Biometric Access Control for Seniors: A Sign of the Times?

Sophisticated access control system based on facial, voice and behavioral recognition combines with CCTV to double as a ‘virtual concierge’ for Texas senior housing.

Biometric Access Control for Seniors: A Sign of the Times?
Residents at the Pasadena Interfaith Manor Apartments can look into the SafeRise biometric access control system to enter the building. The system uses facial, voice and behavioral recognition combined with remote video surveillance from integrator ion247.
Jason Knott · January 17, 2013

To some extent, security integrators make their livelihood built on fear. Homeowners and business owners must have at least a smidgen of fear that their property or lives are vulnerable to bad guys.

But how bad is society when a senior housing complex is compelled to install a sophisticated, expensive access control system based on a biometric facial recognition system? In the past, these types of high-level security systems were reserved for sensitive government, pharmaceutical or other commercial establishments, not a retirement home. 

But that’s the solution installed at the Pasadena Interfaith Manor Apartments in Pasadena, Texas. Community manager Mike Garcia put his trust in the SafeRise biometric solution from FST21, a privately held Israeli manufacturer with offices in Burlington, Mass. The system was installed ion247 based in Birmingham, Ala. 

The system, called the In Motion Identification system, employs state-of-the-art technologies that quickly identify anyone at the door and allow approved users access through a fusion of biometric recognition, face, behavioral, voice and license plate recognition. There are no keys, cards or access codes needed. SafeRise can make an informed decision whether to allow entrance, verify guests or transfer them to a monitoring station representative for assistance.

Combining Biometrics with Video Surveillance
Before installing the solution, ion247 tested SafeRise in its own office for three months. The company was impressed with the ease of use of the facial recognition feature and the customizable levels of security the system offered for different applications. The technology was a natural extension of the interactive video security that ion247 already had installed at Pasadena Interfaith Manor, so the decision to install SafeRise was a simple one.

ion247 recommended the SafeRise solution to SPM, the property management company that oversees the complex, and it, in turn, presented it to the board of directors and management of Pasadena Interfaith Manor. SPM had installed SafeRise previously at two other senior apartment communities they manage in Alabama and had complete confidence in putting SafeRise to work at its Pasadena property. It not only allowed SPM to provide video security monitoring to its residents, it also would give residents access to a live person at ion247 to assist them with entry when needed. In essence, a virtual concierge.

For instance, if a guest visits and a resident is unable to answer the phone in time to allow entry, the call is transferred to ion247. The company’s central station operators speak to the guest via the intercom, call the resident to approve the visit, and can remotely open the door to allow entry (or deny access if needed). In addition to adding enhanced security, rental properties can also realize significant savings by replacing guards with SafeRise.

“SafeRise gives the residents the ease of entering the building without having to stop to locate a key, fob, or card,” notes Christy Hagood, ion247 vice president.  “They simply look at the camera, it recognizes them, and the door opens welcoming them home. Facial recognition is used primarily with voice recognition as a backup.”

Multiple Buildings, Spanish Language
Another key component was having a photo of every person who enters the building. Should an incident occur, there is a history showing each event, complete with photo and audio recordings. SafeRise also has a multi-language feature. Because many of the residents at Pasadena Interfaith Manor speak only Spanish, an important consideration was that they, and their visitors would be able to understand questions from the system. By simply selecting English or Spanish at enrollment, the system welcomes each resident home in their native language.

The Pasadena Interfaith Manor site has two buildings that are connected through a common area. SafeRise is installed at both entrances which share a common database that affords easy management of resident information changes. In addition to providing live concierge assistance, ion247 manages and maintains the system, to include database changes, enrollment, maintenance, tech support, and event evaluations. 

As community manager, Garcia has added peace of mind since the solution was installed. “I’m very pleased and impressed with the SafeRise system and would recommend it to any property, not just senior facilities like this one,” he notes. “I recently had an incident occur on our property and my other cameras didn’t capture it because of blind spots. But the SafeRise system caught the people coming in and out of our property and we were able to use this information and pass it along to our local police department.”

As for the residents, Garcia reports they adapted quickly and love the fact that access is hands-free. “I also get a ton of compliments from vendors, family visitors and new prospects the first time they visit our property. They’re amazed at how the system works.”

  About the Author

Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]

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