Gate control is now so easy

Wednesday July 26 2017

Are you tired of the ritual you have to

Are you tired of the ritual you have to perform  every time you get back home? You know, where you get out of the car, open the gate, support it with stones to prevent it from swinging shut, drive into the compound and then go back to close it? PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Are you tired of the ritual you have to perform  every time you get back home? You know, where you get out of the car, open the gate, support it with stones to prevent it from swinging shut, drive into the compound and then go back to close it?

Well, you don’t have to do this any longer, thanks to technology, which has made it possible to have automated gates. Yes, your gate can open itself for you after you dial it from wherever you are. So you need not wake up the whole household when you return home late after that unusually long day at work. 

An automated gate functions like a TV remote. When approaching your gate, or if someone tells you that they are at the  gate, all you have to do is call the SIM card mobile number allocated to it. The GSM switch picks the call  then disconnects it, but it does not use up airtime. The gate opens, then once you, or your visitor, are inside, you call the number again and the gate automatically closes.

Alternatively, you can set the GSM switch to auto close. This allows you to determine how long the gate remains open, say 20 seconds,  before it closes. When you use this setting, do not have to call the gate twice because it will open and close itselfwithin the interval you have set.

Automated gates are very convenient and add to user safety,  given that you do not have to call those inside to come and open for you. They are particularly convenient at night or in rainy weather because you do not have to hoot or call to wake up someone in the house to open the gate for you, which often ends up waking the whole household. 

“With an automated gate, you gain access to your compound quietly and faster, and with minimum disturbance to others. All you need to do is press a button and the gate opens,” offers Mr Anthony Kioi, the director of  Vibro Dampers Engineering (VDE), a firm that builds  automated gates in Ngara, Nairobi.

Since automated gates are programmed, they enhance safety because in a risky situation, say if you are attacked at home or in the office, you need not get out of the house or office to close them.

In addition, they save manpower since all it takes to open them is a phone call or press of a button.

At places where you need to install heavy or huge gates, automation certainly makes it easier for you to operate them,” says Mr Edward Kiaria Kinoti, the marketing manager at Distinction Point Suppliers, a Nairobi-based firm that installs automated gates.


Automated gates come in various types and models, and depending on the degree of automation you require, you can have a sliding gate or a swing gate installed.

Modern automated gates function with the help of a special motor that triggers their opening and closing, and you can enhance security by integrating this automated system with your theft security systems, such that an alarm goes off or a message is sent to your phone that someone is trying to force their way into your home or office, says  Mr Kiaria.

For a long time automated gates were deemed a  fancy and expensive contraptions and were largely driven by suppliers in upmarket areas.

“Since they were taking measurements and importing particular automated gates from Italy or South Africa, it made them very expensive,” Mr Kioi observes.

As a result, automated gates remained the preserve of the rich. But these  models were the conventional swing gates, the only addition being  a motor that automated them.

To bridge this gap, VDE Gates set out to bring alternatives to the market, with a view to making it affordable for more people to install automated gates. 

This saw VDE Gates come up with a sliding motor that can  operate type of gate. In gate automation, weight and alignment plays a very important role as it informs the motor capacity.

“The heavier the gate, the higher the capacity of the motor,” offers Mr Kioi, a mechanical engineer by profession.

Most domestic gates weigh between 200 and 500 kilogrammes, while industrial gates can weigh well over 1,000 kilogrammes, meaning they require motors of different capacities. 

Notably, an automated gate does not have to be new; an existing gate can be automated. A quick look through the market indicates that it would cost about Sh120,000 to automate an existing gate while a new automated gate would cost a minimum of Sh170,000, and can cost up to as much as  of Sh250,000, depending on the individual design and the material(s) it is made of. 

For instance, gates that combine original steel and hardwood are quite expensivebecause of the cost of the materials and the work involved, offers Mr Kinoti.

Mr Kioi concurs, adding: “Hardwood does not come cheap, but it has that aesthetic appeal and is prestigious as well. There is an aspect of class to it.”

Should you decide to install an automated gate, you can choose between a slide gate and a swing gate. Slide gates open sideways, while swing gates open by swaying to the inside or outside. This functionality aspect makes slide gates more convenient, especially when it comes to parking, because they  accommodate more cars.

“With a slide gate, a car can be parked as close as 2 inches from the gate. This is why I always advise parking lots to go for slide rather than swing gates,” shares Mr Kioi.

Another factor that gives slide gates an advantage over swing gates is that they use only one motor while swings gates are powered by two motors – one on each side. This not only reduces cost of the gate, but also considerable maintenance costs.

Besides, the rate of wear and tear in swing gates is higher than in slide gates. This is because of the  the strain the hinges are under when the gate is pushed. This makes, the repair and maintenance costs of swing gates  higher than those of  sliding gates.

Mr Kioi cites as an example a company for whom they maintain 10 swing residential gates and 10 company slide gates.

“The swing gates may be used about six times a day each, while the company gates are used numerous times, with more than 300 employees walking in and out at different times, but the residential swing gates are more costly to repair and maintain. Even though I am in this  business, I always advise my customers to go for slide gates rather than swing gates,” says Mr Kioi.

Other types of automated gates include roller gates for business premises and garages, which just roll up.

“The latest trend in gate automation is the retractable gate. Although  they have not caught on in Kenya,  I have seen them in China and South Africa,” says Mr Kioi.

Retractable gates open by folding itself; it retracts in an overlapping manner. And to close, it just  unfolds For instance, a retractable gate can be as wide as 15 metres, Mr Kioi says. It is for this very reason that  they are popular in shopping malls and gated communities in Dubai and South Africa. “They are manufactured in Dubai and come packaged in pieces that you assemble them on site. We have installed them in  a few homes, but they have not yet picked up in Kenya,” explains Mr Kioi. There are also are conventional gates that fold themselves, known as folding leaves.





How an automated gate works

An automated gate is connected to a GSM Switch that uses a SIM  card – yes, a mobile number. The Sim card is loaded with airtime to activate it. You then save this number in your phone as Gate or Gate1, Gate2, Gate3, depending on the number of gate keys the installer allows you. Gate keys are the  people in a home who are authorised to open and close the gate.

The GSM Switch is connected to a motor that is connected to an electric power source and batteries.

An automated gate functions like a mobile phone. When approaching your gate or if someone tells you that they are at the gate, you call the gate’s Sim card number. The GSM Switch picks the call and disconnects it, but it does not use up airtime. The gate opens, and once the person is inside, you call the number again and the gate closes.

Alternatively, you can set the GSM switch to auto close. This allows you to detemine how long  you want the the gate to remain open before  it  closes.

The GSM switch technology is highly intelligent and communicates with you via  text messages regarding the power situation, with alerts  such as “Power outage”, “power restored”, “low motor voltage”, “battery low”, and “power down’. keeping you informed at all times

“Now, given that the gate is operated by electricity, will I be locked out of omy compound when there’s a blackout?” you might ask.

The answer is no because even if there is a power outage, you can still access your home or business premises because there is always a battery back-up system in place.

However, in the event it, too, is exhausted, there is a manual mechanism of restoring an automated gate back to a manual analogue system. All you have to do is open the motor and set it to manual ‘“free mode”.

This sets the gate to the original mechanical way of opening. Although this  rarely happens, it is factored in in the design of automated gates, just in case there’s a prolonged power outage.



Factors to consider when choosing a gate

1. The space for sliding. The sliding edge should not be the one housing the gatekeeping room. You should think about the space for sliding the gate when building so that the house is not  built  too close to the perimeter wall to allow for sliding space. A space of about six inches from the perimeter wall is enough room for the gate toslide

2. Sliding gates are less costly. Even without automation, sliding gates are the latest trend as they create more room for parking space and since they do not swing, their hinges remain in good condition  longer than those of swing gates. They, therefore,  cost less  in repair and maintenance.

3. Height limitation. Some people construct a concrete bar on top of a sliding gate on which they fix pieces of broken glass to deter people who might want to force their way into their property. However, this places a permanent limit to the height of vehicles entering their compound. And there are better ways of doing this. For instance, electric fencing can be designed together with the gate and automatically set in such a way that when the gate is sliding open, the fence disengages, and when it closes, the fence reconnects.