Reliable bandwidth allows audio and video streaming. Now security guards can monitor community access gates, clubhouses, pools and other amenities remotely at a fraction of the cost of on-site guards.
Palm Coast, FL – August 26, 2013 – Private and gated communities have a new alternative to 24/7 guards, the virtual guard. Reliable bandwidth is now available to stream both audio and video. This allows security guards to monitor resident and guest access gates, clubhouses, pools and other amenities from a remote location at a fraction of the cost of on-site guards.
On-site guards have several drawbacks. They get sick, they quit, they have to take breaks, they fall asleep and they cannot watch in all directions or be at two or more places at the same time. And they are expensive; roughly $120,000 to $150,000 per year per guard station for 24/7 coverage. Many communities have multiple entrances as well as amenities to secure when not in use.
Virtual guards operate much like live on-site guards. When visitors pull up to the guard kiosk, their vehicle is sensed by a loop in the pavement, triggering an event at the centralized guard location. Here, several guards, equipped with large-screen high-definition computer monitors and headsets handle incoming events on a rotating basis. They can see and hear the visitor as well as voice back to them.
At the kiosk, things progress as though the guard were there. The guard asks who the guest or vendor is visiting, verifies that the visitor is on the resident’s guest list or calls the resident to verify. After verifying the visitor’s identity, entry is allowed. If not confirmed, the visitor is denied access.
There are two important differences. First, the guard is located at a remote operations center, where a modest number of licensed guards can effectively monitor several communities. They can do this because, as we all know, live guards spend an inordinate amount of time doing nothing. Not that they are lazy. There is simply a lot of idle time built into their job.
Second, the entry gates are under constant photo surveillance. Special license plate cameras digitize all plates. Other cameras monitor entry and exit lanes. Another looks back from the entrance toward the highway, allowing the remote guards to detect cars backing up (stacking) at the gate. Such photo evidence is especially useful to recover gate damage costs. The evidence is clear and irrefutable.
Some people find clubhouses and amenities attractive after hours or in the middle of the night. Community Associations worry about safety, vandalism and liability. On-site guards are too expensive. Roaming guards are hit and miss. A virtual guard is an obvious solution. High resolution cameras sense when a person enters the closed area. Trespassers may be in the dark, but they are illuminated by the infrared cameras. The motion triggers an event at the monitoring facility and the virtual guard voices down to the trespassers. The results are very effective and the event, both audio and video, are captured. The cameras can optionally be accessed by the community’s staff during the day to help monitor live activities at the gates or amenities.
The virtual guard system can work in conjunction with live guards. Some communities use the virtual guard only at secondary gates or for night shifts. Others use the virtual guard system to free up stationary guards for roaming.
When planning a new community, developers can integrate virtual guard technology and avoid the cost of erecting guard buildings.
Many communities, like Tidelands in Palm Coast where I reside, had to trim expenses because of the housing bubble. Too many owners were not paying their assessments. At Tidelands, which has both a condominium association representing condo owners and a homeowners association for the single-family residents, one casualty of the belt tightening was the 24/7 guard service at the community’s main entrance. That service was replaced by a simple phone/keypad entry system. Access control using a phone/keypad entry system is problematic, especially with slow opening gates. Results were very unsatisfactory.
Now fiscally strong, having weathered the downturn, both Tidelands owners associations were eager to improve their access control process. In March, Tidelands installed a virtual guard system offered by Boca Raton-based Envera Systems. The recurring cost of access control at the main entrance (resident and visitors) and the “residents only” second gate are less than half the cost of a 24/7 guard at the main gate alone. Envera’s operations center is located in Sarasota.