When self-storage operators first started using technology it was in the form of PC software that was by its very nature isolated and rarely integrated with other systems. Early integrations included exporting data files other systems could read, including credit card processing software and access control systems. Because the unencrypted data files were automatically created and exported to a shared hard drive, the originating software vendor could not control who could use the data, resulting in a true Open Integration.
Today, things are a bit different. Software systems now send data and commands back and forth through what is known as an Application Interface (API). Here is where the problems start; for security reasons, some type of authentication code is needed to ensure the system trying to access the API has been authorized and is not a hacker. This means use of the API needs to be restricted. In most cases, these restrictions are good for the self-storage operator; they make the entire system more secure, protect the self-storage operator’s data, and ensure the systems using the API are programmed efficiently so they do not cause performance problems for the users. However, in some cases, vendors put restrictions in place to limit competition or control the operator’s data. These closed, end-to-end type systems can have a very negative impact on the success of a self-storage business.
Closed, end-to-end platforms get self-storage operators “hooked” and then limit the other solutions that can be integrated to only solutions they sell, in some cases forcing the user to implement substandard technology. This approach can be very good for the vendor but disastrous for the self-storage operator. These platforms typically end up costing the self-storage operator much more, because they have no choice but to use the products offered by the vendor.
A truly open technology platform offers its APIs to all other vendors, so a self-storage operator has the freedom to choose the specific solution they feel is best for them, instead of having to be held hostage and forced to only buy solutions from one vendor. A truly open platform, sometimes referred to as Internet of Everything (IoE) platform, allows all kinds of devices, applications, systems, and people to work together regardless of the vendor.
For example, with a truly open platform, an internal or third-party call center storage counselor can have real-time access to all the transaction data recorded in an access control system and can open a gate for a customer stuck behind the gate after hours without having to give out a temporary code that has been changed late, regardless of if the call center vendor competes with the access control vendor in other product areas.
So, my “last word” is OPEN. End-to-end platforms that try to lock out competitors are bad for self-storage operators and bad for the industry as a whole. Self-storage operators would be wise to make sure they are only investing technology that is backed by a vendor committed to providing open technology.