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May 6, 2024
Estimated reading time - 5 min

With Reza Raji, Senior Vice President, Smart Spaces IoT, Vantiva

In an era where digital transformation is reshaping industries, the self-storage sector stands on the cusp of its own tech revolution. We sat down with our own Reza Raji, Senior Vice President of IoT & Smart Spaces at Vantiva, to discuss the critical role of robust wireless networks in futureproofing self-storage sites. Reza shares how operators can navigate market challenges, unlock new revenue streams, and enhance operational efficiencies to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving landscape.

What trends are influencing the self-storage industry today?

The self-storage industry is currently navigating a significant shift. Market oversaturation, driven by a surge in new developments since the pandemic, is pushing street rates down, making competitiveness more challenging. Many operators are also shifting to un-manned stores in order to reduce their operating expenses. Meanwhile, demographic changes, particularly the rise of digital native renters, are reshaping tenant expectations. Renters now seek more convenience, security, and advanced features, like smart monitoring and climate control.

How can smart storage solutions address the oversupply issue in the market?

Smart storage solutions can differentiate facilities in a crowded market. By offering modern, tech-driven experiences, operators can attract and retain the next generation of renters, potentially stabilizing street rates and growing ECRIs through value-added services. They can also reduce operations costs and increase safety and security through smart sensors that act as remote eyes and ears, especially in unmanned stores.

Can you tell us more about the changes in demographics and how they’re affecting self-storage?

Demographic shifts are playing a crucial role. Over half of today’s self-storage renters are digital natives, such as Millennials and Gen Z, who prioritize convenience and smart technology features. This generation shops around more and values advanced features like 24/7 access and climate control, which traditional storage facilities often lack.

How are IoT technologies creating opportunities in self-storage?

IoT technologies offer a wealth of opportunities to modernize and optimize self-storage operations. For example, IoT can enhance visibility into facility performance, streamline operations, and enable remote management across multiple locations. Our research shows that advanced features like in-unit alarms, after-hours access, and environmental controls not only meet tenant demands but are also features for which renters are willing to pay extra. This creates additional revenue streams for self-storage operators through value-added services.

What are the challenges of implementing IoT in older self-storage facilities?

One of the primary hurdles is the existing infrastructure. Many self-storage facilities are over 30 years old and lack the necessary tech framework, such as stable sitewide Wi-Fi coverage and support for other wireless IoT protocols. These facilities often suffer from signal interference due to their construction materials, like steel and concrete, which can block or weaken wireless signals. That’s a twofold problem, since our research also shows that over half of renters are more likely to rent from a facility with strong sitewide Wi-Fi. You need to be able to connect to all your IoT devices and subsystems; your tenants expect Internet access.

Can you describe some IoT solutions suitable for self-storage facilities?

Various networking protocols can be utilized depending on the specific needs of a facility. For instance, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are common but might face limitations in extensive or dense environments. Alternative sub-Gigahertz wireless protocols offer excellent penetration through tough building materials and are great for low-power applications. Having a future-proof solution that can support many current and future smart devices and technologies is key in maximizing the ROI of a deployed solution.

What steps should operators take to prepare their sites for IoT?

The overwhelming challenge we see in talking to many operators large and small is the varied range of technical understanding of the full-potential of connectivity and IoT, and the resulting blind spots around doing nothing. Operators should start by auditing their current wireless capabilities to identify gaps. Addressing these gaps sparks a chain reaction: Installing a multi-protocol networking infrastructure enables you to pervasively deploy smart devices. These devices can deliver strategic information to help you run your business much more efficiently and generate new revenue streams.

What immediate benefits can self-storage operators expect from upgrading their wireless infrastructure?

Upgrading wireless infrastructure with site-wide Wi-Fi and multi-protocol connectivity allows for the immediate integration of IoT technologies that can significantly enhance operational efficiency and tenant satisfaction. Operators will notice improvements in real-time monitoring capabilities, better resource management, and fewer service interruptions, which are critical for maintaining security and customer trust. Additionally, robust IoT connectivity ensures that future technology integrations will be smoother and less disruptive.

What is Vantiva’s vision for smart self-storage facilities?

Vantiva envisions transforming the traditional ‘lean and low-tech’ self-storage model to ‘automated and optimized.’ By integrating IoT technologies, operators can gain insights into their operations, manage facilities remotely, and offer value-added services like after-hours access and instant hazard alerts, enhancing both security and user experience.

How does Vantiva support self-storage operators in implementing these technologies?

Vantiva provides a comprehensive, turnkey solution that covers every aspect of IoT integration—from network infrastructure design and hardware installation to real-time monitoring and ongoing support. Our approach is designed to be as seamless and non-disruptive as possible, ensuring that operators can upgrade their facilities without impacting their day-to-day operations. Furthermore, our solutions are scalable, meaning they grow with our clients’ needs, from small facilities to large portfolios. Our goal is to become our customers’ technology and innovation partner for the long term.

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