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March 2010 – What’s new in condo and homeowner association security?

Here we reveal several new high-tech security tools and discuss the potential costs of keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to security.

1. Web-based cameras

Jenny Key , an Austin, Texas-based vice president of RealManage, a San Rafael, Calif., association management firm that oversees properties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and Texas, has seen an increasing number of associations turn to high-tech cameras connected to the web. “Associations are installing cameras in places like pools so board members or owners have the capability to log on at home and see what’s going on,” says Key, “They want to make sure whoever has access to an area is an upstanding citizen.”

San Francisco-based Dropcam is just one company that offers webcams. It has introduced Wi-Fi video cameras that allow you to view images from your web browser. If you live in a multi-unit condo building, you can allow your owners streaming access to the camera’s images over the Internet. The 3-ounce camera requires a wired or Wi-Fi broadband connection and records at 15 frames per second. The company says condo associations have installed it in their entrances and lobbies.

Prices start at $199 per camera with free live viewing. You can also pay $8.95 per month for seven days of DVR storage or $24.95 per month for a month of DVR storage.

2. Badge-printing services

“We have an association with a staffed guardhouse. With a relatively small investment, the guard can take pictures and print badges with expiration dates for all contractors and visitors,” says Bill Worrall, vice president of The Continental Group. The Continental Group is based in Hollywood, Fla., and manages 1,300 condominium and homeowner associations totaling 310,000 residential units. “That way, they know when those people are supposed to be in the association and when they’re not.”

Worrall says the hardware costs about $2,000, and the associations own the equipment. Worrall’s company covers the software side of the equipment as a value-added service to its clients.

3. Electronic signature pads

The Continental Group has also installed electronic signature pads in high rises it manages. “When visitors and contractors come in their picture is taken, and their signature is captured and archived before the person’s visit is announced to the owner. There’s a snapshot of that person in the system so we can keep track of who’s coming and going in the units and when. Unit owners can also preapprove visitors. Let’s say a nurse comes to an owner’s unit every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If that nurse is preapproved, your doorman doesn’t have to make that phone call every time.” Worrall hasn’t yet run into privacy-conscious visitors who’ve refused to allow their signature to be captured.

As with the badge-printing services, the hardware for electronic signature pads cost about $2,000, and the association owns the equipment. Worrall’s company covers the software as a value-added service to its clients.

Hoaleader

Matt Humphrey is president of the Alameda, California-based HOAleader.com, from which this article was adapted.

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