Beginner's Guide to Smart Storage Units

December 6, 2022

Smart Storage Units Lightbulb
5 min

For a long time, self storage was stationary. 

Metal boxes that tenants could store their stuff in - simple, convenient, and low-maintenance. Then came climate-controlled storage, and now cloud storage and smart storage units.

Are these new additions as game-changing as climate control? Or is it a fad that you shouldn’t waste your money on? We’ll dive into the different types of smart storage unit and explain what benefits they can bring.

Smart storage units can range from futuristic rooms with filters, monitors, and humidity sensors to a standard unit with a Bluetooth lock added on. 

Will any of these improve your facility or your bottom line? Or are they just a money sink hyped up by marketing?


Why Add Smart Anything to Your Self Storage Units?

The main reason operators want to add smart features to their facility is the same reason they add any feature - to get more customers and higher rates.

Just like climate-controlled self storage units, you’re providing a feature that your customers may be willing to pay more for. You may also win over customers who are considering a competitor by offering smart storage units.

You’ll need to balance the potential marketing and rate benefits a smart storage unit could bring against the cost of installing the smart features. 

These will change depending on what smart features you add and what your customers are willing to pay for! If your tenants have no interest in technology, smart storage units may actually discourage people from renting with you.

If you’ve got tech-savvy and feature-hungry tenants, smart storage units could make you the facility of choice in your community and would be worth a significant investment.

“Smart” storage units are just like “natural” foods in the supermarket - the term can mean anything or nothing at all.

There are no regulatory bodies mandating that a storage unit has X, Y, or Z before you can call it a smart unit. You could call your facility dog a smart storage unit and no one could stop you (though I don’t recommend it).

However, if you advertise smart storage units and don’t offer something notably “smart” to your customers, they might be a little bit irritated.

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Smart Locks

The most common smart feature we’ve run across is smart locks. Instead of using a key to turn tumblers, these locks require a coded Bluetooth connection to unlock for your customers.

This lets your locks open automatically for the right person, and prevents your tenants from needing to keep up with a key or a code. Their smartphone is all they’ll need to access their unit.

Not only does this make the tenants’ lives easier, but it can also save you headaches. You won’t have to make duplicate keys for tenants, cut locks when a key gets lost, or replace a lock every time you get a new tenant.

Bluetooth locks, like those from Nokē, can change who has access through an app, so you don’t have to change a lock for a tenant who has stopped paying. You can simply revoke their electronic access to the unit.

This prevents you from having to overlock a storage unit!

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Smart locks can also let your tenants share access with family and friends by sharing a code or app via smartphone. Most apps will then track who accesses the smart storage unit and when, so you can track access if there’s ever a problem.

Smart locks are also easy to show off to new tenants. You can walk up to the unit, unlock it with a click, and open the door without needing to fidget with anything. 

These are easy for customers to understand, which makes them easy to market!

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Unit Monitoring

The next step up in smart storage units is to implement unit monitoring. These options, including SpiderDoor unit alarms and StorageDefender™, are a great way to step up the security of your facility without having to do significant renovation.

These monitors (which may or may not be marketable as alarms, check with each vendor) are motion detectors connected wirelessly to alert the tenant if their unit is accessed.

This is a great sales pitch, according to some of our self storage experts. If you can show the tenant that they’ll be alerted every time the door opens - even if a manager opens it - they’re likely to be convinced of the safety of your self storage units!

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Depending on which unit monitors you choose, you’ll find a variety of features, so you’ll have to invest some time into choosing the right one. Don’t forget that your time is a valuable resource! If choosing and setting up new smart features takes away from other valuable tasks, factor that into your decision.

If your facility is leaning on security as a selling point, Unit Monitoring devices can be a great way to generate value for your customers. With constant monitoring, your tenants will get extra peace of mind - if they’re willing to pay for it.

The best part about unit monitors is that they’re typically very easy to install compared to replacing all the locks in your facility or installing a new gate. Most of them are installed directly into the unit and are battery-powered, so you don’t have to run wiring or hire an electrician.

There are more advanced options you can look into, like constant video monitoring, but these would only be necessary for luxury self storage units. If you think your tenants would pay rates commensurate with the expense, though, go for it!

Choosing Smart Technology

Many other smart features are available for your self storage facility. Smart gates, smart software, and more coming out every quarter.

Some of these will add tons of value for you and for your tenants. Others might be unnecessary at best and detrimental at worst - we can all think of a few high-tech “advances” that were worse than what came before.

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Before investing in any smart storage units, run through this checklist:

  • Do your customers want this?
    • If you have a lot of technophobic customers, anything that makes them download an app or learn to use a new program is probably not a good idea.
  • Can you sell it to them?
    • Adding new features won’t do you any good if your potential customers don’t know about it. Make sure you’ve got a good pitch ready, and willing tenants, before upgrading.
  • Can you charge more for it?
    • Smart storage units are still in the “optional” phase in most places, so if you’re going to spend on adding new tech, you need to make that money back. If tenants won’t pay more for it, pass.
  • Is your competition offering smart storage units?
    • In select markets, you may fall behind without offering the newest and best. If you’re in this spot, you may not even be able to raise your rates when adding new stuff - you’ll just stop losing tenants.

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Learn more ways to improve your self storage facility with these:

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Learn how best to reach your tenants!

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