Video Intercom Systems
Video intercom apps give users a range of benefits, from having tabs on their building entrance no matter where they are, to letting in delivery and maintenance people while on vacation or running errands.
Video Intercom System Components
Basic video intercom system components include master stations, entrance stations, tenant stations, built-in cameras for monitoring entryways, and software such as mobile apps. In large systems, multiple master stations may be linked to multiple entrance stations, cameras, and apps. These are usually integrated with access control, allowing admins to remotely unlock doors for guests. Cloud-based video intercom systems that pair with apps are here to stay. For most intercom users in today’s mobile-centered world, the ability to simply swipe on a phone app to view guests and grant entry is a huge draw. Cloud-based systems are likely to become the new norm as more and more commercial and residential buildings switch over.
A master station receives calls and displays video of visitors at the door on a monitor. It is placed inside the building, where communication needs to be received — at a receptionist’s desk or a guard’s station, for example. Master stations typically have a door release button to remotely grant access to visitors, and special functions including broadcasting, paging, and inbound call transfers are generally possible from these stations. Cloud-based apps offer similar functions to master stations, and can be used offsite.
Entrance stations are positioned at the door or gate where visitors are coming in, and include built-in surveillance cameras. These are typically pinhole cameras inside the entrance station. Visitors can press a button on the station panel to an interior station and/or phone app, and speak into the speaker. Entrance stations can be integrated with access control, such as card readers, fingerprint readers, keypads, and Bluetooth.
Video intercom mobile apps let residents, staff, and property managers see and speak to visitors at the entrance station from their smartphone. Past mobile apps have required users to be onsite to use the app, as they needed to connect to the building wi-fi signal. More recent systems solve this problem by using cloud-based apps, which enable video communication and door release from any location, as long as the device can connect to the internet.
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What Can You Do With a Video Intercom System?
Keep Out Intruders
Door intercom systems can benefit any building or campus that needs to boost safety by remotely verifying and letting in visitors. Intercom systems for businesses with valuable merchandise and data prevent theft by keeping criminals from getting inside in the first place. A small investment in intercom security can pay off significantly in safeguarding properties, assets, and employees.
Video intercoms at front doors or gates can let users see when packages or mail have been delivered. Video monitoring can also catch package thieves in the act, if they still choose to steal while being recorded by cameras.
See People Before Letting Them In
This may be the biggest advantage of having video capabilities. Video intercoms keep employees and tenants from having to cross their fingers and hope the person they’re letting in is the right one. Without video, it is hard to be sure the person you’re speaking with is really a delivery or maintenance person, and is not carrying a gun or otherwise presenting a visual threat. Cameras also let security staff see incidents at the door in real time, enabling them to respond quickly.
Video intercoms let users see time-stamped pictures and video footage of guests, so business owners and managers can see who entered a facility, and when. This can provide valuable recorded proof in case of criminal incidents that go to court.
Intercoms also provide an easy way of communicating between rooms and buildings, saving time by uniting office communication into one secure system. Employees can instantly relay quick messages, broadcast office-wide announcements, and start video meetings. This becomes even more convenient and flexible when used with a mobile video app. Intercom systems are useful for schools, office buildings, campuses, hospitals, and any other facility in need of streamlined communication.
Video intercoms make guest authentication more possible in areas with high noise levels — buildings on a busy street, for instance — where it is difficult to rely on audio.
Employee video communication
Intercoms with video provide a platform for employees to communicate through quick video calls between rooms and buildings, instantly connecting them without having to go through an app or the cloud. Admins can also watch and speak to employees through video intercoms — this is useful in settings where managers must communicate with workers to direct actions and ensure safety protocols are in place.
Indoor or Outdoor Intercom System
Intercom hardware placed outside in areas with rough weather or high crime should be properly equipped to withstand battering and tampering. This means choosing a durable, weather-proofed system. You will also need a system with dimensions that will properly fit into your space, and that can be mounted on the surfaces of your facility.
Wired vs Wireless Intercom Systems
Intercoms have traditionally used low voltage wires run between all master stations, entrance stations, and tenant stations. This installation process can be costly and time-consuming, especially in larger systems that require running cables to more stations. Wireless intercoms were invented as a response to this, but these are vulnerable to interception, tampering, and battery failure. Wired intercom systems offer better security, more reliable power, and a bigger range than wireless intercoms.
IP intercom systems
IP intercom systems are a modern solution that connect to an existing IP infrastructure to transmit data. Most IP intercoms are PoE (powered over Ethernet). They still use ethernet cables to connect devices to a LAN, and cables from door strikes or locks to a lock power supply, if the system includes door access control — but IP intercoms cut down on the amount of cabling needed. IP intercoms enable wireless connection to smartphones, eliminating the need to install in-unit tenant panels by letting people just use an app.
Integration with existing systems
Unless you’re starting with a clean slate, it’s important to think about any systems that are already in your building before you plan what to add to it. Existing structures including gates, door hardware, elevators, cameras, alarms, concierge stations, and key card systems should be integrated with intercom and door release systems. For properties that already have a lot of equipment, intercom systems that offer a flexible range of integrations are ideal.
Intercom mobile apps
Video intercoms with smartphone apps can eliminate tenant stations and even master stations for a more mobile solution with lower installation costs. The ability to access a building with a smartphone also eliminates the need for key fobs and cards, which is great for a more streamlined system and for residents and staff who forget their keys. Facility owners and managers who want the latest and most convenient video intercom technology should look into systems offering mobile apps.
If your building has phone lines, you can integrate intercom capabilities into these. A more up-to-date option is to connect intercoms to an internet network. These network-based intercom systems can pair with mobile apps.
Hardware and installation costs, monthly fees, and how long a system takes to install are all considerations for property owners and managers. Installation and mounting prices are the most variable up-front costs for intercom systems, especially wiring and mounting of panels. Intercom buyers will generally also pay a monthly fee whether they use telephone lines or a cloud service, though some intercom apps offer annual and lifetime subscriptions. Data plan fees for IP intercoms are smaller than telephone lines fees, especially with more intercom users. IP intercoms can connect to already-existing networks, and avoid the installation and maintenance costs of running phone lines.
An intercom system is something users interact with every day, so it’s important to choose one that offers a pleasant experience to tenants, employees, and visitors. Well-designed systems with up-to-date technology and features like smartphone apps, hands-free use, and easy navigation typically offer the best user experience. Remote elevator control is another convenient feature that saves tenants in buildings with key fobbed elevators from needing to come down to the lobby to manually let in visitors.
Different intercoms come with different features that may be important to you. These can include elevator control, private messaging, audit trails, customizable designs, property manager and tenant training, paging and broadcasting, access codes and PINs, remote programming, and more.
Surface or Flush mounting
Intercom system hardware may be surface mounted or flush mounted, which will affect the look of your space and the installation process. Surface mounted panels are simply attached to the surface of the wall, so they stick out slightly. Flush mounted panels are recessed into the wall, so the panel surface is even with the wall surface. This requires taking a gap out of the wall for the panel to fit into. Flush mounted panels look more harmonious, but their installation process makes them slightly more expensive than surface mounting.
Video intercom systems with door release
Intercom systems with door release let admins remotely unlock the door for visitors after verifying them, from a physical station or a mobile app. Without a door release button, tenants, receptionists, or guards have to actually go to the door to open it, which is inconvenient and could put them in danger. Property owners and managers should ensure their door or gate allows for door release installation. Some intercoms offer REX (Request to Exit) technology, which uses push buttons or motion sensing to allow people inside buildings to easily exit.
Integrating Video Intercom Systems, Access Control and Security Cameras
Check out how we installed a video intercom system, along with access control and security cameras, to protect this brand new multi-tenant building in Burlingame, California:
How Do Video Intercom Systems Work?
Video intercoms use security cameras to capture footage of visitors at the entryway. This footage is displayed on an interior monitor, letting admins see and speak to guests before letting them in. In door intercom systems with door release, users can press a button to remotely unlock the door for visitors. The most up-to-date systems offer cloud-based mobile apps which you can use from anywhere, as long as you have internet connection.
Who Needs a Video Intercom System?
Anyone who wants to give themselves or their tenants the added security of seeing and speaking to people at the door, or wants to set up easy-to-use building communication, should install a video intercom.
Multi-tenant intercom systems
Multi-tenant buildings such as apartment complexes and condos are prime spots for video intercoms with access control. An apartment intercom system with door release and video will allow residents to rest assured they are not letting dangerous people into their home. Gated communities can also place video intercoms at vehicle gates, to verify every car that comes in. Cloud-based apps are popular with multi-tenant facilities, as users never have to miss a visitor or delivery. They can get alerts on their phone and see who is at their door no matter where they are.
Commercial intercom systems
Intercom systems for offices, retail establishments, and other commercial buildings are a great way to ensure only employees and authorized people have access to merchandise and sensitive information. Video intercom systems are an effective addition to concierge desks, reception areas, guard stations, or any entryways that need securing against intruders.
Mixed-use building intercom systems
Mixed-use buildings can present unique security challenges — luckily, there are video intercom systems that provide solutions for mixed-use commercial and residential spaces. Intercom systems can feature elevator control, traffic control, parking structure access, and a range of other options for mixed-use buildings.
Industrial facility intercom systems
Industrial facilities such as manufacturing buildings and warehouses can use video intercom systems to enforce safety protocols, prevent theft and vandalism, and provide a safer workplace for employees. Video intercoms let users remotely view workers and direct their actions, which is helpful in settings where employees are performing physical work and operating heavy machinery.
School intercom systems
School administrators can use video intercom systems to filter out suspicious or dangerous individuals. School employees and faculty can easily communicate and broadcast announcements between stations using mobile apps.
Parking lot intercom systems
Parking lot entrances are also great places for intercoms, as staff can use them to authorize all vehicles entering the parking lot. Installing surveillance cameras in these areas can also deter criminals who target unwatched parking lots.
What Should I Consider When Choosing a Camera Intercom System?
Industrial facilities can benefit from intercoms that allow remote viewing and directing of workers, and that are sturdy enough to last in an industrial setting. The aesthetic of the intercom’s design may not be as important for these facilities.
Retail establishments should choose a system that offers physical or mobile app credentials for employee access, and secure cameras for theft prevention. Sensitive areas may need additional entrance stations.
High-rise building owners and managers may want to opt for a system that does not require extensive wiring, as this can be difficult. Systems with apps for tenants can be a great bet. Elevator control may also be important.
Large school campuses need intercom systems that can scale to multiple buildings while managing to unite communication across the entire campus. Systems with security guard outposts are also great for providing extra security to campuses.
HOA communities will want a high-quality intercom system that includes gate or entrance access control and can be used by multiple residents. Attractive hardware is also important to provide a good face to the community.
Who Is Using It?
It is important to consider how many people need to use the system, and whether they need to control door access.
Intercoms used by multiple tenants may need multiple interior tenant stations with door entry control. The tenant can also be given the option to allow visitors access by using their phone.
If property managers will be frequently using the intercom system or need to closely manage it, administrative features such as property management dashboards are a plus.
Receptionist & Employees
If the intercom is used by a receptionist at a desk to grant entry into one building, only a simple system is needed. Employees that need to regularly access buildings will need credentials, through key cards, codes, or smartphone app capabilities.
For admins or tenants who need to control access when they’re away from the building, such as to let in delivery and maintenance workers, a system with a smartphone app enabling remote door unlocking is the best choice.
Discourage Criminal Activity
Choosing intercom and access control systems that offer video, or pairing your system with existing surveillance cameras, automatically increases the safety of your facility. The presence of cameras has been shown to deter criminals, as they are less likely to target your facility or the area around it if they can see that they are being monitored.
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