Smart Gated Residential Community: A New Ecosystem For Urbanization Trend

June 29, 2018 i-Neighbour Smart Community 0 Comments

Open Communities Vs Gated Communities

Last chapter, I discerned the differences between Smart City, Smart Community and Smart Residential Community, and I will continue to focus on how to add “smartness” onto the Residential Community only. The narrowed down scope is mainly to boost up the practicality in terms of implementation.
Even if I downsized the discussion scope and limit it to residential communities only, there are two types of residential communities, generally defined either as Open Communities or Gated Communities for the common urban settlements.
For open or non-gated residential communities, it almost can be self-explained with the benefits that include:

•    Lower cost. Homes in open communities are often offered at a lower price tag when compared to the houses of gated communities. For the gated communities, fees for staff, maintenance personnel and homeowner association (HOA) or resident association (RA) can quickly add up.
•    It is convenient for the residents of open communities to access in or out of their area. On the other hand, rush hour traffic could be a nightmare for the gated community.
•    For open community, it provides a more visitor-friendly nature. Stringent visitation policy is often applied in gated community for security reasons which could make guests feel inconvenient or annoyed during the process of visitor verification, having to wait in line for the security guard to confirm their visit.
The closest definition used by the researchers to refer to gated communities is the definition given by Blakely and Synder. (Blakely & Synder 1997, p.2). They defined gated community as “residential areas with restricted access in which normally public spaces are privatized”. In addition, Landman (2000a), refer gated communities as a physical area that is fenced or walled off from its surroundings, either prohibiting or controlling access to these areas by means of gates or booms.
But you may find more and more residential real estate developments that move towards gated community. Across the United States, more than 10 million housing units are in gated communities, where access is “secured with walls or fences,” according to the 2009 Census Bureau data. Roughly 10 percent of the occupied homes in this country are in gated communities, though that figure is misleadingly low because it doesn’t include temporarily vacant homes or second homes. Between 2001 and 2009, the United States saw a 53 percent growth in occupied housing units nestled in gated communities.
This trend is expected to continue for the Americans as well as populations in other countries. We can sum up the benefits of gated communities as follows: 

•        Gated communities have an increased amount of security that may increase the value of your property.
•        Gated communities typically have HOAs that dictate the standards of the community, which improves the quality of the neighborhood as a whole.
•        Gated communities have less traffic and fewer solicitors than open communities do.

Constructions of more gated communities are rising in demand, but the practice of gated communities is not a new concept, and clearly quite ancient in history.

A Little History Of Gated Communities

The development of gated communities had started throughout the world a long time ago. For example in England, the gated communities could be traced back as early as 300 B.C by the Romans, mainly to protect some social groups and their families against external invaders and local villagers. In China, it turned out that gated communities were common in Chinese cities for more than a millennium (Xu and Yang 2009), and they were prominent in Mexico from the time of the Spanish conquest until the present (Scheinbaum 2008). Figure 1 shows a traditional Chinese walled compound (i.e., a gated community). Interestingly, these features resemble Inka walled compounds (called kancha) in Peru (Figure 2). There is no historical connection showed at all between the Chinese and Inka examples; these are independent adaptations of gated communities to what were probably similar urban forces and conditions for the fundamental needs.

Figure 1: Ancient Chinese Walled Compound

Figure 2: Inka Kancha, Peru

As in most pre-modern cities, the Chinese compounds were probably designed by their residents, and built either by the residents or by builders contracted by the residents. Even though we know less about the construction of the Inka compounds, but from the Maps of Inka settlements show that these kancha units are highly standardized, most probably because of central planning (Hyslop 1990).

Even in the modern era, gated communities differ from country to country, with respect to their characteristics in particular to different culture, ethnicity, prestige and security concern. But the rising trend of gated communities also receives many criticisms, most commonly being “ghetto for the rich” and “a cause of social segregation”. These criticisms are often intertwined when, for instance, feelings of insecurity have an impact on the social fabric or on rich people’s desire to exist apart.
Despite the criticism, the number of gated communities continue to climb, due to the rising urges and demands to upgrade their homestay community into a smart residential community. And frankly, only gated communities have the higher feasibility to achieve a smart status if compared to open communities. 
We have learned the four criterias in the earlier chapter for the definition to add the essence of “smart” to a community which summarize as follows:

1. The application of a wide range of electronic and digital technologies at the community level;

2. The embedding of such Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in community systems;

3. The use of ICT to transform life environments within the community;

4. The territorialization of practices that brings ICTs and people together to enhance the innovation and knowledge that they offer.

Let us spend some time on the facts within the following discussion as to why open communities are less advantageous when adopting a smart system while upgrading their communities.

Why is it more difficult for open communities to adopt smart system?

It is definitely not an easy task for non-gated communities to adopt smart technologies due to the nature of the real estates. For example, since open community’s house owners are usually issued with the individual title of their property and are not governed under the Strata Title Act; forming a resident association (RA) or management committee (MC) is not mandatory. Without a proper organization or regulated body to act on behalf of the majority residents, to decide on the level of adoption of the smart technologies, to oversee the implementation, it is almost an impossible mission for a non-gated community to do it. Furthermore, in open communities, usually there is no collection of monthly maintenance fees and sinking funds, no hiring of management staffs. Therefore, it is hard to keep the smart system running on a daily basis.  On top of that, open communities lack other facilities like clubhouse, landscaping, swimming pool and etc. Besides the basic amenities like water, electricity and garbage disposal, other facilities even if available, most probably do not belong to the communities as part and parcel of their properties.
Although some housing developments are categorized as open community, residents have nevertheless taken steps to barricade access generally by setting up guard posts with the hopes of preventing and reducing crime in the area. Usually, some form of physical barrier surrounds the boundaries to the housing estate whereas residents engage private security firm to provide the security guard services. This often involves an attempt to restrict or regulate public spaces privately by erection of barriers on public needs, guardhouses, etc. But, because the access roads belong to the public in individual title properties, it is unlawful to any privately attempts to restrict or regulate public spaces without the approval of the relevant authority. Any attempt to close, barricade or restrict the access of a public road, drain or space, for example in Malaysia, there may be a contravention of Sections 46(1) of Street Drainage and Building Act 1974, Section 80 of the Road Transport Act 1987 and Section(s) 62 and 136 of the National Land Code 1965. In addition, provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 of Malaysia may also be violated where guardhouses are built in the public land or road shoulders, unless the resident association (RA) opts to implement a joint private contract with the Municipal or take over the upkeep entirely from the Authority.
Even  when the local authorities are closing one eye or a contract has been established with the local authorities; the bottom line is, there is no law governing the collection of service charges, all the extra facilities that are installed within the community would not be properly maintained or sustained in the long run.
All these “natures” of an open community restrict the adoption of smart technologies, but if the unregulated RA of an open community overcomes the limitations to a certain extend, the adoption of the smart technologies to further upgrade the neighbourhood to certain level is thus more viable.
Smart community depends on smart people. Without the facilities, or extra funds to invest in a smart system, the voluntary RA in an open community still can make use of the free social Apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook, or even Blogpost which utilize smartphone technology to improve the sociality in the neighbourhood, or setup their own communication platform and achieve certain goals for the benefits of their community. 
You can’t add too much of “smart technologies” into the open communities. Because, without a regulated organization to manage a community as a whole, an open community remains as a combination of all the individual units, or the RA organizes the community as a loose form. Individual unit homeowners might install their house with standalone smart home system, and their smart home system may hook up with some external service providers like a grocery supplier, but eventually it is not the smart community system that benefits the residents at the community level.

From Gated Community To Smart Gated Community

On the other hand, a strata title is usually issued for high-rise properties such as condominiums, apartments, and landed properties, which are gated and guarded. A strata title is issued when you own a portion of the land, alongside with the other owners. A typical feature of strata properties is when the house you bought (whether landed or high-rise), comes with common facilities and areas such as swimming pools, clubhouses, and other common properties which are shared by all the residents.

A. The Characteristics Of Gated Community  

When it comes to gated communities with landed strata titles, the collection of service charges are mandated by the Strata Management Act. A gated community may refer to a cluster of houses that are surrounded by a wall or fence on a perimeter with entry or access of enclaves controlled by certain measures of restrictions such as guards, boom gates or barriers which normally includes 24 hour security, guard patrols, central monitoring systems and closed circuit televisions (CCTV) cameras. The emphasis in these guarded communities is the combination of security, privacy and the affluent lifestyle of its residents. For easier comprehension, we list the common characteristics and features of gated communities as shown in Figure 3. 

Figure 3: Characteristics Of Gated Communities
Security• Surrounded by fences or walls
• Physical security measures such as security guards, closed-circuit television system (CCTV) or central monitoring system and 24-hour patrol system.
• Alarm security system.
Privacy• Privatization of public spaces.
• Private roads are closed to general traffic.
• Private amenities.
Facilities and amenities• Residents own and share common facilities and amenities such as recreational park, swimming pool and golf courses.
• All facilities including roads are maintained by the management corporation.
Limitation of access• Limited public access to non-residents with controlled entrance by security guards
• Access card
Terms and regulation• Residents are bound by specific rules of the housing schemes
• Residents are required to pay a maintenance fee for the facilities provided by gated communities’ schemes
Luxury• Usually designed with luxurious lifestyle
• Housing types: bungalow, semi-detached, terrace and townhouse
• High class facilities: golf courses, sports centre, medical centre, clubhouse, international school, pavilion
Land title• Strata title
• Individual title
Types of development• Landed properties
• High-rise properties
• Mixed housing development
Management corporation• Established under Commissioner of Building of local authorities
• Have been agreed in Deeds of Mutual Covenants (DMC)
• Private governing body
(Source: Researcher, 2014)

The existing technologies for gated community

Based on the above characteristics and features, and the facilities most commonly installed for gated communities, we can group the existing technologies deployed by gated community into four main categories:

1. Access Control System

    a. Boom gate/barrier gate and parking system
         - To control and allow only authorized vehicles, either residents or visitors to enter or exit the area. 

     b. Door Access system
         -  For lobby, gym room, lift, turnstile and etc for human access control.

2. Security System

    a. Guard tour system
        - To monitor security guards carrying out their perimeter and certain checkpoint patrolling duties to safeguard the community.  

    b. CCTV surveillance & central monitoring system
        - CCTVs are normally installed at the guardhouse for entry and exit of vehicles, visitors and residents, or along the perimeter of some strategic areas within the area. 

3. Management System 

   a.  Accounting software
        - Accounting system to maintain reliable and timely financial records for property management. 

   b. Billing & payment system
        - Invoicing system to bill the unit owners for maintenance and sinking funds and etc as well as monitor the payment records. 

   c. Time & attendance system for workforce management team
       - To manage the management office staff, guards, gardeners, cleaners’ time & attendance 

   d.  Visitor management system
        - To manage all kinds of visitors including friends, vendors, contractors, service providers as well as the dropping-off and picking up of residents by cab drivers, etc. 

4. Communication System 

    a. Intercom system
       - Normally voice or video phone mounted in individual units to allow residents to communicate with the guard or receptionist in case of a surprise visitor.

Please take note that we ignore the non-tech components like noticeboard as a communication system due to it non-tech nature.

All of the above mentioned system might be some sort of a computer system, or fit the listed four criterias that build a smart community to some extent, but in general it is still far-fetched based on a smart community standard.

Most of the existing community technologies have the following problems, which deter them from moving a step higher in the “smart” ladder.

1. Existing systems are mostly isolated, standalone or scattered and outdated

Surprisingly, Windows-based system is still in a dominant position for the scattered community management system, from accounting software, access control system to central monitoring system and visitor management system; they are still being used in day-to-day operation. And, even certain new gated-housing development projects, windows-based management systems still come as parcel to be transferred later to the management committee by the developers.

The shortcomings of Windows-based system are apparent, such as non-interactive, poor remote access, accessibility only confined to a few administrators, against the concept of smart community in which personal data can easily be accessed by the individual owner, common community information can easily be shared and retrieved by neighbours, the interaction between residents and residents or residents and visitors or the communities outside the enclave can easily be achieved. In the Internet era, Windows-based applications are lamented as closed system and weak in human interaction, almost impossible to use as the building blocks of an ecosystem that is much anticipated by a smart society.

2. Lack of integration, weak in workflow and automation

When a system is standalone, or has a limitation in integration with other systems, then it lacks of workflow to facilitate the automation processes. For example, you may have a visitor management system, but it can’t separate these different kinds of visitors and all are treated as walk-in visitors. You can’t pre-register visitors, you have a problem to speed up visitors check-in and check-out process when stringent security measure is taken, you can’t automate door access and lift access for the visitors because there is no integration of visitor management system with access control system. A fully integrated system can improve workflow, for example, approval workflow for visitation and facility booking, workflow of e-billing followed by online payment, defect report followed by defect solving ticketing system. 

3. Lack of online process capability & mobility

Today, “online” and “mobility” are the two fundamental pillars in enabling the smart communities. We noticed that most of the communities are still far from adopting the online process and mobility into their system.  For example in smartphones, or more specifically, Apps seldom play an active role in security system, management system, communication system and access control system.

4. Lack of friendliness

When gated community is often being criticized for its social segregation, and the system is too rigid and not friendly in receiving visitors, a smart gated community should have the ability to reduce if not eliminate the unfriendly image, and also should have the aptitude to improve communication with the communities outside the enclave.

The system design of the current systems usually is based on mission-oriented problem-solving model; rarely in system designers’ mind they have the responsibility to improve the relationship between the residents, or between the residents and the outside world.  

Building an ecosystem for smart community rather than merely adopting smart technologies

When I list down the existing gated community system and its weaknesses, people may ask, “Hey, if we upgrade and replace all the outdated systems with the latest smart technologies, is it good enough for us to achieve a smart community status?” The answer is no. Because you just get and use all the “tools”, too superficial for a successful smart community. To build a successful smart community, we have to think eco-systematically, rather than adopting the smart technologies as rigid entities. In biological term, an ecosystem is a community made up of living organisms and non-living components such as air, water, and mineral soil. But for an ecosystem in a smart community, living organisms that we refer to, are the people or residents that live in the neighbourhood, how residents associate and interact among themselves, and between residents and their surrounding environment.

Figure 4: Ecosystem framework for smart residential community 

1. Community Created Services

Communities are the miniature of smart cities, but with very localized needs. Some examples of potential smart communities include university campuses, office parks, airports, cargo ports, multi-dwelling units (MDU) or apartment complexes, housing developments/neighborhoods, business districts and even individual “smart” buildings. They have needs for smart services that may be tailored specifically for their stakeholders.

- General Services
- Smart Facilities
- Visitor Management
- Guard & Patrol Services
- Environment Monitoring
- Vehicle Management

2. Corporate Created Services

Businesses and organizations may create services that use and create information to produce outcomes for its communities. Some examples of “smart” businesses include O2O, Uber,  Lyft  and Grab for personal mobility, NextDoor for information sharing, and Waze/Google for traffic and commute planning, near field commerce for merchants around the communities. Smart community committee or provider may consider the integration of the corporate created services into the smart community system for better workflow and automation.

- Near field commerce
- O2O service providers

3. Resident Created Services

Residents are also smart service providers in the smart community. A resident living in the enclave can broadcast defective public amenities and stream live information through the community communication platform, or create the social activities through its event management feature, or gather poll among residents for some smart services.  Residents can choose to make these smart services temporary or permanent, and free or charge based.

- Yard sales
- Profit micro-services
- Non-profit micro-services
- Social activities

4. Government Created Services

Some services are provided by municipal and quasi-government agencies, such as smart parking, smart water management, smart lighting, and so on. But in terms of self-initiated smart community projects, government created services are the most passive, and whether can be tapped by the communities to value-add for the greater good are not usually within the grip of smart residential communities. One might want to exclude government created services out from the context of their Smart Residential Community project planning.  

- Waste Management
- Lighting
- Traffic Control
- Energy Management

Innovation catalyst and smart city expert, Benson Chan raises 7 capability layers to build an ecosystem for a smart city. I adopted and narrowed down the same capability layer concepts to the smart residential community.   

A smart residential community is an ecosystem comprised of multiple “capability layers”. While technology is a critical enabler, it is just one of many foundational capabilities that every smart residential community must have. No one capability is more important than the rest. Each capability plays a different role in the smart residential community. These capabilities must integrate and coordinate with each other to carry out its mission.

1. Value Layer

This is the most visible layer for residents, merchants, visitors, workers, and others. This layer emphasize the smart community services or “use cases”, centered around the results (Figure 5), and offered by value creators as well as consumed by the residents. 

Figure 5: Value Strategy

Government Efficiency
The evaluation of government efficiency can be ignored because is beyond the control of the Smart Community Committee

Quality of Life
Standard of living, satisfaction and happiness of residents

Safety protection at home and within the enclave and surrounding neigbourhood from crime, hazards and disasters

Overall maintenance of the smart ecosystem

Environmental friendly
Environmental, water and air quality management

Deployment of smartphone and mobile apps in a smart residential community. 

2. Innovation Layer
To stay competitive in order to create larger benefits for the community, value creators in the smart community must continuously innovate and update its services for its neighbourhood.

3. Management And Operations Layer
The smart community creates disruption and results in digital transformation of existing processes and services. Smart city management models must integrate a new ecosystem of value creators and innovators. They must plan, support and monetize new business models, processes and services. They must upgrade their existing infrastructure and management processes to support “smart” services. Finally, they must measure the performance of the community with a new set of metrics.

4. Policy, Processes, Public-private Partnerships, And Financing Layer
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Similarly, smart community doesn’t just magically appear overnight. An entirely new set of engagement models, rules, financing sources, and partners are required to build, operate and maintain the smart residential community.

5. Information And Data Layer
The lifeblood of the smart community is information. The smart community must facilitate this in several ways, including open data initiatives, data marketplaces, analytics services, and monetization policies. Equally important, they must have programs that encourage data sharing and privacy policies to protect what and how the data is gathered.

6. Connectivity, Accessibility And Security Layer
As an ecosystem, people, things and systems are interconnected in the smart community. The ability to seamlessly connect all three, manage and verify who and what is connected and shared, while protecting the information and users are crucial. The highest priorities for smart communities are to provide a seamless layer of trusted connections.

7. Smart Community Technology Infrastructure Layer
Most people automatically think of technology when talking about smart communities. The smart community technology infrastructure must scale beyond the traditional community users and support a new class of value creators, and community members.

How To Start?

To think eco-systematically in implementing a smart residential community project, here are some key points for smart community stakeholders to ponder with before kick-starting the project in order to create a sustainable and scalable smart community:

1.      Understand the smart community ecosystem’s framework and tailor it to the realities of the specific requirements. Incorporate this model into the development of their smart residential community vision, strategy and execution plans.

2.      Relative to the smart community ecosystem framework, identify current capabilities and gaps across the various layers. Understand what is needed to support the four types of value creators. 

3.      Evaluate existing and new smart community projects and initiatives against the ecosystem framework. Use this framework to identify what is missing from the project plans and what is needed to make the projects fully successful.

4.    Prioritize and develop competencies across the various ecosystem layers. A smart community requires new skills and competencies. Augment existing capabilities through strategic partnerships and contracting with service providers.


1.      In this chapter, the author differentiates the open and gated community, the pros and cons, and why smart residential community projects are more viable to implement in gated communities rather than non-gated open communities. 

2.      The author traced the history of gated community back to the pre-modern era and why it became a rising trend in today’s housing developments.

3.      A list of characteristics and features of gated community is being laid, and the author has divided the community system into 4 categories, which are access control system, security system, management system and community system. 

4.      The author discussed the weaknesses of the existing community system, like scattered and lack of integration; lack of online process and mobility; lack of workflow process and automation; and lack of friendliness. 

5.      The author suggests to build a smart community is not merely an adoption of smart technologies, but to think eco-systematically. 

6.      The author discussed the ecosystem model to build a successful and sustainable smart community.


1. Noor Rosly Hanif, Wan Nor Azriyati Wan Abd Aziz, Peter Aning Anak Tedong, Deborah Peel, and Greg Lloyd 2015,  "Gated and guarded communities in Malaysia: The new roles of the state and civil society", Studies of Urban and Regional Real Estate (SURE), Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, pp. 1-19.

2. Nur Azhani Adnan, Norjariah Arif, Zarina Shamsudin, Khadijah Md Ariffin, Marina Osman, Noralfishah Sulaiman 2014, "PRACTICE OF GATED COMMUNITIES DEVELOPMENT IN MALAYSIA: TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES", Department of Real Estate Management, Faculty of Technology Management and Business, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, pp. 1-13.

3. ERA Real State 2014, Open Communities vs. Gated Communities: Which is Best?, ERA Real State, viewed 6 July 2018, <>. 

4. Michael E. Smith 2011, The Ancient History of Gated Communities, Wide Urban World, viewed 21 July 2018, <>.

5. Jayadeep Hari & Jamil 2017?, Gated & Guarded Community – Malaysia, Legal Resources, viewed 18 July 2018, <>.

6. Benson Chan 2018, "Planning Sustainable Smart Cities with the Smart City Ecosystem Framework”.

7. Wikipedia 2018, Gated Community, Wikipedia, viewed 22 July 2018, <>.

8. Z. Shamsudin, E.Y. Ying 2016, “The Safety Level of Gated and Guarded Community Scheme in Malaysia”, The European Proceedings of Social & Behavioural Sciences, EpSBS, Future Academy, pp. 576-583.  

Teh Hon Seng, Group CEO of TimeTec Group of Companies. Prior to forming TimeTec, Teh led PUC Founder (MSC) Bhd to be listed on MESDAQ (ACE) market of Bursa Malaysia in 2002. Teh initiated the R&D in fingerprint technology in 2000, which later developed into a renowned global brand for commercial fingerprint product known as FingerTec. In 2008, he foresaw the trend of cloud computing and mobile technology, and over the years, he had strategically diversified and transformed its biometric-focused products into a suite of cloud solutions that aimed at workforce management and security industries including smart communities that centered around the cloud ecosystem. Teh has more than 10 patents to his nam, and he is also a columnist in a local newspaper and a writer of several books.