In the blink of an eye it seems artificial intelligence is everywhere.
The concept itself is nothing new. After all, the Steven Spielberg blockbuster Artificial Intelligence came out more than 20 years ago. The field itself was established in 1956 by a group of researchers at Dartmouth with the goal of creating machines capable of human-level thought.
Almost 80 years later, it would seem that moment has arrived. But has it really?
Given the amount of hype surrounding the A.I. revolution, you would be forgiven for thinking that was the case. While incredibly impressive tools, the current iteration of A.I.—known as generative A.I. doesn’t think for itself. Instead it uses vast data sets, in the case of OpenAI’s ChatGPT trillions of words, to predict what the desired output would be based on a user prompt. The outputs, whether words, images, sounds, or code, are the synthesis of multitudes of original works made by humans. For example, if ChatGPT generates text, it will reflect the writing styles, topics, and information present in the training data it was exposed to.
While still a ways away from being sentient entities capable of true thought, the new A.I. systems on the market today are still extremely powerful tools that have the potential to impact everything, everywhere, all at once.
So, how will A.I. reshape the self-storage industry?
How Self-Storage Businesses Can Use A.I. Now
Despite the hype, AI does offer valuable practical aspects that small businesses, including self-storage operators, can benefit from today or in the not-too-distant future. These applications revolve around optimizing processes, enhancing customer experiences, and improving security.
AI-Powered Chatbots for Self-Storage
One of the most immediate and impactful applications of AI in the self-storage industry is through chatbots. AI-powered chatbots can interact with customers, answer inquiries, and handle routine tasks efficiently. They provide 24/7 customer support, streamlining the booking and reservation process. For instance, companies like Swivl have already program chatbots for the self-storage industry using A.I., providing personalized assistance to customers looking for storage solutions.
Self-Storage Smart Security Cameras and Access Control
While still an emerging technology, A.I.-driven smart security cameras and access control systems have the potential to improve the safety and security of self-storage facilities, while creating a smooth customer experience. Such systems can use A.I. to detect and respond to suspicious activities in real-time, reducing the risk of theft and unauthorized access. Another potential application is to leverage A.I. to connect to access control systems and recognize either facial or license plates and open the access control point automatically.
10 Federal Storage is one example of an operator using A.I.-enabled cameras at their facilities to differentiate suspicious activity from normal tenant activity. The operator has even begun to equip aerial drones with such cameras to provide enhanced security at their remotely-managed facilities.
Enhancing Revenue Management with AI
Predictive analytics can help operators forecast demand, optimize pricing, and efficiently manage inventory. A.I.-driven revenue management systems such as Prorize can automatically adjust unit prices based on local supply and demand and other inputs. Such systems integrate with your facility management software to push changes to your website and point of sale systems, ensuring that you are charging the best price for every unit.
Using A.I. for Custom Marketing and Content Creation
Another exciting use for A.I. within the self-storage industry is for content creation. Language learning models such as ChatGPT and Bard enable businesses to automate the generation of blog posts, web page copy, social media content, and other marketing materials. Visual A.I. models can produce logos and stock images, or alter existing ones to fit your brand.
Although this technology is still evolving, these tools can help generate basic content, saving time and resources for self-storage operators. But using them effectively requires a significant learning curve to generate quality outputs using the right prompts. In addition, you’ll still need a human touch to check for errors, make edits and improve copy. While A.I. can handle repetitive tasks, human creativity and expertise are irreplaceable when it comes to crafting engaging and tailored content for a specific audience.
The Future of A.I. in Self-Storage
The advancement of AI technology presents exciting opportunities for self-storage operators to enhance customer experiences, streamline operations, and improve overall efficiency. However, it is crucial for operators to approach AI with a realistic mindset, acknowledging its current limitations and potential areas of application.
The best way to start, like most things, is slowly. Evaluate your specific business needs and consider how an A.I.-powered solution could help you meet them. Be strategic about how you incorporate A.I. tools into your business, and weigh any major financial investment into the technology with the expected benefits.