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December 21, 2020


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5 access control trends for 2021

Michael Gips, Physical Security expert and Principal of Global Insights in Professional Security, LLC, offers his predictions for trends set to shape the world of physical access control in 2021 and beyond. 

The door has finally closed on a turbulent 2020. That’s ironic, because for most of the year, office doors around the world were propped open: no one wanted to risk catching COVID-19 from a door handle. The events of 2020 will significantly shape physical security in 2021. Here are five major trends in access control – and one for 2022 and beyond.

1) Going Mobile

The pandemic has altered the perception and practice of access control. Even before coronavirus arrived, a 2019 survey by HID estimated that 54% of businesses had upgraded or would upgrade to a mobile access control system in the next three years. It’s not unreasonable to project that the number will increase in light of health, safety, and sanitization concerns brought to the fore by the coronavirus.

Forecaster IHS Markit says that mobile based credentials are the fastest-growing access control product. It predicts that more than 120 million mobile credentials will be downloaded in 2023.

The uptick in mobile based credentials is not surprising. Almost half of the world’s population owns a smartphone, and the numbers increase substantially in industrialised countries. About 84% of adults in the United Kingdom own a smartphone, and like most, they carry them everywhere. That’s not the case with keycards, which have a singular use and are frequently forgotten or lost, which amounts to expense for the employer. Startups such as Swiftlane, Kisi, Proxy, Genea, and Openpath dot the new landscape.

WATCH: Moving to mobile access webinar

2) Multi-Factor & Multimodal Authentication

Mobile credentials enable both multimodal and multi-factor authentication. Multimodal means proving identity and/or gaining access using at least two separate biometrics, or permitting access through any one of various credentials, such as a smartcard or PIN. Multi-factor authentication involves proving identity and/or obtaining access via at least two methods or credentials.

Multi-factor authentication is widely used in digital access. For example, when an employee logs onto a company’s system, he or she must use a secondary method to verify identity via a one-time token via SMS or other app. It is also burgeoning in physical access applications.

Although two-factor authentication has been mandated in regulated industries, it is emerging in unregulated verticals as well. The development of multimodal readers will continue to fuel this trend.

3) Biometrics

For decades, biometrics advocates have predicted that we are on the verge of a biometrics revolution. That’s still not the case, but startups abound, the technology is being increasingly adopted, prices are falling, and resistance to biometrics has waned.

According to Future Market Insights, “Contactless biometric technology will ride the wave created by the COVID-19 pandemic to a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 17.4% from 2020 to 2030. In that period, the global market is expected to increase five-fold.

According to that analysis, facial recognition will seize the greatest market share of biometrics as organisations adopt it for identity verification and access control. But various other technologies will see healthy gains as well, including touchless fingerprints, iris, palm, voice, and vein pattern.

Although another forecaster (ABI systems) predicts a less robust market for biometrics overall, it still projects generous growth for two technologies: facial recognition and iris matching.

4) Cloud/Subscription-Based Model 

Organisations used to be bound by the limitations of often-proprietary, premise-based access control systems. System management, integration, updates, and maintenance sapped valuable resources.

The world of cloud, SaaS, and subscription-based subscriptions has upended the old model of premise-based legacy systems. Traditionally, organisations would purchase hardware such as readers, panels, and cards, then wire the system to an on-site server. Installation, testing, and maintenance were manually conducted. With subscription-based systems, hardware like readers and panels remain on site, but servers, software, and data reside at the provider’s data centre. It’s a centralised way to manage all access, have 24/7 support, and receive the benefits of a large solution provider. Those benefits include:

  • Low startup costs
  • Scalability
  • Instant updates
  • Minimal downtime
  • Higher security
  • Mobile first access management
  • Integrated multi-facility management
  • Immediate addition, removal, or modification of access privileges
  • Frequent data backup
  • Continuous product improvement and development

5) Hygiene and Physical Separation

Organisations will hopefully start to bring staff back to the office in 2021, after months of working at home. To lure them back, companies will have to ensure safety and hygiene policies, procedures, practices, and protocols. This could mean adoption of touchless systems, removal of doors, sanitization stations, one-way traffic, reduced occupancy, social distancing, and so on. Other innovations might include modifying hours of operation of systems, tightening access privileges, limiting building access points.

As long as coronavirus remains a concern, organisations can audit access data to assist in contact tracing for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.

Bonus Trend: Wearables and Implantables

Ubiquitous as they are, smart phones may disappear as quickly as they arrived. Smartphone capabilities are moving to wristwatches, earbuds, belts, and even smart clothing. The appeal of wearables for access control is clear: you don’t have to retrieve a card, punch in a code, pull out your phone, or lay your fingerprints on a platen. You simply move your watch in the path of the reader to open a door.

On the horizon is technology that is implanted in, tattooed on, or injected into the human body. Elon Musk and various other startups are experimenting with various options. Such a technology, once a person’s key is uploaded to the cloud, could become that person’s universal access control.

A deeper dive into these trends can be found here.

About the author

Michael Gips, JD, CPP, CSyP, CAE is a collaborative physical/cyber security advisor, and currently serves as the Principal of Global Insights in Professional Security, LLC, a firm that helps security providers develop cutting-edge content, assert thought leadership, and heighten brand awareness in a crowded marketplace. Michael was also one of the judges for the IFSEC Global Influencers in Security & Fire 2020 competition.

Keep up with the access control market

The physical access control market is moving fast. Find out where you stand with the latest edition of IFSEC Insider's comprehensive 2022 State of Physical Access Control trend report, covering all the latest developments within the market. We assess the current technology in use, upgrade plans and challenges, and major trends on the horizon after receiving the views of over 1000 security, facilities and IT professionals.

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