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Virtual Concierge Systems : Business and Security Benefits

February 21, 2019


While you may be familiar with a Virtual Concierge in many hotels, the need has now arisen to provide the same services in apartment buildings, office buildings, university campuses, and housing service complexes.

It’s become too expensive for many of these facilities to provide critical Concierge services using full-time staff, and as a result, the Virtual Concierge is rapidly gaining traction and popularity.

Virtual Concierge System are common place in the hotel industry but have yet to become common place in Condominiums, Housing Complexes, in Universities and Colleges.

Virtual Concierge Systems are commonplace in the hotel industry but have yet to become commonplace in Condominiums, Housing Complexes, in Universities and Colleges.

What is a Virtual Concierge?

A Virtual Concierge is a system that uses modern technologies such as iPhone and Android devices, computers, televisions, and even Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to provide a variety of services which can improve the quality of life for residents of complexes.

By offering the same services as a building manager but on a 24/7 schedule, the virtual concierge can be there to assist your residents when you are unavailable.

A Virtual Concierge system can provide:

  1. General information and alerts.
  2. Facilitate services available to residents or guests.
  3. Ensure additional security features.

While Virtual Concierge systems can be as simple as a digital sign, modern systems go far beyond simple technology and work in conjunction with mobile devices to provide answers, advice, and services to guests and residents.

Virtual Concierge services are unsurprising, rapidly gaining popularity in the field of security management.

The Benefits of a Virtual Concierge System

The overall benefits of a Virtual Concierge system are to increase customer satisfaction and save labour costs.

Customers don’t have to wait in line to ask a question; they are provided self-service, resulting in much faster delivery of services and requests.

In the security realm, the Virtual Concierge security systems have proven to enhance the feeling of security for residents and guests, greatly reducing and even eliminating costly human error.

In Toronto, a condo owner was interrupted as he showered by the arrival of four women claiming they were there to clean his suite. They had been given the key by the Apartment Concierge. The owner was surprised since he had not ordered any cleaning staff.

This kind of error can quickly happen. It’s not unusual for cleaning ladies to be into a condominium at 9 am during a weekday, however, in this case, the Concierge made a mistake.

A Virtual Concierge will not make that same mistake.

In this series: Benefits of a Virtual Concierge System, we will describe the business reasons, functions, technical architecture, and implementation approach of a Virtual Concierge system focused on security management.

Let’s start by looking at the business reasons for implementing this new technology.

Why You Need a Virtual Concierge

 

Business Reason #1: Conventional Card Key maintenance

It was not long ago that physical keys were required to get into any residential facility, and it was the responsibility of the front desk to ensure that those desks keys were distributed correctly.

In most hotels, for example, physical keys have been replaced with cards. However, key management goes far beyond providing owners or guests with the right card key.

The systems involve ensuring that the cleaners, maintenance staff, and a myriad of other people have access to rooms, and areas of the building.

This activity requires the ability to manage card keys, and ensure that the right individuals have access to specific places and parts of the building that they are authorized to enter.

Conventional card key management systems are built on individual servers that are located in the building. In most cases, there is one server per building.

If a complex has 50 buildings, there are 50 servers. These servers are often poorly managed and are in themselves a security risk.

Operating systems are often not up to date, and in most cases, backups are not created.

These poor management practices often end in disaster, when a server crashes the cost of restoring the service is high as the database needs to be rebuilt and all the access cards need to be reissued.

The price of this multiple server architecture is also high because each has its own infrastructure, administer and management costs.

Conventional card key systems require administrators to make all the changes.

Each server administrator has a way of managing access. In fact, in many cases, access is not controlled.

Many cards are granted full access simply because it is convenient. Also when an administrator leaves a company, a new administrator has to figure out what they did, as there are typically no standards for naming conventions or processes.

If a manager has a new employee join the company, they need to ask the administrator to have a card key made and access granted. They cannot make that change themselves.

In addition to creating access cards, there is the need to be able to revoke access rapidly across an entire complex.

All of the issues highlighted above result in:

  1. Time delays and inefficiencies.
  2. Additional complexity and documentation requirements.
  3. Additional work from staff.
  4. Increased human error.
  5. The high cost of maintenance.
  6. Security issues.

Business reason #2: Key cards not encrypted

Conventional key cards are not encrypted.

This makes them easily hacked by a skimmer technology that simply reads the card data. BLEKey is an example of this technology.

It can be easily installed in any card reader, and it will transmit the unencrypted passcode to a blue tooth phone, enabling criminal to have access without a card.

Business reason #3: Key Holder Management

With a virtual concierge, there is no longer a need for facilities to assign a “Key Holder.”

Traditionally Key Holders are staff members who would open doors for service staff or deliveries. This process was very time consuming and expensive.

In large complexes, the Key Holder is needed to open doors for service people.

These Key Holders are required to travel to the location, coordinate with the skilled resource, and to drive back to their main office.

Depending on the number of buildings there may need to be many Key Holders involved making this is an expensive way to manage security.

Business reason #4: Master Keys

An alternative approach is to assign a master key to the housing complex.

A master key approach is ineffective as it is likely to be lost due to human error, or be copied and distributed.

With these risks, you not only could you incur a hefty fee to replace the master key, but you can also put your facility at a significant security risk.

Business reason #5: Resident and Guest Sense of Security

Fear is on the rise in communities. Not that long ago Canadians did not lock their doors; that practice is no longer common in 2019.

Many people are afraid of being attacked, burglarized or even worse, being the victim of a home invasion which is a particular problem in many downtown residential complexes such as condominiums, where individuals often live alone.

Conventional security systems do not instill an overall sense of security with residents.

There needs to be a much more sophisticated security system implemented in almost all condos, hotels, and housing complexes to address this fear.

Guests and residents want the security management system not only to ensure that no unauthorized access can be granted into their homes or buildings.

They also want to ensure secure access to common areas such as exercise areas, common areas, and parking lots.

Furthermore, residents want their security management system to be continually monitoring those areas and identify, in real-time, unusual behaviour or activity.

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With a virtual concierge program, you can ensure you are providing your housing residents peace of mind while staying on budget.

The added benefit of implementing this system is that there are no compromises or additional fees for your residents.

To learn more about a virtual concierge program and, how it can play a role in providing your residents improved quality of life join us on March 26 at 12 pm, where will discuss The Future of Social Housing: How To Run a Successful Virtual Concierge Program.

About the Author

Bill is the Digital Strategist for FoxNet Solutions. Formerly the Cloud Chief Technologist for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Canada, Bill has provided Hybrid IT and IoT Strategic Planning advisory and planning services to over fifty Private and Public sector clients to help them migrate to a Hybrid IT Cloud Operating model. These transformation plans have helped both government and industry reduce the cost of IT, re-engineer their IT governance models, and reduce the overall complexity of IT. Bill is also a member of the Open Alliance for Cloud Adoption Team and has co-authored several documents on Cloud Maturity and Hybrid IT implementation.

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