Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Buildinglink on CNBC! Or, Robots

We mentioned in our welcome post that Jerry's robot deserves its own feature, and apparently the folks at CNBC thought so, too.

Last Thursday, the Buildinglink office was host to a film crew from the network, here to shoot some video of our cutting-edge and downright adorable robot, the VGo, for a segment on telepresence solutions.

The VGo is one of our favorite things here at 85 Fifth Ave: this “robot” is a remote-controlled video conferencing device that allows the user to be present and interact in the same way that person would if he or she were in the room.

(For those of you without your own mobile robot communications center, imagine Eve from Wall-E, except taller and with Jerry Kestenbaum's face looking back at you as it follows you around the office.)

Below, check out a segment by CNBC and look for our office, see some awkward-looking employees, and meet my new best friend - telepresence solution.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Resident Passports - FAQ's about our new program!

So, we've finally "gone public" about our Resident Passports launch today, (our email newsletter goes out to over 9,000 subscribers!) and we know you will have lots of questions. This Q&A should get you going in the right direction, and you can contact us at passports@buildinglink.com for more answers, or to get started. (We just ask for a little patience, because with 1,000+ client buildings, we can't get to everyone immediately.)


What kind of material are the cards made of?

30-mil thickness laminated plastic printed in full color on the front, and in black and white on the back. It feels and looks great - like an upscale store credit card.

How does the Resident Passports printing work?

The printing occurs directly from the resident data that you keep in BuildingLink. We have invested nearly a year in making this technology work. It required creating a special program that can automatically pull from the BLK (that's "BuildingLink" for short) online database and translate the data into the specialized print codes that a high-end card printer requires.

So what do I need to get?

Nothing, but remember that we can only print from data in the BLK database. So if you want things like resident photos, move-in dates, lease expiration dates, or owner/sublet /board member statuses reflected on your passports, you'll need to make sure to enter or upload that info into BuildingLink.

How do I get my resident photos uploaded into my residents' BuildingLink profiles?

The easiest way is via the Quick Lookup screen, which provides a direct link to uploading a photo or capturing one with an attached web cam. Alternatively, you can capture the photo by purchasing our driver's license scanner and choosing the scan option of "extract photo only."

Is there a way to see which residents have or are missing photos?

Yes, two ways. Firstly, in the Resident Directory. Secondly, on the Site Activity report screen.

How do I go about choosing a design for my property's cards? We will be adding a picture gallery page of card styles that have already been created, to get you started, and our graphics and programming depts. will finish the design with you. Or if you prefer, you can start from scratch and implement that special design that only you have thought of.

What additional card features can be added?

We can print a unique barcode ID (usually looks nicer if printed on the back) and/or encode it into the card's magnetic stripe, so that you can utilize various BuildingLink screens to scan in or swipe the card. The most basic use would be to confirm the resident's identity and his/her status as a current resident.


Can my Passport cards work with my existing or planned access control system?

In many cases, yes, if we print them on Prox cards. In the “Prox Card” Access Control world, there are basically two different standards and two different card types that are compatible with almost all systems. The lower frequency cards are 125 Khz, and the higher frequency (Milfare) cards are 13.56Mhz. See Wikipedia - Proximity Cards .

Both of these cards are available in a blank, printable version, such that we can print your Passports right on them.If you give us more info on the card or FOB you are now using, or if you send us one, we can tell you which format your system uses. We can also print Passports onto special adhesive-backed PVC cards that can be attached to the outside of your existingcards, if you already have Prox cards deployed at your facility.

So you can have your cake and eat it too! Give out Resident Passport cards that can be used both for access control, and as beautiful, personalized picture ID cards

How do I print my property's cards?

You don't. That's the beauty of this program. We have invested in the special equipment needed to produce the Passport cards, so you don't need to bother with the expense, maintenance issues, and ribbon supplies required. We like to say, "We do the work. You take the credit."

Can I print my own cards locally?

This will eventually become an option, if you choose to purchase your own, compatible laminate card printer, though the quality won't be quite as good if you print them on the typical entry-level $2k-$4k priced printers. We will have to make some modifications to our proprietary printing software to allow it to be installed at your location. But it will eventually (sometime over the next year) become your option.

How do you know which cards to print?

We initially print a batch of cards for all residents or just for the ones you ask us to.

What about reprints of lost cards or prints of cards for new move-ins? How do you know what and when to print?

We currently have setup our proprietary to scan the BuildingLink database to see if you have flagged any residents who need reprinting, or if there are new residents who have moved in. Our current plan is to check every two weeks, and then print and mail the new cards to your property manager for distribution.

Can I also ask you to print cards for employees?

Yes.

So what is the cost to us for a Resident Passport?

We think that $5 per card is a reasonable fee, to cover the expense and programming needed to create these personalized cards. This may change over time. We are currently offering BuildingLink customers the option to have us print cards for all current residents at NO CHARGE (our way of saying "thanks" for being our customer!), and to pay only for replacements of lost cards, or for new residents' cards. We are not yet sure if we can continue to provide the initial batch for free - but we will try to.

Also please note that if you want us to print your Resident Passports on ProxCards, you will need to absorb the cost of providing us with the blank Proxcards to print on. Prox Cards typically cost $3-$7 each. You can either supply them to us, or we can purchase them for you.

How does the Resident Passport interface with BuildingLink's "Advantage" program of special offers and discounts?

Some Advantage member companies and stores will want to see your Resident Passport as proof of membership. Others may not, and may take your word for it or expect you to print a special "coupon" from our website that we have created for you and them. Generally speaking, we will be encouraging our Advantage member companies to just rely upon being shown your Resident Passport. (You will be hearing more about our "Advantage" program soon.)

Can the Resident Passport program be set up so that Passports can be used on site to pay for miscellaneous facility usage or amenity services charges? Yes, but that's a discussion for a separate blog post. We're not there yet.

Can the Resident Passport program be set up as part of a resident retention program, to award loyalty points or prizes to residents?

Yes, but that too is a discussion for a separate blog post. We're not there yet.

Can the Resident Passport be used in conjunction with BuildingLink's new Geo handheld, to confirm resident identity in the "field"? Yes, either through the Geo's laser barcode scanner, or through its magnetic stripe swipe reader.

Have you thought of other helpful uses for the Resident Passport?

Yes we have (voting, signing up for exercise classes, buying newspapers from the front desk, for example). We are still thinking, and planning. If you have any interesting ideas for extending the usefulness of your Passport program, we'd love to hear from you!

Okay, I know enough already. I want in! What do I do now?

Call us at (212) 501-7117 or email us at passports@buildinglink.com and we'll get you started.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

KeyLink by BuildingLink - 2nd production run!

We are pretty excited about the arrival of our 2nd production series of our new KeyLink Systems, after having sold out our first series several weeks ago. We expected to learn a lot in our first year of operation - and we did! We have implemented a few small design changes in this 2nd series, to make our systems more easily serviceable. Here's what's new:

(1) The lever switch that determines whether a drawer is in the "opened" or "closed" position has been replaced with a button switch, which we think will eliminate the occassional need for recalibration. We are able to retrofit series #1 drawers with these switches as needed.

(2) The main cable connecting the pull-out drawer (that holds the keys) to its outer casing (that holds the power supply and PC interface) has been redesigned so that it can be completely unhooked. This allows you to separate a drawer from its case, to easily service or replace a drawer without upsetting the stack of drawers and PC that may be resting on it.

Those were the only items that needed improving on the hardware end. And as far as the software and firmware goes, we expect to continually push out regular upgrades and enhancements as they become ready, using our "Click Once" automatic update technology. (Our recently added "show all keys" function illuminates all slots with keys, and has been a big help to users trying to identify keys that were not properly inserted.)

By Jerry Kestenbaum
Founder

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Welcome to our new BuildingLink blog!

You may have come across a somewhat lame version of our blog in the past, but we are now diving back into the blogosphere with two full tanks of air – so watch out! With over 1000 buildings using BuildingLink today, and more than 50 KeyLink systems in place coast-to-coast, we may not be the same small group of pioneers you once knew. But one thing hasn’t changed: We love our customers, and we want you to know what we are up to. So let’s make a deal: Read our blog, and we will share our thoughts, news, bloopers, musings, future plans - and even a few comical anecdotes (real names will be changed to protect those involved)! Whether you are one of BuildingLink’s esteemed veterans or are brand new to us, we’ll have something fun and interesting for you. Promise. But first...

We’ve got some catching up to do!

Over the past year, our company has grown. We are now a team of around 35 people, dedicated to giving you remarkably great service – but you knew that already. BuildingLink has also relocated to a beautiful office in Downtown NYC, in one of the "hippest" areas of Manhattan. Our new (and did I mention beautiful?) location allows us to be closer to many more of our buildings here in New York and we’re only a train, plane, or bus ride away from those of you who hail from different states...or countries! (Yes, we've gone international!)

This is not your normal office – see for yourself


If you ever find yourself pondering the big questions in life, like "What makes BuildingLink work?” or “How tall is my favorite technical support person?” or “Can I borrow Jerry’s Robot?” (we’ll explain later—the robot deserves its own blog post), please VISIT US. If we can’t make your visit fun, no one can: We've got musicians, artists, writers, teachers, programmers and all sorts of talented people. We've also got gadgets aplenty--Geo, Keylink, and of course, that Robot we mentioned. So if you want answers, want to chat, or just don't feel like paying for your morning coffee, stop in anytime (85 Fifth Avenue at 16th Street) for machines, caffeine, and company!