Virtual Doormen Safer Than the Real Deal

It might have less cache, but not having a traditional doorman could actually mean your apartment building's more secure.

According to The New York Times, a new virtual-doorman service is gaining popularity in luxury New Jersey apartment buildings and might have you second-guessing the need for the old-school uniformed kind. You may miss out on that hearty morning greeting, but it also means no holiday tipping needed and, best of all, no one keeping tabs on your comings and goings. But that's not all. Here's how the system works ...

At first, it sounds ridiculous. Isn't a doorman there primarily to make sure no one enters, to accept deliveries and give renters piece of mind? Yes, but in some buildings a 24-hour surveillance system is replacing the need for a costly doorman.

A new system called The Video Doorman runs about $17,000 a year, which is a steal compared to the $150,000 a year it would cost to hire doormen to cover the door for three shifts every day. But cost savings isn't the only advantage, the systems can can make tenants feel safer, too.

Video cameras are installed outside the building, in the lobby, package room and passageways with live operators monitoring the building remotely. A keypad outside the door allows residents and delivery people to interact with the remote doormen if they would like or need to. Residents let themselves in with a special fob, or they can be buzzed in if they've forgotten theirs. For deliveries, the remote doormen buzz in the delivery person then direct him or her to the package room. If anything goes wrong, the whole transaction is caught on DVD and the doorman can report the problem to the police with tapped evidence.

"This provides higher security than a doorman would in many cases," Marsha LaTessa, a partner in the Vesta Group, the developer of the building, told The New York Times. Although an actual doorman standing in a lobby can be a crime deterrent, doormen are subject to human error - and the call of nature. If your doorman takes a break or steps into the bathroom for a minute, someone could slip by since the door is open. In the virtual doorman buildings the door stays locked so even if your virtual doorman slips away to the bathroom, no one is getting in during that time.

Now if they ever outsource this to India, we may see this video doormen appearing in buildings at all price points.
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