How a History of Quality First, Customer Focused Products Informs Today’s Smart Tech
From Sentex Telephone Entry Systems to IoT-Enabled Access Control Systems
LiftMaster’s Sentex telephone intercoms set the standard for today’s smart access control video intercoms, building on a long history of quality first, customer focused telephone intercom products that Inform today’s IoT-enabled smart technology.
The Telephone Intercom as the Forerunner of an Enduring Commitment to Quality
In 1997, Chamberlain Group, the owners of a family of brands including LiftMaster, purchased Sentex, a telephone intercom system. Sentex was a key player in large markets like California and Florida, offering state-of-the-art telephone entry systems that people continued to use almost 25 years later. Even though Sentex products were officially retired between 2013 and 2014 this line of telephone intercoms was widely respected and loved by customer
The Sentex Crown Jewel model was state of the art for residential access control at a gate. It even had the ability to add a CCTV camera so people could see who was requesting access. The Infinity and Spectrum telephone intercom models were designed for multi-family gated communities and multi-dwelling units (MDUs). Both had displays for the directories while the Spectrum and Ovation products, which relied on printouts of the directory, were offered at a lower price point.
Access Control Technology Has Changed. Our Commitment to Quality Has Not
Technology changes. It evolves. But product quality is timeless. I’ve often said that the Sentex telephone intercom systems were bullet proof. To clarify, bullet proof means that Sentex products were of such high quality that they still work today. This wasn’t an accident—our commitment to quality is a core value. So. How do we build quality into our products?
We begin by abusing them. Yes, we try to break products on purpose, thinking up all the ways they could be misused and abused in the field. The responsibility of ‘breaking’ products so they don’t break for our customers is the job of our Field Service Product Quality Lab team.
The Pursuit of Customer-first, Quality-focused Access Control Products
This intrepid team, led by Rudy Smith, Manager of Field Operations, jokingly call themselves the A-Team after the 1980s TV series about former members of a fictitious Special Forces unit. Their product lab does have a bit of a clandestine feel to it.
Glenn Fischer, a Sr. Analyst with the Field Services Operations team, worked at Sentex prior to its purchase. His pursuit of customer-focused product quality development is bred in the bones, so to speak.
Glenn, and colleague Ramon Bracamonte, are also CSI-style forensic experts. It’s devilishly difficult to diagnose a product problem when it’s intermittent. But that’s what they do. They start with an exhaustive analysis of the situation including the precise physical location of the product, then they run diagnostics of its component parts and repeatedly attempt to reproduce the error.
During the height of the Covid pandemic when site visits were restricted, the team added Google maps and real-time 360-degree smartphone videos shared by someone at the location to remotely diagnose and solve the problems that don’t have easy answers.
Edge Case Testing of Smart Access Control Products
I wasn’t kidding when I said that the field services team enjoys beating up our products, punching and pounding the hardware and stress testing the myQ Community software repeatedly. Our smart video intercom systems are subjected to extreme weather, from the punishing heat of high summer to the worst winter storms.
But the Field Services Operations team isn’t done yet. Our built-to-last products are subjected to rigorous edge case testing. This is not the same as quality assurance (QA) testing which ensures that application functions as planned. Edge case testing attempts to get the application to perform functions it wasn’t designed for. In other words, what happens when humans use the product to do things outside the expected path.
Edge testing takes time. And it takes creative thinking to visualize how a product may perform in a situation when it’s in completely unexpected ways. Edge, or fringe testing, helps us prevent problems before they occur, and it informs how we design and build quality products.
This is how LiftMaster continues the Sentex telephone intercom legacy of quality, products our customers that are built to last and convenient to use.
IoT-enabled Smart Building Technology Replaces Telephone Entry Systems
The old gives way to the new. That’s certainly true for telephone intercom entry management systems. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has freed telecom companies from the obligation to service the copper wiring that telephone lines use. This means that telephone landlines will become more expensive to service and maintain. And if the landline wiring needs to be replaced, telecom companies may choose not to provide that service, offering fiberoptic cable or a 4/5G cellular network instead.
LiftMaster’s Smart Video Intercom Family of Products Continues the Sentex Legacy of Quality
The recent release of our Smart Video Intercom – S, purpose built for single family homes or apartment buildings with less than 10 units, continues the Sentex legacy of customer-focused innovation. It’s a simple-to-use cloud-based solution that allows owners and managers to conveniently control and manage entrances within a property from a single dashboard.
The myQ® Community cloud-based platform enables remote features such as adding or
deleting residents, assigning access to specific entrances and monitoring guest or access requests— without requiring your presence on site.
Today’s Renters Want the Convenience of a Smartphone Guest Management App
Using the award-winning myQ Community smartphone app, residents can identify guests and confidently grant or deny access from anywhere. The one-way video calling shows the person who wants to enter without showing the resident’s face (a great customer-focused feature) as they talk via two-way voice communication.
Residents can also remotely unlock the door from their smartphone or ask Siri to do it for them. And regardless of their location, residents can share recurring or one-time guest passes, managing access on their terms.
LiftMaster smart video intercoms serve properties of every size, delivering a unified solution that provides convenience and peace of mind to owners, managers and residents. We honor the Sentex legacy of innovative product engineering and customer-focused design. And we apply the same principles to the smart technology products we are building for the 21st century.
About the Author
Sherry Johnson is a Sr. Product Manager with LiftMaster Access Control Systems. She is responsible for growth and awareness of Smart Video Intercoms, Community Connectivity Solutions and Accessory Products.
Ms. Johnson received a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics from Michigan Technological University. With more than 20 years of experience at LiftMaster, she has held several positions including that of Sr. Marketing Product Manager, Radio Control Sales Manager, Business Development Manager.