Best office and commercial intercom systems for your business

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Security continues to be a priority for businesses – both physical and cyber security – and one of the key strategies for protecting people, property, and data is using a commercial access control system with an intercom system. In the commercial sector, intercom systems are not just a method of securing doors and other entrances, they are an integral element of smart building management, and they make an important contribution to the quality of employee and visitor experience. 

While an intercom system for commercial office spaces uses similar hardware and technologies to their residential and apartment intercom system equivalents, the demands on the systems are very different. Intercom systems for business must have the capacity to cope with larger numbers of visitors and users, the performance and durability to continue to operate efficiently under high-volume use, and the functionality to support more complex management and integration requirements.

What is a commercial intercom system?

Commercial intercom systems are used to protect office buildings as well as campuses and commercial buildings such as warehouses, factories, and retail outlets. In each building there may be a number of different organizations, each with a number of individual users who need to be contactable by visitors. Visitors include individuals arriving for meetings, delivery drivers, and contractors as well as employees who need to present credentials, such as key fobs or cards, to access buildings.

To provide visitors with access, commercial intercoms must incorporate a simple, safe method for visitors to request access or present authorized credentials at the entrance point. The system must then be capable of reaching individual users or a central point such as reception, front desk, or a security desk. 

There is a wide choice of solutions available, from office intercoms with a doorbell or phone system, to video intercoms, each with different functionality and benefits. 

Like any intercom system, a commercial intercom system features three main components:

  • Door entry panel (base station)

  • User displays (substations)

  • A method of connecting the base station to the substation by wired, wireless or networked methods

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Business intercom technologies 

Audio intercom – In basic audio-only business intercom systems, visitors press a door buzzer to make contact then use an intercom speaker system to request access. Some audio systems incorporate a directory at the door panel which visitors can use to find the right contact. If the user recognizes the identity of the visitor, they can release the door lock manually or remotely to grant access. Audio speaker systems can be used as an intercom system for the front door or the back door of the business.

Intercom speaker systems for business are the least secure method of access control. Users have to rely on the visitor’s voice: they have no other means of verifying identity. 

Telephone intercom – Similar to audio intercom, visitors call a phone number displayed on a door panel directory to request access. Users can then release the door lock if they recognize the visitor. Like audio systems, telephone intercom systems for offices rely on voice as a means of identification, which offers limited security. Office phone systems with intercom can use either landlines or mobile phones to connect visitors with users. 

Video intercom – Video intercom systems for business offer an additional level of security by providing users with visual identification of the visitor. A high-definition video camera at the door captures the image of the visitor and transmits it to a user’s device or desk intercom. The user can then grant access and release the door lock. 

In addition to enhanced security, video intercom for business offers many other important benefits, which will be discussed in the following sections. 

Wired intercom – Wired intercom systems for business connect base stations and substations with dedicated cables. A wired system would be suitable for commercial intercom applications that only require a small number of connections, for example to reception, security desks or a small number of users. The cost of connecting hundreds of individual users could prove prohibitive.

Wireless intercom – Commercial wireless intercom systems use a Wi-Fi system to connect visitors with users. Provided the Wi-Fi system has sufficient capacity, speed, and reach, wireless intercom for office can be used to connect large numbers of users directly to a base station, or be used as an office to office intercom.

Networked intercom – A networked intercom system uses a building’s local or wide-area network to transmit signals from the base station to users connected to the network. Users receive and respond to access requests on devices connected to the office network.

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Openpath’s commercial intercom system

  • All-in-one device for doorbell, intercom, video, and access 

  • Enterprise-grade call routing with AI voice recognition

  • Wave to Unlock touchless access with 99.9% reliability

  • High-definition video with real-time alerts and remote unlock

  • Easy install with PoE cabling and snap-in mount options

  • Cloud-based software to manage from anywhere, at any time

  • Open API standards and works with any access control system

  • Monitor video and access in the mobile app or Control Center

Requirements for a commercial intercom system 

When assessing intercom systems for a replacement or upgrade, it’s important to be aware of the different requirements for commercial applications. As this section shows, the demands on a commercial intercom system in terms of performance, reliability, and functionality are much greater than their residential equivalent. 

Security – First and foremost, office entry intercom systems must ensure that only authorized visitors can access the building. That means it must provide a strong method for validating visitors’ identities. Commercial video intercom systems have a clear advantage over audio or telephone-based systems in this regard. 

Support for large numbers of users – Commercial buildings often have large numbers of individual users who must be contactable by visitors. In multi-tenant buildings there may be different companies or different departments of the same company, each dealing with different visitors and customers, or suppliers delivering goods. An intercom system for a commercial office building must have the capacity and the resilience to handle high numbers of access requests simultaneously.

Centralized management – In a building with a number of different tenants, each tenant may have local office intercom systems in addition to the system covering the main entrance to the building. Ideally, the various office intercom systems should be linked to a centralized management system so that they provide consistent standards of security throughout the building, as well as a record of office intercom and visitor access activity.

Convenience for visitors – Although security is a priority, an intercom system for business must also be convenient and easy for visitors to use. For example, whether you need indoor or outdoor wireless intercom systems for business, a solution like the Openpath Video Intercom Reader Pro works well because it provides touchless hands-free voice activation for keyless door entry. Visitors don’t have to touch a screen or input any personal information, and the voice navigation removes the guesswork of figuring out which buttons to push.

Flexibility – Commercial intercom systems must be capable of offering visitors a choice of authorization methods. In addition to supporting voice or video authentication, some entry intercom systems for business allow users to provide pre-authorized visitors or delivery staff with PINs or QR codes that simplify access.

Convenience for users – When a visitor arrives, it must be easy for a user to authorize access and unlock the door, provided they have the authority. In some businesses, access is controlled centrally and a user will receive notification from a front desk intercom system or the security desk. If the business allows individual users to authorize visitor access, they should be able to handle the process from anywhere, whether they’re at their desk or not. 

A wireless door intercom system intercom for business that uses smartphones as a substation provides the most convenient solution. A smartphone app enables users to receive requests, and the wireless connection enables a user to activate the intercom system with door release remotely via an app on their smartphone. A mobile-based intercom system for business also means organizations don’t have to install additional hardware and software for new users, since they can just use their smartphones and open doors remotely.

Simple administration – A commercial intercom system with a large number of users must be easy to manage. Administrators must be able to add or remove users, or change user permissions easily so that the system remains up to date and secure. A cloud-based security system allows administrators to manage their platform rom any Internet-connected location or device, and provides the scalability to accommodate growing numbers of users or pre-authorized visitors. A mobile-based intercom system for business therefore also eliminates having to invest in additional workstations or install software for new users, since they can just use their smartphone.

Event recording and storage – Intercom systems for businesses must have the facilities to record and store images of visitors, together with time and date information. The recordings provide essential information in the event of a security breach, as well as for regular system audits. These records can also help facilities managers plan future capacity, manage tenants, and inform key business decisions for commercial spaces. A cloud storage solution that can be accessed from any location simplifies management and also provides scale to accommodate growing numbers of records without additional hardware and on-site maintenance.

Remote operation – Visitors can arrive at inconvenient times – when a user is in a meeting, out of the office, or after hours. That makes it important for office intercom systems to incorporate remote operation. For example, security staff may want to use an outdoor intercom system for business to give contractors access to main entrance doors after hours without having to remain on the premises. An office intercom system with remote door release provides that capability, usually through a cloud-based control dashboard or via a secure app. 

Interoperability – An intercom system for commercial buildings is increasingly integrated with other related systems to create a smart property management system. That makes it essential for the intercom system to be interoperable with other third-party applications for seamless integration and centralized management. Openpath’s Video Intercom Reader Pro, for example, incorporates open APIs and mobile software development kits to simplify integration, as well as an ONVIF-compliant video platform to easily connect with tenant apps, commercial security systems, and video surveillance providers.

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Commercial intercom system installation and price

In a large commercial building with multiple tenants and large numbers of individual users, it’s important to select a business intercom system that is easy to install, maintain and update. The same considerations apply to small office intercom systems. Before selecting the best intercom system for the office, there are a number of factors to consider when planning installation and calculating through-life costs. 

Project scope

Before selecting a system, make sure that it has the capacity to cover all the tenant and user requirements. These are questions you need to consider before looking into commercial intercom entry systems:

  • How many entrances will the system cover and where are they located? 

  • Will the individual door intercom systems be managed locally or centrally? 

  • Is a front desk intercom system required? 

  • Are there any plans to increase the occupancy of the building?

Hardware

The cost of commercial door intercom hardware can vary considerably, but it’s essential to choose a commercial intercom system with door release that is robust enough to cope with high volumes of traffic. Not all commercial intercoms include an access control system or door release function. Some are designed to only perform intercom functions.

The system should be easy to install. While a flush-mounted intercom system elevates the look and feel of an office, it can be more difficult to install. Choose systems that use standard wiring and feature simplified mounting hardware to ensure a smooth installation that looks great in the space. The hardware should also be weatherproof to IP65 and tamper-proof to recognized standards to minimize the risk of damage, especially for outdoor office intercom systems. 

Substations

Users can handle access requests on a variety of different displays and desktop devices, but the smartphone offers a more convenient way for users. Wireless intercom systems reduce the cost and complexity of installation, and let users answer visitor requests from their own phone, rather than needing to have an office intercom phone system at each desk and conference room. 

Connectivity

Commercial intercom systems require two types of connectivity – cabling to provide power for the door release system and wired, wireless or network connectivity to transmit access requests from the door entry panel to the substations. Wired intercom systems for offices require extensive cabling throughout the building and can prove expensive if there are a large number of individual users. Wireless intercom systems for office buildings eliminate the cost of direct cabling, but it must have the bandwidth and reach to support effective communication. A network-based system makes use of existing data networks and can provide a cost-effective solution for reaching large numbers of connected users. 

Infrastructure

The infrastructure and software to manage a business intercom system can be hosted on the premises or in the cloud. Cloud hosting means that administrators can access and manage the system from any Internet-connected location or device, increasing operational flexibility. Hosting software in the cloud also enables processes such as software updates to be automated, simplifying system management and helping control costs. 

Integration

Integrating a commercial door intercom system with other applications is essential as building owners recognize the importance of creating smarter buildings to increase operational efficiency, reduce resource demands, and lower overall costs. Integrating with applications such as business security cameras and surveillance, delivery management, visitor management, access control, and building management systems adds value to a video intercom system and enables centralized control of all property management functions as part of a smart building solution. 

Maintenance and upgrading

In addition to the initial installation effort, it’s important to take account of ongoing maintenance and upgrading requirements. Regular proactive maintenance will ensure that the business intercom system continues to provide reliable operation and optimum security. Upgrades are essential to ensure the system can deal with emerging threats and take advantage of the latest developments in commercial intercom technology.

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Why commercial video intercom is a priority for office security

Secure visitor access

A video intercom door system allows users to check identity visually before granting access. This is important, particularly for multi-tenant buildings where both users and security or front desk staff have to deal with large numbers of regular and occasional visitors. With so many people coming and going for different companies or departments, there is an increased risk of accidentally granting access to intruders. That’s why a video intercom system for office provides greater security than authentication by voice alone

With a commercial video intercom system users can identify visitors and, if necessary, also request further information before granting access. Integrating a commercial video intercom with a visitor management system also enables security teams to keep track of visitors while they are on the premises and maintain a record of all visitors for compliance or analysis in the event of an incident. 

Enhanced visitor experience 

Businesses can use commercial video intercom systems to give visitors convenient access in a number of different ways. Visitors primarily use video intercom communications to request access, but not all systems make this an easy process with confusing interfaces, large directories, and too many devices at the door. To simplify access, systems such as Openpath’s Video Intercom Reader Pro feature hands-free voice activation. 

Visitors initiate a request by pressing a business intercom with doorbell and an AI-powered system routes visitors to the correct user based on their responses. Other commercial video intercom systems allow pre-authorized visitors to use QR codes or PINs to gain access without contacting a user. Visitor PIN codes could pose a security risk if shared, however, so QR codes and Cloud Key visitor credentials are preferred. They also eliminate the need to touch a commercial video intercom doorbell, letting visitors bypass this step and simply scan their code to unlock the door.

Commercial office intercoms integrated with visitor management apps also enable users to provide visitors with temporary guest passes, directions, parking instructions, and other useful information upon arrival and check-in. This creates a great first impression and improves the overall visitor experience. 

Improved delivery management 

Users in commercial buildings receive a large number of deliveries – office supplies for businesses, stock or raw materials for warehouses, food deliveries for employees, as well as personal deliveries to the office. The rapid uptake of online ordering and delivery is increasing delivery frequency even further and that makes a commercial video intercom system with door release essential.

Commercial video intercom systems help ensure that couriers can make deliveries smoothly and securely. For regular deliveries, businesses can issue couriers with PINs or recurring guest credentials they can use to access the building without making separate requests each time. Businesses can also set up delivery rooms covered by video intercom systems where couriers can leave packages for collection. 

Better user experience 

Busy employees want to be able to handle visitor or delivery access with minimum disruption. A wireless video intercom system for office buildings provides a convenient solution. A commercial door intercom system linked to their smartphone means employees can check in visitors and unlock the door from any location, unlike traditional systems where users can only handle access requests at their desks. If they are in meetings or away from the office, users can still handle requests remotely and not miss a visit or a delivery. Openpath’s Video Intercom Reader Pro improves convenience – and productivity – even further with a smart call routing feature. If an employee is not available, the system uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to enable a smart routing system that directs visitors’ requests to another user profile, such as reception, another employee from that department, or even a voicemail option. The AI call routing system can be synchronized with employees’ calendar apps, access permissions, or door schedules to ensure contact at the right time. The Openpath system also features Wave to Unlock, which allows touchless access for credentialed users. 

Support for flexible working patterns 

The increase in hybrid working and flexible hours means that employees and visitors may require access to a building outside normal working hours. A cloud-based commercial video intercom system makes it easy for security staff to monitor and manage access without having to remain on the premises. For example, a business with multiple locations can set up a facility, such as a desk intercom system, to manage out-of-hours access centrally.  

Protection for small businesses

A video intercom for office is suitable for any size business. Small business intercom systems can incorporate video communications as well as intercom phone systems, reducing the need to staff a desk 24/7, and making teams more productive. Digital phone systems for small businesses with intercom functionality provides both security and convenience. Plus, with an all-in-one device like the Openpath Video Intercom Reader Pro, small businesses only have to install one piece of hardware, rather than four.  

Smarter property management 

A cloud-based commercial video intercom system or video intercom system for business is an integral element of a smart property management solution. The office video intercom system can be integrated with other forms of access control to provide consistent and centralized management of building-wide security technology using the cloud.

Integrating the business video intercom system with the building’s environmental systems makes it possible to synchronize heating, lighting, and ventilation with room occupancy, helping reduce costs and improve energy efficiency.

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Openpath's secure, reliable access control

  • Fast, secure access backed by patented Triple Unlock technology

  • Supports mobile, smart watch, tablet, key cards and fobs

  • Intuitive cloud-based software with fully remote accessibility

  • Unified video and access solutions with real-time tracking

  • Seamless integrations with leading technology providers

  • Access control for doors, turnstiles, elevators, and more

  • Award-winning design and frictionless installation options

  • Backward compatible hardware that scales with ease

Next steps for planning your office intercom system 

A commercial intercom system is an essential tool for protecting the security of your building and making access more convenient for employees, visitors and delivery couriers. However, choosing the best intercom system for business and the best intercom systems company to supply it can be time-consuming. For the best experience, choose an office intercom system that offers the features and flexibility your business needs, with future-proof technology to keep your organization safe, secure, and sustainable. If you would like advice or guidance on the most suitable intercom system for your commercial building, contact Openpath to arrange a security consultation.

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