbers for all tenants and, when the visitor selects a contact, the system rings the appropriate number. The resident can speak to the visitor using the microphone and speaker. Tenants can then open the door remotely by using a ‘release’ feature on the mobile app, or by pressing a specific button as configured by the apartment intercom door entry system.
One important benefit of apartment intercom systems for cellphones is that they give residents the flexibility to handle access requests and unlock doors even if they are not in the apartment (remote access). Apartment intercom systems are a truly mobile solution that offers high levels of convenience for residents.
To overcome the security risks of voice-only recognition, a video intercom system to cellphone access system is available. These systems provide stronger security to protect residents, as well as visual evidence in the event of an intrusion. The main difference with this type of apartment intercom system is the door buzzer also has a camera installed, so tenants can see who’s at the door when they call in. Combined with the popularity and functionality of smartphones, apartment intercom cellphone systems provide an attractive solution for both residents and security teams.
Video intercom systems for apartment buildings provide the highest level of security of the three intercom systems. Residents can see images of visitors before granting access with an apartment video door phone intercom system, which makes it more difficult for intruders to bypass the system. As an added precaution, residents can ask delivery drivers or contractors to show identity to the apartment video intercom to have a record on the cell phone access system.
Visitors select a name from the directory and the system transmits their facial image to the resident’s screen or smartphone. Apartment video intercom and door entry systems enable residents to open the door to authorized visitors. A multi-unit video intercom system also provides security teams with visual records of all access events, which makes it easier to obtain evidence in the event of an intrusion or security incident.
A multi-unit intercom system has seven basic components:
Base stations for apartment intercom access systems are located at each entrance to an apartment complex, condo or gated community that is accessible to visitors. They may also be located at the entrance to parking areas.
Base stations house the hardware to support apartment intercom and access control systems. Typically, the hardware consists of an apartment buzzer system, directory of residents, microphone and speaker, with some units also offering a built-in video camera.
The hardware is installed outside the building in a door panel which can be flush-mounted or surface-mounted by the entrance. The base station should be designed and built for reliable operation under all environmental conditions and it should be tamper-proof to deter vandals or criminals.
Sub-stations for multi-family intercom systems are located in each unit within a building, as well as at the security office or front desk. This enables visitors to contact individual residents directly to request access. Residents can use a variety of desktop or mobile devices as base stations, including laptops, personal computers, tablets, smartphones and dedicated intercom displays.
Smartphones fitted with an approved app are an increasingly popular choice for sub-stations for residential intercom, condo intercom systems and gated community entrance intercom systems. In conjunction with the app, they provide the functionality to handle audio or video intercom requests, as well as remote door release. Residents can use smartphones to handle a wireless apartment intercom system with door release and access control system functions even when they are away from the apartment. Residents who manage apartment intercom security on a smartphone might also have the option to manage their security alongside other smart home functions in an integrated app.
Base stations for multi-family intercom systems incorporate directories of all users within a complex. They enable visitors to search for contacts by name, apartment number or cellphone number if the system if cellphone-enabled. The directory is stored in a server on-site or in the cloud, and is maintained by security staff or property managers who add or remove residents’ names when changes occur. Some apartment and condo video intercom systems are voice-activated, so there is no directory to physically scroll through. Instead, a set of prompts will route visitor calls to the correct resident or staff member.
Base stations are connected to individual sub-stations in a multi-unit intercom system by direct cabling, local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) or wireless networks. The network transmits alerts when visitors press a buzzer or activate two-way audio or video messages to confirm identity between base station and substation, and door release signals between substations and electronic door locks.
Networks are a more cost-effective solution than direct cabling, which can be expensive to install or replace and lacks the scalability of networks. A single LAN, WAN or wireless network installed throughout a complex simply requires local connections to each sub-station.
The network must be reliable and capable of transmitting signals at high speed, even under heavy traffic conditions when visitor numbers are high. Where IP video intercom systems for apartment buildings are installed, the network must have the bandwidth to transmit the large file sizes that the video generates.
The latest networks use IP (Internet Protocol) technology to meet the requirements of large-scale multi-apartment video intercom systems in buildings where there may be hundreds of individual base stations. IP-based solutions organize data into ‘packages’ suitable for transmission on IP networks using a set of rules or protocols. The rules enable data to be exchanged in both directions between intercom devices that have individual IP addresses. In apartment intercom systems, the devices would include base stations, video cameras, sub-stations, management systems and electronic door lock systems.
To ensure optimum performance of an IP multi-tenant intercom under busy conditions, the network should incorporate features such as automatic rerouting in case of network congestion and traffic prioritization, which ensures that traffic such as intercom communications have priority over other services running on the same network.
Wireless networks are a flexible solution that enables residents to receive access requests on mobile devices in any part of the building. Wireless apartment intercom systems and specifically a wireless video intercom system with door release improves convenience for residents and visitors. A Wi-Fi apartment doorbell intercom system for multi-unit apartment buildings can be useful if a complex has communal areas, such as gyms or residents’ lounges. However, the wireless network must have the capacity to provide high signal strength throughout a building. Any areas where signals are weak can lead to poor service and frustration for residents and visitors.
With apartment intercom systems with door release, residents can open entrance doors remotely without leaving their apartments. This is done by sending door release signals to the door panel. The signal triggers a relay which releases the electronic lock. Commercial electronic door locks typically come in two types: electric strike locks that use an electric motor and magnetic strike locks that incorporate an electromagnet to activate the lock mechanism.
Door panels, video cameras and electronic door locks for a multi apartment video intercom system require power, which can be supplied by dedicated cabling or by Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) technology. PoE is supplied from the network, which reduces overall costs by eliminating the need for dedicated cabling. PoE is also more scalable. Additional intercom devices can simply be connected to the network, with no need for new power cabling.
The infrastructure for a multi-unit intercom system can be based on-site in servers or hosted in the cloud. If the infrastructure is based on-site, it has to be maintained and updated by the security team. If the intercom system expands, additional server capacity will be required.
Cloud-based intercom systems for apartment buildings are managed, maintained and updated by the hosting company. Cloud solutions offer unlimited storage capacity, so security teams can add capacity on demand by increasing the subscription with no disruption or delay.
The other advantage of cloud-based infrastructure is that data is accessible from any Internet-connected or mobile device in any location. This means that security teams and property managers can review intercom data, update directories or manage the system without having to be on-site, increasing convenience and operational flexibility.
Intercom systems for apartment buildings can be first-time installations, projects to upgrade apartment intercom systems, or to replace a multi-unit video intercom system that does not meet performance requirements.
A multi-unit intercom system must have the capacity to support multiple entrances and sub-stations in all units, with the flexibility and scalability to allow additions or changes if the building is modified.
The network supporting an apartment video intercom system and door entry systems must have the speed, performance, bandwidth and reliability to allow access requests and door release instructions quickly to ensure visitor and resident satisfaction.
A wireless apartment intercom system for apartment buildings must provide adequate signal strength throughout the property to ensure fast response to access requests at all times.
Dedicated cabling should be minimized by using network connectivity for apartment access control and intercom systems, and PoE technology to provide power to all apartment intercom system components.
Apartment building intercom systems should be designed and built to open standards so that they can be easily integrated with other security and building management systems. For example, integrating apartment intercom entry systems with apartment video security cameras, intruder alarms and sensors increases overall security and gives operators a 360-degree view of security throughout the building. Integrating apartment intercom systems with commercial video security, fire alarms, smoke detectors and environmental control systems increases safety throughout the building.
The latest multi-tenant intercoms can provide many important benefits for a property. To help plan and implement the optimum intercom for apartment building solution, look to security system professionals for advice and guidance. Security system installers will also be able to help replace an outdated door buzzer system for apartments with a modern apartment intercom system, provide guidance on condo intercom replacements or intercom equipment for condo apartment buildings and give advice on the best multi-building doorbell systems and multi-unit building doorbell panels. Security video intercom installers can also provide support in the form of detailed planning, site surveys and installation services customized to the needs of the property.
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