New install vs. retrofit
Pichler says other U.S. universities want to follow Northeastern’s example. In general there are two scenarios: a new installation with all new smart lockers and locks or a retrofit whereby new electronic locks are installed in existing lockers. When it comes to networked, fully controlled locker systems, retrofitting tends to be a more expensive task than adding the functionality to new lockers.
“Retrofitting is possible and available, but it’s not as streamlined a program as a completely new installation,” Pichler says. It is also much more feasible on wooden locker doors than it is on metal doors due to the ability to embed components and run networking wire.
For students toting around a $1000-plus laptop and a $500 mobile phone, leaving a backpack sitting on the sidelines during a workout, an exam or an extracurricular activity is a risky proposition
Obviously, the cost to retrofit lockers is also going to be higher due the additional labor involved.
A less expensive option in retrofits is to skip the networking and install standalone, battery-powered contactless locks. These units deliver the convenience of the contactless user experience and control via the student ID card, but they don’t deliver the administrative or user benefits of an online, fully controllable solution. Additionally, institutions have to factor in the expense of replacement batteries every two to three years, as well as the labor cost to replace them.
Still, Pichler believes retrofitting existing lockers with battery-powered locks can be a worthwhile option for institutions with a fairly small number of lockers.
“The management of 300 lockers is not that high or demanding, and it could easily be accomplished,” he says. At that quantity or below, maintaining lockers with battery locks could be manageable and cost effective, but not so for 1000 or 2,000 lockers, explains Pichler.
Contactless lockers in your future?
Modern students are toting more and more valuable items to campus at a time when institutions are actively working to increase student engagement in campus activities outside the classroom. And for students toting around a $1000-plus laptop and a $500 mobile phone, leaving a backpack sitting on the sidelines during a workout, an exam or an extracurricular activity is a risky proposition.
We are on the verge of a “perfect storm” for storage. As institutions address this rising need, networked systems are poised to deliver on the promise of strong ROI from smart lockers in a way that traditional locker solutions have never achieved.