Access Control For Planned Communities Opens New Market
A VAR integrates access control with ID card technology to expand its client base.
Since planned master community residents pay prime dollar for a particular lifestyle, many developers specializing in those communities are concerned with identifying residents and providing automated security access for the community members. Plus, those developers are interested in gathering data about amenities being used by residents while also granting access to those areas. For CI Solutions, a California software integrator, that need opened a new market for their ID card and access control business. Among its clients is a Del Webb active lifestyle community in Beaumont, CA. A far cry from the retirement homes of the past, this gated community features a lifestyle geared toward active seniors — anyone more than 55 years old. This new breed of 'retirement' communities offers fitness centers, golf courses, classes and clubs, and more — all surrounded by custom homes in a secured environment.
The challenge laid out to CI Solutions was as simple as providing customized ID cards and as complicated as installing access control for the amenities offered within the community and then tracking usage patterns of residents. "For Del Webb, this project wasn't just 'put one in and hope,'" explains Mark Cole, president of CI Solutions. "They had a strategy for security, and they knew they wanted to know what amenities people are using so they could determine what was most popular as they moved forward and built more of these communities." After evaluating the site, which had already been constructed, CI Solutions recommended using a Zebra Technologies P330i card printer driven by CI Badge photo ID software to produce ID cards. The cards can be customized to include text, graphics such as logos, and resident photos on a UHF (ultra high frequency) card. Then, the integrator suggested CI Verify software to track resident card usage. CI Verify is a physical access control application that collects data about what areas residents are visiting and tracks which activities residents are using within the facility. With CI Verify software and PCs installed at the access points within the community, Del Webb can issue ID cards on-site and track usage patterns as residents use their cards for access and select their amenity destination on the PC keyboard. For example, if residents use their ID card to access the community's recreation facility, they will be asked to choose their destination on the keyboard, with the screen listing such amenities as 'weight room.'
Use Customer Trends To ID New Markets
Cole says when it came to winning the contract — experience mattered. "Access control has a huge on-site installation component with software, electrical, and hardware, and you have to manage the workflow of the installation," says Cole. "We've been in business for more than 15 years, and we have dealt with planned master communities for quite some time now. That definitely helped us get this customer." It took about two months to complete the installation, which cost $36,000 for four RF (radio frequency) card readers (two at pools, two paired with PCs at points where amenity choices were recorded), the software, and a digital camera. Cole says Del Webb realized savings immediately. "They saved the cost of having staff at several access points manning sign-in sheets, plus they gained the by-product of information, which is hard to put a number on; but they find the information invaluable," explains Cole.
CI Solutions expects to continue working in the booming planned master community business after recognizing market potential and focusing advertising efforts on that specific arena. "We made a conscious decision about four years ago that these communities were going to be a great next market," says Cole, who adds that CI Solutions saw more planned communities contacting it to buy large numbers of ID cards. "That indicated expansion and potential market growth. Here was a large card opportunity — not just an ID card solution was needed, though; they also needed to integrate other technology." Cole explains that while a typical solution in the photo ID space runs about $5,000 to $10,000, a property access control solution runs between $30,000 and $50,000. CI Solutions uses trade shows, direct mail, and print advertising to raise awareness of their solutions for planned master communities. For CI Solutions, the decision to pursue the access control market, in particular planned communities, has paid off. "We have added 12 accounts in this space in the last two and a half years and earned about $300,000 in additional access control system placement revenue. Better yet, these new placements create solid recurring revenue with service agreements and supplies." While the photo ID space is crowded with competitors, the integrated ID card tracking and access control market is wide open, says Cole. "For a VAR, these planned master communities are an opportunity in a new, growing market."