Residential vs office intercom systems: what you should know


 Camilla Ashdow, 25. 05. 2023 | 6 min read

Get to know the ins and outs of office intercom systems compared to residential ones.

office intercom system


Are you a residential developer or installer thinking of branching into commercial projects? Or are you a seasoned installer of office intercom systems and thinking of trying residential projects? Either way, let us talk you through the differences between the two types of projects – from the basic differences in needs and what end users want to configuration options and the best products for each. Let’s get started!

Commercial projects: what goes into an office intercom system?

Typically, access control or intercom systems for commercial installations tend to be designed for large spaces with higher traffic volumes. That means that the systems tend to be more complex, with more demands from both a security perspective and from what end-users and/or clients need from their access control.

A key difference between residential and commercial access control systems is the level of customization and integration with other systems. Commercial systems are often highly customizable, allowing businesses to create a solution that meets their specific needs and account for different companies with different needs moving into the space. They may also need to be integrated with other systems, such as time and attendance tracking, third-party office systems such as Microsoft Teams, and security systems, to provide a more comprehensive solution for managing employees. This doesn’t mean that residential projects don’t require flexibility and integration – but rather that commercial buildings have more demands and more chance of changes.

Therefore, for commercial projects, it’s vital you use devices and technology that is:

  1. Easy to integrate with third-party platforms & security systems/devices

  2. Is highly secure and complies with all regulations

  3. Offers flexibility in access credentials and things such as attendance monitoring

  4. Can be partially managed by end-users: you don’t want to waste time with simple admin such as assigning/revoking access rights

  5. Is made to last. Places with high footfall need durable, futureproof devices

A lot of office intercom systems will need to consider the fact that there can be multiple companies in one building – which brings concerns about different requirements from access control technology, different access rights, and so on.

Stay up-to-date with the latest news. Subscribe to our newsletter.

The best questions to ask yourself when getting started with commercial projects:

  • Does the access control manufacturer prioritise easy integration with third-party systems?

Easy integration = a cohesive office intercom system that can work with whatever security systems or other platforms commercial clients want or that may already exist.

  • Which devices should I use?

This of course depends on the demands and needs of the project you’re undertaking – but generally speaking, an office intercom system starts with an intercom – preferably a video intercom. The reason video intercoms are preferred is that it gives an extra layer of security to those managing the front door.

Full HD intercom cameras are very important for projects where security is a concern. They can be wide angle, too, and support very advanced innovative features such as adaptive Face Zooming – so receptionists always know exactly who’s there and can safely let them in.

Access control readers are an important part of commercial projects – often installed in multiple locations throughout buildings. Common locations include meeting rooms, technical areas where equipment is kept, and lifts (more on that later.)

Common issues with access control readers in commercial projects include the often-tricky physical installation area – a lot of interiors in commercial environments include materials like glass, with narrow door frames, both of which can be an issue to fit devices on – especially if you need both a controller and access reader. Find an access control reader in a slimline design that combines the controller and reader in one device, and you’ll solve this issue. 

  • How will I configure the devices, and how will access rights be managed?

Configuration of devices in large installations should be as efficient as possible. Often, you will have many different access requirements – from attendance monitoring (some companies need this on a strict basis for employee records, while others just use it for security purposes) to access rights in certain areas, and it’s important that you save time where you can.

Using a centralised device management platform is a vital part of commercial projects. You can use it for managing access to the building and monitoring the status of access control units in real-time. Its intuitive user interface lets you set up the system quickly and delegate everyday activities directly to the customer.

  • Does the office intercom system include modern features?

Modern features are key to any project: residential or commercial. Technology is king, and demand is rising for advanced features in access control.

One key component in commercial environments is multi-user access. It’s a good idea to give commercial clients more than one way to enter the buildings – so, offer RFID cards as primary access (by far the most popular method for office intercom systems) and add more on top.

Mobile access is vital to any modern intercom system and can be totally safe, reliable, and fast, too. It’s great for cutting down on the costs of frequently misplaced access cards, as well as convenience for those that use it. Important to note is that assigning mobile credentials should also be easy for end users – and ideally, free!

For temporary access (for visitors), something such as PIN codes or one-time QR codes is also great to have.

It’s vital that you offer commercial clients flexibility with access options – large projects with multiple businesses in one location will have variable demands and variable experiences with modern features.  One way to keep everyone happy is to use an access control reader or IP intercom that can support multiple access technologies in one device – giving them the freedom to choose!

Another great modern feature in IP intercoms in commercial projects is a 10’’ touchscreen video intercom with options such as a company directory display. To learn more about that, check out the 2N® IP Style and all it offers commercial clients!

  • Have I considered lift integration?

Lift access is an important part of commercial projects – a very common need is to restrict floor access to avoid the possibility of strangers from the street or other companies in the building accessing offices where confidential/valuable information/resources are stored.

  • Are the devices I’m going to install scalable?

Commercial clients can have different needs – even within the same building. Their demands can also change as their businesses grow, which means you need to offer flexible access control technology that can grow with it, adapt to new demands, and have regular updates that ensure the possibility to offer the best new features without having to change devices.

Residential access: what are the differences between apartment intercom systems and office ones?

Whilst the principle of restricting access remains the same, residential intercom systems are considerably different from office intercom systems.

Firstly, you are of course dealing with people’s homes – which means more attention is often paid to things like design (especially in-home devices like indoor panels). They tend to be less complex, and there are fewer demands for variation in access methods: it’s likely there will be less footfall (which means less chance of varying end-user needs), and they also typically occupy smaller spaces.

Residential projects can come in two main forms: single-villa and multi-dwelling (for example apartment buildings or smart home cities). Single-villa projects usually require less in terms of the number of devices used and advanced features needed, whereas multi-dwelling units will have more devices and perhaps more complex demands – but often are still not as complex as office intercom systems.

Ensure the technology you use for your apartment intercom system is:

  1. Easy to integrate with home automation platforms or security systems

  2. Offers users convenience as well as safety

  3. Has good design

  4. Can be configured and managed effectively – preferably over a cloud platform for your convenience

  5. Is both scalable and made to last

The best questions to ask yourself when getting started with residential:

  • Which devices do I need?

At their most basic level, residential access control systems consist of an IP intercom (video or audio), access control readers, and an indoor answering device like an indoor panel and/or a mobile app.

However, this can vary across different projects! Certain projects (like single-villa homes) require only a simple set-up as shown above – but a project like a large smart home development with high footfall and multiple common areas with varying access restrictions will be more demanding.

Devices commonly used (and where):

1. Intercoms

Starting at the front door: intercoms act as a doorbell for residents but have the extra benefit of enabling direct communication between them and visitors before granting entry. You can choose between video intercoms or audio-only intercoms, but we always recommend using an IP Intercom for the sake of future-proofing projects, offering great modern features, and making your work as an integrator easier in the long run.

Front entrances aren’t the only place you can install IP intercoms. You can put one on the entrances of the car garage of multi-dwelling properties, for example, and connect it to the front desk staff so they can verify access. Or, for smaller projects, install an intercom at the front gate. Video intercoms installed here can also support license plate reading for automatic access granting, which residents are sure to appreciate.

2. Access control readers

These panels manage and control access to the property by granting or denying entry based on user credentials: options include RFID, Bluetooth (for mobile access), biometric access and PIN/QR code access. Always offer a mix of credentials for maximum convenience, and don’t clutter entrances with readers + controllers – choose a device that combines both in one.

Access control readers in residential projects are used to secure common areas and other places where a higher level of security is needed – including lifts and electrical rooms.

3. Indoor panels

Installed inside residents’ homes, indoor panels need to be user-friendly – but also look good. They range from simple audio-only units to more complex models that can support video calling and be integrated with home automation platforms (a big advantage in a growing technological age).

  • What are the best new features in residential projects?

There are some amazing features on the market currently that can give all kinds of convenience to residents! They include:

1. Mobile access: give residents something way better than keys: the chance to use their phone to access their homes. It’s very convenient since 90% of people don’t leave their homes without their phones and are very unlikely to misplace them too. Intercoms and access control readers should have mobile access support – however, they should always offer backup options for non-residents and temporary access options for visitors.

2. Answering doors remotely: Another great mobile feature is the possibility to make residents’ phones function as answering units. This gives them the possibility to answer their doors from wherever they are in the world – and either grant access or have a video call with the visitor and let them know when they can come back (if at all).

3. Home surveillance options: A great benefit of video intercoms is the ability for them to stream the feed from their camera and thus act as an extra security camera and allow residents to check up on their homes. This feed can be streamed either from their indoor panels or on a mobile app that functions as such.

4. Home automation integration: This is something in high demand lately, and most residents will enjoy this. The access devices used need to be easy to integrate with whichever home automation system is in place to offer a cohesive, convenient experience. Use a provider that partners with third-party technology companies and builds their products on open protocols.

5. Other advanced features: The possibilities can be endless – it just depends on what your customers want. Other features can include a touchscreen intercom acting as a noticeboard for residents, automatic face zooming on wide-angle intercom camera lenses or picture-to-email of attempted visits.

  • For large projects: how will I manage the configuration of multiple devices across varying networks?

A common concern with installers with large portfolios – and a valid one with a simple solution! Use a cloud platform designed especially for this purpose. The cloud infrastructure will allow you to remotely manage and configure devices, plus add features like cloud calling, across large residential solutions – and all devices can be connected to local networks rather than sharing a common one.

  • For smaller projects: how do I configure a small number of devices?

Single-villa projects have the advantage of using fewer devices so the devices you use can be configured on a granular level directly in their OS. You can still, however, use a cloud-based system whenever you need.

  • Have I considered design as well as function and security?

When starting a residential project – think about design. Residents will not want unsightly, bulky technology made from cheap materials in their apartments! Focus on providers that never neglect design and make sure the stand the test of time and are user-intuitive.

  • Can old and/or historically valuable apartment buildings still use IP technology?

A common concern with residential projects! Luckily, there is a solution. Check out our guide to retrofit projects for more information.

In summary, while there are similarities between residential and commercial access control systems, there are also some significant differences. Residential systems tend to be less complex and are designed for smaller spaces and fewer users. Commercial systems, on the other hand, are designed for larger spaces with higher traffic volumes and may be highly customizable to meet the specific needs of businesses and organizations. Both types of systems rely on intercoms, access control readers, and indoor answering devices – however, which you use and which features you provide depends entirely on your project and its use cases.