Video Intercom Systems Choosing the Right One for Your Building

Security is always a primary concern for homeowners. In a multifamily building without a doorman, the first line of defense is the front entrance – which more often than not features some sort of intercom system to enable visitors to announce themselves, and residents to let them into the building (or not). 

Traditionally, intercom systems were audio-based. Over the past few decades, however, especially in new construction, video capabilities have been added to intercom systems. The limitation to both these audio-only and audio/video-systems is that they are tethered to the apartment; a resident had to physically be in the apartment in order to see or hear who was calling, and choose to grant them access. However, the recent advent and development of web- and phone-based video identification options are changing the picture entirely.

Making a Change

What’s involved with upgrading your intercom security system to something more in step with the times? That depends to a great extent on what you currently have, what you want, and whether you live in a full-service building. If there’s a live person at the front door, and maybe even one in the elevator as well, a simple audio-based system is usually sufficient. If your lobby is unattended – or if your building just has a vestibule, rather than a full lobby – you have options. 

“When it comes time to replace an intercom,” explains Daniel Wollman, CEO of Gumley Haft Property Management in New York City, “it’s nearly impossible and not cost-effective to rewire a building, because the intercom wires are buried in the walls of each apartment. Repairing or replacing an intercom depends on the problem and where it originates. If the problems are apartment-related, you can’t rewire them. If the problem is system-related, you can probably change or replace the brains of the system. Intercoms are more efficiently replaced with a phone-based system, and that’s what we recommend and oversee in our buildings. In older, prewar buildings, we never replace the intercom – we go straight to a phone-based system.”

“The market for tech has gotten better and better,” says Barak Ron, the CEO of Vertex Security, also located in New York. “There are two main paths to upgrading: using existing wiring, or running new wiring. Most new technology is IP based – it’s the same signal that goes to the router for your computer. The systems combine intercom and cameras, have the ability to provide more features, and are easy to control from your cell phone.


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