Activity, community, independence and security

Residential Security Handbook 2021: SMART Estate Living Access Control & Identity Management

RCA Villages builds and operates retirement communities which hundreds of happy residents are delighted to call home. Set in prime locations around Melbourne, close to shops, amenities and beaches, RCA villages offer villa and apartment homes for couples and singles aged over 55. Villages vary in size from 147 homes and just over 200 people, to the largest with 358 homes and just under 600 people.

Large or small, all villages have community facilities for an active, social and healthy lifestyle, including a clubroom with lounge and bar, a doctor’s room, semi-commercial kitchen, café, pool, spa, gym, vegetable garden, competition grade bowling greens and hairdresser.

Each site has an onsite village manager, administrative staff and, in the majority of villages, an active live-in coordinator. They actively facilitate bringing in outside services for exercise classes, aqua aerobics and other social and fitness activities.

RCA builds and operates the sites, meaning that it can cater for residents’ requirements right from the very first stages of the design. It understands that residents are looking for lifestyle, independence and a feeling of safety and security.

Meeting the challenge

When designing and building villages, RCA is keenly aware of the need to balance and manage a range of different requirements:

• Offering top class community facilities, easily accessible to all residents, while keeping them secure and in good condition for residents’ enjoyment.

• Managing visitor access so that residents can easily invite their family and friends, but feel safe from unwanted external visitors.

• While residents are generally fit and healthy, some may have early stages of illnesses such as dementia. RCA is very much aware of protecting these residents from situations of potential danger, while not curtailing their independence.

• Retaining the village feel; residents want to live independent lives, without too many staff around, yet know help is available when they need it.

Goodbye to traditional locks and keys

RCA manages this balance with an electronic access control system (EAC) from SALTO. RCA fits the SALTO XS4 One, XS4 Mini and XS4 Original electronic locks – as opposed to traditional key locks. Residents have a fob that acts as their key – each fob can be programmed based on the areas that particular resident can access. Access can also be managed by day and time – for example, if the pool shuts at night, the fob will only open the door during the allowed access hours. SALTO’s EAC also generates reports that show village management who has accessed which areas and when.

Peter Quinn, RCA’s chief operating officer (COO), explains how it uses the SALTO system: “We put SALTO EAC locks on the front doors of clubhouses, to ensure that only residents and their guests can use them. The residents feel a sense of ‘ownership’ of their clubhouse, and want to know it is protected.”

Security as well as safety

At some sites, RCA also uses SALTO for internal clubhouse doors. “There are some parts of the clubhouse where we need to control access,” explains Quinn, “either for safety or to protect valuable assets, such as bar stock. The SALTO system means we can ensure that only those residents who work behind the bar have access to the ‘back of house’. Or, where we have residents who would not be safe around the pool, we can restrict them from entering the area.” The system not only blocks access to unauthorised users, but its reports show village management who has tried to access each area. This information helps to detect potential security or safety issues.

The SALTO EAC was suggested and installed by Eclipse Security Systems. Managing director, Greg Flood, explains why SALTO was the perfect fit: “Many RCA villages have remote buildings, such as admin or IT offices or an apartment building. SALTO’s unique data-on-card approach gave us the option to manage the access to those buildings via offline doors, without a network and cabling. We could offer full access control, but with reduced time, effort and cost to install and manage.”

“SALTO’s wireless approach also made it feasible to retrofit the solution to existing village properties, which was another key decision factor,” says Flood. “When we started with SALTO, RCA already had several villages in operation, but this was not an issue – we were able to install SALTO in those properties with minimal fuss.”

The SALTO EAC has replaced traditional keys for shared access points like external gates, making them much easier to manage. “If just one resident lost their key,” Quinn explains, “we had to change the locks on the gates and issue new keys to hundreds of residents. After switching the gates to the SALTO Geo Cylinder, it’s a simple question of cancelling and replacing one fob.”

In the newer developments, the SALTO system will be built in from the beginning and even more widely used. “In the villages that have apartment buildings,” says Quinn, “we will connect all the doors via Wi-Fi. That means that the village manager can lock or unlock the apartments remotely. If a resident did lock themselves out, they could be back in their home in the time it takes to make a call, rather than waiting for the manager to drive back to the village and let them in.”

Number plate recognition

At RCA’s latest development, entry gates controlled by the SALTO EAC manage access by reading number plates. Residents can register their own car, and those of their approved visitors, combining ease of access to those they want in the village, with exclusion of those they don’t.

“In the future,” says Flood, “we’re also looking at extending the number plate recognition to service vehicles, such as council rubbish collection, or maintenance providers. It will make running the villages even more efficient, for staff and suppliers alike.”

“We’re looking to expand our use of the SALTO system all the time,” says Quinn. “It’s very friendly in its format, and adding new elements is easy.”

“SALTO makes running our villages so much easier,” he says. “Eventually we’d like to extend SALTO throughout every area of every property, including the front doors of individual villas. Then residents could have a single, personalised fob that gives them access to every part of the village.

“SALTO helps us to deliver what is important to our residents, an active, healthy and engaging lifestyle, combined with security, safety and peace of mind.”

Key benefits

The SALTO EAC benefits village residents and RCA management alike:

• Residents have the peace of mind of living in a safe and secure environment.

• Residents have easy access to the facilities they enjoy with their friends and family, but also know they will not be used by non-residents.

• Residents live an independent lifestyle, not relying on staff being physically present to provide or manage access.

• Village managers can personalise access for individual residents, keeping each one safe and secure.

• Staff no longer have to carry large bunches of keys to gain access to different parts of the village – they have a single fob for all access.

• RCA no longer has a large cost if a shared access key is lost.

• Staff do not have to travel to the site out of hours to provide access in the case of lockouts.

• Village management have reports of who has accessed (or tried to access) each area.

• RCA has the ability to add lockdown or emergency opening functionality in the future.

• The system is easy to extend and positions RCA for the future.


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