The basic components of an all-in-one access and intercom system is a door entry reader with a video camera to capture images, a screen to display the images to the occupant, and a mechanism for unlocking the door. It’s important to note that not all intercom systems feature built-in reader capabilities, and will need separate hardware installed alongside the intercom in order to also control access.
Door entry reader
The video intercom reader is installed at the entry point – a door or gate – and is known as the base station.
It normally takes the form of an edge device with integrated camera, touchscreen, speaker/microphone and buzzer, though it can be more simple like a video intercom doorbell or a wireless video doorbell and monitor with intercom. The simpler models require an additional reader to be installed to provide access control.
Readers can incorporate intuitive touchscreen directories which list occupants’ names or contact points such as reception desk, concierge, or security office. Some door video intercom readers use a system of navigation buttons to allow visitors to search for contacts. To improve accessibility, readers can also use tactile buttons.
To simplify access even further, the latest systems such as Openpath’s Video Intercom Reader Pro feature hands-free voice activation. Simply press the doorbell and an AI-powered system routes visitors to the correct tenant based on their responses – no need to touch a screen or input personal information. In addition, the Openpath Video Intercom Reader is equipped with convenient touchless Wave to Unlock for credentialed users, and supports easy guest access with digital Cloud Key for pre-registered visitors.
Readers are available in different sizes with optional larger readers to provide better readability on embedded screens. The reader interface can be customized to suit the needs of the property. As the Openpath product does not require a touchscreen, it is very small and slim, which simplifies installation as it fits in more spaces compared to larger more cumbersome models.
To improve the audio element of an access request, quality microphone technology should feature automatic sensitivity adjustment, echo cancellation, and noise reduction.
The ideal video intercom door reader features a built-in video camera that is compatible with the other components of the system. Adding an external camera to an existing audio-based reader can provide video intercom functionality, but lacks the convenience of an all-in-one camera intercom system, as well as the other capabilities of modern video intercom systems.
The camera should be capable of capturing images in high definition (HD) so that the occupant has a clear view of the visitor. HD video cameras are available with different chips capable of resolution up to 5 Megapixel (5MPx) quality. Also consider a video intercom with camera features for low-light environments, and any weather-proofing for outdoor deployments.
The camera should also have the ability to rotate at installation, or zoom to give the occupant the best viewing angle.
By integrating the camera intercom with a recording device, property managers can capture and retain visitor images for audit and analysis with a video management system. This feature is important in the event of an incident or security breach.
The recorded images can be retained on a storage device on the premises or stored in the cloud. Cloud storage offers greater convenience because administrators can access the data from any location without visiting the premises. Features such as offline sync can help prevent data loss in the event of a power outage or internet interruption as well. Cloud-based video intercom storage is also more scalable to handle increased data and video as businesses grow.
Each occupant requires a display, also known as a substation, to view the image from the door video entry system. This can take the form of a computer screen, laptop or tablet, or a dedicated display unit.
However, hardware displays are increasingly being replaced by smartphones with apps that enable users to respond to access requests, view real-time video of visitors, talk to visitors, and unlock entrances remotely if they approve the request. A video intercom that works with iPhone and Android devices is becoming increasingly popular for its flexibility and ease of use.
The smartphone’s mobile capability means that users can manage access and unlock doors from any location via an Internet connection, so they’re less likely to miss a visitor even if they are away from their desk or apartment.
Using a smartphone to view video intercom alerts and activity reduces costs for property owners or managers. Smartphones do not require wired or wireless connectivity directly
with the base station, so there are no connectivity costs. This also means that tenants don’t have to purchase separate hardware to manage access requests.
Smartphones are more convenient because they are universally available. Most people are familiar with how to use apps to manage everyday activities, so there’s usually fewer training resources needed to onboard new tenants onto a video intercom system with iPhone or Android devices. Their mobility features also make it easier to deal with unexpected visitors without being at home or in the office. This also makes it more convenient for reception staff or security officers to handle out-of-hours access requests without being tied to a desk.
Door locking and release
A wireless video intercom system with door release can include a relay that is linked to the occupant’s substation or mobile app to unlock the door remotely. A video intercom door release relay mechanism can be used with two different types of door locking hardware – electric strike locks and magnetic strike locks.
Electric strike locks replace the traditional lock strike plate in the door. The door remains locked until an electric current releases the latch to allow the door to be opened. To release the door lock remotely, occupants send an instruction from their substation or smartphone to the door entry panel, which then sends current to the lock to release it.
In contrast, magnetic locks require a constant power supply to the locking device – a magnet and metal plate. The current energizes the magnet holding it to the metal plate with a powerful locking force. To release a magnetic lock remotely, occupants send a signal to the door entry panel which then cuts the electricity supply to the magnet, allowing the door to be opened.
Video intercom door panels require a power supply to operate the door release mechanism, touchscreen, and camera. The power source can be a mains system or a Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) system if the intercom is connected to a network. For PoE video intercom systems, it is recommended to connect a backup power supply to ensure the access and intercom doorbell still function if there’s an internet service interruption.
For the door reader to communicate with the tenant’s substation, a video intercom system requires a form of connectivity. This can take the form of a wired, wireless or networked connection.
Wired video intercom systems require cabling from the door reader to each occupant’s substation. In a property with a large number of occupants, such as a campus, office block, or a multi-tenant apartment building, a wired video intercom system can require extensive cabling runs, which can increase deployment costs.
A wireless video intercom system or wireless intercom with camera requires no dedicated cabling – a Wi-Fi system provides the essential connectivity. That makes video intercom installation simpler for wireless intercom systems and helps to reduce deployment costs. However, the Wi-Fi must be capable of transmitting video signals clearly, and it must have the reach to cover all parts of a building with no loss of signal strength.
IP video intercom systems or an IP intercom with camera can also use existing IP data networks as the transport mechanism with no need for dedicated cabling. An IP video intercom system on corporate data networks generally has the speed, bandwidth, and traffic prioritization features to provide strong signals and clear images to every tenant. Using existing networks also eliminates the cost of building dedicated cabling runs or setting up additional Wi-Fi systems.
A video intercom system provides a platform for communication between visitors and occupants. When visitors request access using front door video intercoms or a front door intercom system with camera, the reader sends a real-time image feed to the occupant to verify identity. Many modern telephone entry systems rely on tenants’ cell phones to provide the line of communication. Now that most smartphones can play live video, this makes them a great option for video intercom entry systems, too. Occupants with smartphones can also maintain communication via remote access even when they are not on site.
Smart call routing
A wireless video intercom doorbell needs to be able to route the visitor to the correct tenant to ensure a great user experience. Some video intercom systems only allow a single call routing path per user, but this won’t account for scenarios like after-hours visits, special deliveries, or if a tenant is unable to answer the call. A new feature from Openpath uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to create a smart routing system that connects visitors directly with employees or to reception, for example, if the employee is not available. The AI call routing system can be synchronized with employees’ calendar apps or permissions to ensure contact at the right time, and can also be set up for groups of users.
One way/two way video
Video intercoms like a video intercom doorbell system or video intercom door release system can provide one-way or two way visual communication.
In one-way video intercom systems, the occupant can see an image of the visitor, but the visitor can’t see the occupant. This type of video intercom system only requires that the base station has a way to capture video, and that the tenant’s substation (usually a computer or smartphone) can play back that live image.
Two-way video intercom camera and video systems enable the occupant and visitor to see each other. These types of systems have a screen on the base station, which usually makes them larger and more expensive. For this to work, the occupant must have either a substation or smartphone with a video-enabled camera to project their image to the visitor.
Temporary visitor authorization
There may be times when occupants cannot be available for contact with visitors or delivery drivers. To provide an alternative form of authorization, some video intercom systems include faculties to provide visitors with ‘virtual keys’ such as programmable PINs or QR codes that allow visitors one-time access, as well as other forms of verification such as key cards or key fobs. This type of technology is also useful for pre-registered visitors, who can use the credential instead of needing to go through the call process.
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