Gloucester City Homes is an independent registered housing association that owns and manages rented homes, leasehold properties, shared ownership properties, commercial units and homeless units. It recently upgraded access control within a number of its dwellings with pioneering technology from PAC.
Now recognised as one of the best housing providers in the country through accreditations including the Customer Service Excellence Standard, Gloucester City Homes has a proud record of delivering high quality services to its tenants and leaseholders. It owns and manages around 4,450 rented homes, 500 sheltered housing properties, 270 leasehold properties, 30 commercial units and 52 homeless units, all of which meet the requirements of the government’s Decent Homes Standard.
Plan of action
The organisation has a 30-year financial business plan to deliver around £100m of investment in new homes in the region. It is also working to improve its existing portfolio and support the economic wellbeing of the area through housing regeneration and the creation of new jobs.
Gloucester City Homes provides the highest standards of security and safety in its dwellings and David Wainwright, its IT operations manager, comments, ‘We aim to respond to the changing needs and expectations of our tenants and this means that we must keep up with the technology that is available to help us achieve that objective. It was obvious to me that innovations in access control had moved on apace in the 20 years since the previous PAC system had been installed in 236 of our buildings across the city. Although the system had served us well I decided to invite in PAC’s area manager, Lloyd Palmer, to look at what we could do to upgrade it.’
Great minds think alike
The previous access control system was based on Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) dial up modem technology. This used a standard phone line to manage a portfolio of over 4,500 key fobs, which often proved a slow and laborious process that also meant that the key fob database was not as accurate as David Wainwright wanted it to be.
After taking a comprehensive brief that took into account Gloucester City Homes’ long-term objectives, Lloyd Palmer put together a proposal that involved the installation of PAC 512 controllers and modems to create a highly innovative remote monitoring platform that could be accessed via a PC, tablet or smartphone. He explains, ‘PAC 512 devices utilise the general packet radio service (GPRS) platform, which is a faster and cost effective means of connecting remote sites via a mobile network. It provides an enhanced service over traditional mobile/landline telephone connections and makes administration of the system more flexible.’
The proposal was then put out to tender, with Birmingham based Harrold-Jones Services emerging victorious. The company’s sales manager, Phil Povey, states, ‘With significant experience in installing security and access control equipment in the residential sector for almost 20 years, we were delighted to have the opportunity to work with Gloucester City Homes and PAC, whose products have high levels of innovation, reliability and ease of use.’
Compare and contrast
Over a three-month period HJS engineers installed the new system to an agreed programme. Each site remained operational in order to ensure consistency of service until the new system was installed, commissioned and tested and a successful switchover completed. During that time representatives from Gloucester City Homes familiarised themselves with the operation of the system at PAC’s training centre in Stockport.
The new system has been fully integrated with the PAC Residential Cloud, which allows designated personnel to access information remotely. David Wainwright says, ‘The previous system’s limitations meant that any problems and issues had to be dealt with by two or three centrally located individuals. This was obviously restrictive and meant a delayed response. By contrast, the new technology allows remote diagnostics, technical issues, servicing and key fob management to be carried out by a team of over 25 people. It’s also possible to remotely view status, unlock a door and access an event log. It has made a massive difference to response times and using the cloud also means that a dedicated technical team can address connection issues, manage the system and be proactive by highlighting problems and putting contingencies in place.’
The PAC Residential Cloud uses a virtual private network (VPN) to keep data safe and is General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant. Information is stored with The Bunker, a trusted PAC partner for highly secure, compliant and high availability outsourced infrastructure. The Bunker’s fully owned UK data centres are secure by their design and certified to the ISO 27001 standard for information security management.
Not surprisingly, from time to time residents lose their key fobs. David Wainwright comments, ‘If this happens, we can quickly access their information, carry out an authorisation check, let them into their block and, if necessary, deactivate the missing fob. Instantly deleting key fobs that are lost makes our buildings more secure. We have also configured key fobs to activate barriers to allocated parking spaces in car parks, equipment stores and communal facilities.’
Above and beyond
The new PAC access control system surpassed all of David Wainwright’s initial expectations and he concludes, ‘The improvements to our responsiveness, flexibility and overall efficiency have been significant. This has positive implications for tenant satisfaction and means that we now have a future proof system that keeps residents as safe as possible. Working in true partnership with PAC by STANLEY Products & Solutions and Harrold-Jones Services was a pleasure and the entire installation process was seamless.’