Stockport Homes manages 11,500 properties on behalf of Stockport Council and is also committed to building new homes for rental, leasehold and shared ownership. The company aims to offer its customers the highest levels of service and recently upgraded its access control provision with innovative cloud based technology from PAC & GDX which has more than proved its worth during COVID-19 lockdown.
Stockport Homes is an arm’s length management organisation (ALMO) that is owned by Stockport Council but which operates independently on the delivery of services to customers. In addition, it also owns properties and manages others on behalf of private landlords, all of which meet the requirements of the government’s Decent Homes Standard.
Room for improvement
In addition to carrying out repairs, rent collection, property allocation, homelessness services and estate management, Stockport Homes is responsible for ensuring the security and safety of residents across its portfolio of high rise, low rise multi-unit dwellings and sheltered accommodation. Access control plays a fundamental role in achieving this objective and, as part of its ongoing upgrade programme, the company decided to investigate how it could benefit from the latest technology.
‘Being able to respond quickly to the needs and expectations of our customers involves using the best available security solutions,’ explains James Hood, project leader at Stockport Homes. ‘Although our previous access control and door entry systems had served us well, it was obvious that innovations in this area had moved on significantly. I also wanted to explore ways to enable our staff to more effectively access information, issue and configure key fobs, check occupancy status and carry out their duties remotely. To that end I invited the PAC & GDX national sales manager, Jason Sullivan, to look at the available options.’
On the up
The previous access control system operated via a Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) dial-up modem technology, which could often be slow and unreliable, as well as being relatively insecure. Stockport Homes also wanted to move away from an inflexible system that could only be used via two standalone PCs located in an on-site control room, to one that could be operated remotely.
After conducting a comprehensive site audit, Jason Sullivan configured a solution for the low-rise element of the estate based around the installation of PAC 512 controller technology and PAC Residential Cloud. He says, ‘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. Using this technology meant that we could create a highly innovative remote monitoring platform, which can now be accessed via a PC, tablet or smartphone.
‘We were also able to fuse our new PAC hardware with the existing GDX door entry system, allowing concierge control (via a control room) in the high-rise blocks and remote access control system administration.’
The cloud is radically reshaping how access control is specified, installed and used, and PAC Residential Cloud allows organisations to remotely manage and monitor their access control systems in a secure environment. Designated users can address technical issues, test systems, deal with key fob management, examine diagnostics, view system status, set and unset a system, and gain access to an event log more easily than ever before – all from a remote location. It is also fully auditable, meaning that an action can be linked directly to a specific user.
Asked about the benefits that the cloud now offers his team, James Hood responds, ‘The previous system’s limitations meant that any problems and issues had to be dealt with by on-site individuals. This was obviously restrictive, particularly in the present climate, and meant that a response often took longer than we wanted it to. PAC Residential Cloud has made a massive difference to our response times, as our dedicated technical team can now address connection issues, manage the system and troubleshoot from wherever they happen to be. Just as importantly, our chosen maintenance provider, OpenView, can remotely access it to diagnose problems and offer us a more immediate service. In addition, there is the option to integrate it with CCTV so personnel can be notified if, for example, a door is forced or left open.’
OpenView’s Business Development Manager, Simon France, was just as complimentary about the support and added value they received from PAC - particularly from Jason Sullivan – and said, ‘I’ve worked closely with Jason on this contract and his help, dedication and attention to detail has gone above and beyond what was expected. The Pac product has proven to be a big hit with our client and the end user.’
Protect and survive
The use of personal data comes with significant responsibilities and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires organisations to implement a strong data protection policy, encompassing access, secure storage and destruction. Via its virtual private network (VPN), information from Stockport Homes is stored with The Bunker, a trusted PAC partner, whose UK data centres are located in former nuclear bunkers and certified to the ISO 27001 standard for information security management.
PAC Residential Cloud also restricts access to resident data, with employees only given permission to look at information that relates directly to their roles and responsibilities. There are also other less obvious benefits and Jason Sullivan comments, ‘The data collected by the access control system can be used to add an extra level of care. For instance, James and his team can see if a resident’s key fob hasn't been used during a specific period and send someone to investigate if necessary. Furthermore, in the event that a key fob is lost, an authorisation check can be carried out, access grated and, if necessary, a missing device deactivated – all from a remote location.’
During the coronavirus pandemic the PAC access control system has allowed Stockport Homes to remotely carry out duties, while adhering to social distancing guidelines. James Hood concludes, ‘Under these difficult circumstances the use of PAC Residential Cloud has proven hugely beneficial in numerous ways. Specifically, I’m delighted with the overall improvement it has made to our responsiveness, flexibility and efficiency, and I’m confident that we have maximised tenant safety as a result of completing this project.’