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Multi Tenant Intercom System Buying Guide

A guest, a dog walker, a contractor, and a delivery person walk up to the main door of a multi-unit building. What’s the first thing they do when they reach the door?

All of them use the multi-tenant intercom system to enter the building. Depending on the type of intercom system, they can look up their host’s number using an electronic or fixed directory and buzz their apartments, call them on mobile, unlock the door using their phone, or even enter the building directly using face recognition credentials.

If you are a property manager looking for a solution to manage visitors, secure package deliveries, and create a safe and peaceful multi-unit building, a multi-tenant intercom system is what you need. This buying guide is going to help you understand multi-tenant intercoms better and make an informed decision when investing in an intercom system for your property

In this article:

What are Multi Tenant Intercom Systems?

A modern multi-tenant intercom system is a combination of electronic hardware and software that allows two-way conversations between a visitor and an employee or tenant of a multi-unit commercial or multifamily property so the employee or tenant can ascertain the visitor’s identity and unlock the door electronically.

Initially built for internal communications, multi-tenant intercom systems have become a vital part of a building’s security today. Modern intercom systems allow employees or tenants to receive visitor calls on their mobile phones and unlock the door remotely from anywhere. Video intercoms allow the host to watch who is at the door before allowing access. Cloud-based integrated video intercom and access control systems like Swiftlane can be used to issue permanent or time-barred automatic entry codes to trusted visitors.

How Multi Tenant Intercoms are Different from Single Tenant Intercoms

A single-tenant intercom, also called a single-unit intercom, only allows conversations between the visitor and the front-desk or a single unit. The video doorbell you might be using at home is a single-tenant intercom.

 A single-tenant intercom system typically has only two components, a doorbell and a receiver. The doorbell is connected directly to the receiver using telephone cable or wirelessly if it is an IP intercom system. Some single-tenant intercoms do provide video calling and remote unlocking capability, but they are only suitable for single-unit properties such as homes, shops, clinics, and small offices. 

Multitenant intercoms are a different kind of beast. They allow the visitor to call multiple units in the building and speak with the inmate of each individual office or apartment via two-way audio and video calling. Each tenant can unlock the front door for their own guests, deliveries, dog walkers, shrinks, contractors, cleaning crews, or other visitors that need to be admitted.

Like a single-tenant intercom, the entry station of a multi-tenant system is also equipped with a calling button, a mic, a speaker, and a video camera if it is a video intercom system. Additionally, a multi-tenant intercom’s door station is also equipped with a searchable electronic directory. The visitor can find the name or unit number of the host  and call them directly.

For receiving the calls, the older generation of multi-tenant intercoms required indoor stations to be installed in each unit. With everyone carrying a mobile phone these days,  modern intercom systems such as Swiftlane can route the visitors’ calls directly to the host’s smartphone. 

This means the hosts can speak with their visitors even when they are not in the building and unlock the door after making sure they are, in fact, who they say they are. This also means you don’t have to run cables between the entry station and each indoor station. Where required, a wireless or ethernet-based indoor station can be provided.

Unlike a single-tenant intercom, a multi-tenant intercom system can secure multiple entries. The latest multi-tenant intercoms are connected to the cloud and can be scaled to multiple buildings. They can also automatically store each visit and unlock event for each user. In case of an occurrence, security teams, property managers and tenants can access the data and see who entered or left the building at any given time and date. Most single-tenant intercom systems do not provide these features.

How a Modern Multi Tenant Intercom Systems Works

The caller uses a pushbutton LCD or touchscreen interface on the intercom’s entry station to browse a directory and call the office or apartment they’re visiting. The inmate can speak with the visitor and even see them if the building has a video intercom system installed. After verifying the visitor’s identity, the resident can unlock the building’s door by pressing a button on the intercom’s indoor station. 

Behind the scenes, the intercom system’s entry station is mounted on a building’s LAN or a dedicated ethernet network. The intercom system is connected to the internet and the cloud and can communicate with indoor stations, mobile phones, and apartment landlines using VoIP protocols. 

Speaking of management, multi-tenant intercom systems have electronic directories that can be used to store the tenant’s names, apartment numbers and phone numbers. Older intercom systems required users to go to the master station to change the directory settings. But, modern cloud-based systems such as Swiftlane allow remote directory management via mobile apps and browsers. 

Sometimes cloud-based intercoms are connected with access control and other building systems such as video surveillance, alarms and visitor management systems to create a unified security platform.  

Types of Multi Tenant Intercom Systems

Many types of multi-tenant Intercom systems are available in the market—wired, wireless, 2-wire, video, full-duplex, half-duplex, PLC, Cat5, and more. For your convenience, we have classified multi tenant intercoms chronologically, based on their timeline, so you may select the best system for this day and age.

Apartment Buzzers: Modern electronic multi tenant building intercoms have evolved from apartment buzzers that you can still find in vintage apartment buildings today. Using the buzzer, the visitor could ring any apartment in a building and the host could come down to the lobby or just look out a window to see who was around. The system worked, but it was neither safe nor convenient. 

Analog Intercoms: As science progressed, so did intercom systems. There came electronic intercoms that used telephone lines or even power lines for voice communication. These analog systems had serious quality and security issues because of interference from other electrical circuits and the possibility of someone snooping in on the conversation. 

Digital/2-Wire Intercoms: Analog intercom systems gave way to digital intercom systems that were more secure and had more features. Still being used at many multi-tenant establishments, these systems use shielded or unshielded twisted cables to connect master stations and substations. Most of them feature a push button and LCD interface at the entry station, using which the visitor can browse a directory and call a resident. Sometimes called 2-wire intercoms, these systems have very limited features and require miles of cable to be pulled, which is why nobody buys them these days. 

Cat 5 Inercoms: Meanwhile, the twisted pair and Cat 3 cable was replaced with Cat 5, Cat 5e and Cat 6 cables with much higher throughput and speed. Ethernet could now carry HD voice and even video. As Cat 5e and Cat 6 networks became pervasive, a new generation of multi tenant intercoms entered the market. Called IP intercom systems, these latest systems install on existing ethernet networks and offer way more features than their predecessors.

IP Intercom Systems

Today’s high-tech multi-tenant intercoms make use of VoIP connectivity to connect visitors to hosts over the internet. For example, Swiftlane video intercom system can route the calls made from the entry station to people’s mobile phones. The powerful TCP/IP protocols enable wired and wireless two-way audio and video communications between your employees or tenants and their visitors, security staff, or other residents. 

IP based intercom stations can talk to each other over your existing ethernet network or LAN, which makes their installation convenient and affordable. Ethernet is the communication backbone in almost every commercial and residential building these days. Cat 5e or 6 cables are present on every floor of a modern building, so you don’t need to install dedicated cabling, like with legacy intercom systems.  

The entry door station uses PoE (Power over Ethernet), so you don’t need separate power cables either. Once the entry stations and indoor stations are installed and a PoE adapter is connected to the network, the intercom system is ready to work. Besides their easy and cost-effective installation, IP based multi-tenant intercoms offer several other benefits that make them almost the only choice for large multi-tenant applications these days. For example:

  • Wired as well as wireless connectivity using VoIP
  • The system can be managed remotely from anywhere
  • Users can receive visitor calls in their apartment or anywhere in the world
  • See who is at the door and speak to them before unlocking remotely
  • Managers can view entry events and visitor photos in real time or for any specific time and date
  • Integrate with access control, video surveillance, space management, and visitor management applications

Why Every Multi Unit Building Should Have a Multi Tenant Intercom System

Multi tenant intercom systems have been around for at least a hundred years, but their importance and need has never been greater than in the present post-COVID world. For multifamily properties, most of your tenants have been working from home for most part of the last two years. Most of them are buying most of their stuff online, which has caused the number of deliveries to your building to skyrocket. If you are like most building managers, the odds are your front-desk staff is drowning in deliveries.

And then, there are the social trends that technology has triggered. Mobile phones and apps have made people more accessible. Your guests don’t want to wait, nor do your tenants or employees. They want to be able to see and talk to the person at the door and unlock the door themselves, without the assistance of an intermediary front-desk staff. Video intercom systems provide a simple, reliable, and efficient solution to such problems.

Here are the most compelling benefits of the latest multi tenant intercom systems that make them essential for every modern multi-unit property.

1. Talk before You Unlock and Ramp Up Security

These are not the times when you could risk going to the main door to check who was knocking. Multi Tenant intercom systems ramp up a building’s security by letting tenants and/or security teams speak with visitors via voice and video calling from their apartments units or office suites. It is a simple and one of the most reliable ways to ascertain visitors’ identity before letting them into the building.

Other building entry methods such as keycards, pins, and even mobile unlock can become insecure when the card or mobile is stolen. With a multi-tenant video intercom system installed at the entry, you can be 100% sure that you are not letting in somebody who is not authorized to enter the building, while making sure that authorized guests and visitors don’t have to wait.

2. Reduce Package Theft and Ensure Secure Package Delivery

Package delivery has become a serious problem for multifamily properties after COVID. With everyone working from home and ordering most of their supplies online, the number of deliveries have surged tremendously. With a single-tenant intercom or no intercom, the role of your lobby staff is reduced to little more than human doorbells and package handlers. 

Still, an astonishing $6 billion worth of packages were estimated to be stolen in 2020.  Almost 50% of apartment and townhouse residents and more than 60% of condominium residents reported a missing or stolen package. The so-called porch pirates enter the building by claiming to be delivery guys and make away with packages already lying there waiting to be collected.

With a multi-tenant video intercom system installed, the addressee of the delivery or the security staff can see if the person at the door is really who they claim they are. SIP enabled video intercom systems can route visitors’ calls to your mobile, so you can speak to delivery personnel and unlock the door remotely even when you’re away from the building.

3. Know Who Came through the Door by Storing Calls and Entry Logs 

Cloud-connected IP based intercom systems can store all entry events and calls in the cloud. Security teams and users can access call logs and visitor photos from anywhere using web browsers and mobile applications. This allows security teams to know who pressed the call button and/or entered the building at any specific date and time in case of an emergency.

4. Reduce the Number of Failed Visits by Calling Residents on Mobile

IP intercom systems can also connect with mobile phones using SIP or Session Initiation Protocols. SIP based IP intercoms can make voice and video calls and send instant messages over private IP networks as well as call mobile phones over LTE. Users of SIP enabled multi tenant intercoms can call other users on their mobile phones even when they are not in the building. 

Swiftlane’s multi-tenant video intercom system can connect visitors’ calls via mobile app, LTE, and even a legacy apartment phone line without requiring additional cables.

5. Improve the Visitor Experience and Plug Security Loopholes

Multi Tenant intercom systems cut down waiting times by letting visitors speak directly to the person they’re visiting and gain entry into the building. They eliminate the need to use keycards, links or pins for guest access, although these options can be added to provide more convenience and security. 

The freedom from key cards puts an end to the perpetual lost or stolen card problem. It also reduces the operational burden and expense and improves security. 

6. Increase Tenant Satisfaction and Increase Occupancy

Tenants and employees can feel more secure and satisfied because they can speak to and watch the visitors sitting right in their apartment unit or office suite as well as from anywhere outside the building. They can be sure their guests will not have to experience the frustration of making an unattended call or wait for them to get back to the apartment and let them in. 

With a multi-tenant intercom system installed in your building, each tenant will know instantly when a delivery arrives for them, so they can secure the package and prevent it from getting lost or stolen.

7. Deliver a Great Impression and Increase Rental Value

An aesthetically designed modern video intercom system at the front door makes a great impression on your first-time visitors, clients, contractors, and guests. It delivers a seamless entry experience while providing a sense of security. An intercom system is one of those things that can increase the rental value of a building.

Swiftlane’s Swiftreader has the option to include facial recognition unlock, which allows high-value visitors to enter your office just by facing the reader. Visitors can also use mobile unlock when they have the secure entry codes sent to them by their hosts.

The Best Multi Tenant Intercom Systems

So, which intercom system is best for your building? To make your job easier, we have put together a comparison of the best multi tenant intercom systems available in the market today. Follow the link to read the full reviews!

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