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  • Writer's pictureCorey Menscher

Consumer Products Can't Compete with Managed Services

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

We are often asked why a system like ours is preferable to consumer home automation products. The assumption is that buying several hundred WiFi sensors on Amazon and turning them over to tenants will cost less. The fact of the matter is that a managed solution like Perceptive Things® has far fewer costs, and is vastly more maintainable and effective than one of cobbled-together consumer products.

Scale - You want to install how many?

The most important difference between managed systems like Perceptive Things® and consumer home automation products is the ability to scale. Consumer products are designed for individual households in single-family homes. They do not consider the collective risk of high-rise living, or the way they are operated.

Consumer product customers are the sole stakeholders for the entire property, and they are the only people who can respond to an incident like a water leak. This is not true in multi-family buildings. Resident managers, doormen, porters, building engineers, property managers, and tenants all participate in the response to damage-causing incidents.

Consumer products are designed for individual households in single-family homes, and do not consider the collective risk of high-rise living, or the way they are operated.

Leaks in a high-rise are typically reported by a tenant observing a condition that requires attention by building management. (“There’s water pouring from my ceiling!”) Delays in such notifications lead to valuable lost time. The expectation of prompt notification of an incident falls upon the recipient of damage, who may not even be home, and is often not even the source of the problem to begin with. Their frantic messages are usually communicated over a single channel, like a call to a front desk or manager, which then kicks off a chain of one-to-one notifications to the response team.

A more effective process is to notify all stakeholders, on multiple channels (text, voice, and email) simultaneously. For this to happen with consumer products, each apartment’s sensors would need to be individually configured to contact the right people on the right channels. That also leads us to sensor connectivity itself.


Networks - How will all these sensors get online?

Managed networks are common in commercial settings. A good example is a property-wide corporate WiFi network provided by a third party vendor, like Cisco. Managed networks avoid the complexity of maintenance, optimization, and security for their customers.

The prospect of deploying consumer products at the scale of a building presents many obstacles. Let’s consider an example of a 200-unit high rise that wants to deploy hundreds of consumer-grade ZigBee networked sensors throughout the building, each of which requiring a hub and installation of multiple sensors per apartment. The following questions must be answered for each apartment's deployment:

  • How will tenants be trained on the proper installation and configuration of each sensor and hub? How long will it take until full protection is achieved?

  • How will each hub get online? Who will deal with technical issues if installation fails? Who will provide support?

  • Who will ensure the appropriate alert contacts are configured in the system? Who will maintain updated information for those contacts?

  • Who will be responsible for ensuring each hub remains online and up-to-date with security patches?

  • Is the tenant willing and able to act in the event of an offline hub, a low sensor battery, or an inoperative sensor? Will the tenant be responsive to this need and resolve the situation in a sufficiently timely manner? How will they be notified and managed?

  • What happens in unoccupied or periodically occupied apartments? Who will manage each system when no one is home for months?

  • What happens when there is tenant turnover? Will the system remain in place? Will a new product be supplied to the new owners? How will the hub and alert contacts be reconfigured? Who will train them?

  • How will adding hundreds of wireless devices on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums impact WiFi networks throughout the property?

These are just the larger questions, too. Individual cases and conditions could mean tailoring dozens of solutions around the building, ZigBee here, WiFi there, cellular elsewhere. The result will lead to gaps in protection.

Our managed system yields comprehensive and reliable protection for the entire building while eliminating the substantial time and attention your staff would need to dedicate to its maintenance.

A managed system like Perceptive Things® takes all of these problems off your hands. We ensure the entire building is covered by our wireless network and keep watch over its performance and maintenance. We provide internet connectivity and optimize radio performance for each and every device, without the need for WiFi or ethernet to be provided by the building or tenants. Our managed system yields comprehensive and reliable protection for the entire building while eliminating the substantial time and attention your staff would need to dedicate to its maintenance.


Maintainability and Security

The work is not over once a sensor monitoring system is in place. As mentioned above, changing conditions like tenant turnover, renovations, updated internet providers and hardware with new passwords, and a host of other circumstances means a system in constant flux. Plus, different technologies can require differing processes and periods for tasks like battery changes. WiFi-based sensors will usually have a battery life of six months or less. Others, like LoRa-based sensors, can operate up to several years on a single set of batteries. In the case of a consumer product installed in our fictitious 200-unit building above, you will need to expect 200 different households to be responsible for low battery notifications, and trust each of them to install new batteries in a timely fashion, or at least make sure building management is notified when it is an issue.

The same also holds true for important security tasks, such as applying firmware updates. Deploying hundreds of consumer products will require hundreds of devices to be independently secured by hundreds of individual apartment owners throughout their operational life.

Managed services like Perceptive Things® makes these responsibilities effortless. Security patches are maintained and handled by us. While we may not come over and change every battery for you, you can be assured that the right people will know when it's time to do so!


The Perceptive Things® Advantage

The Perceptive Things® platform is optimized for high rise building management professionals. We understand how buildings operate and provide service and consultation with a personalized approach. We know from experience that every building is different.

We handle most of the details, from providing all the networking hardware necessary to cover your building at no additional cost, to installing batteries and provisioning your sensors so they are ready to go upon receipt. We make managing a complex system of sensors, wireless networks, and software effortless and unobtrusive.

Our products are all industrial-quality, built to last for years in tough environments, with low-power operation for up to five years of battery life. Our platform uses best-in-class systems and technology providers, such as Amazon AWS, Twilio, T-Mobile, AT&T, and MultiTech.

We make managing a complex system of sensors, wireless networks, and software effortless and unobtrusive.

Because our wireless network connects to our cloud platform through cellular networks, we provide incomparable network security. Our systems never touch tenant or building networks. We have also designed our administrative interface specifically for how buildings operate in teams. Access control and notification logic can be managed in a granular way that makes sense for an entire property. For example, tenant users are restricted to data and notifications for their own apartments, resident managers can only access data and notifications for their own buildings, and property managers can access their entire portfolio of buildings in one single interface.

Perceptive Things is committed to providing a proactive approach to technology-based risk mitigation, freeing staff resources and promoting a sense of stewardship for your tenants.

Choose the right tool for protecting your property. Contact us today!

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