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June 25, 2021

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Return to work

How intelligent access control can help the ‘return to the office’

Tim Northwood, General Manager at Inner Range, offers a view on how businesses can reboot their access control security systems to cater for a safer environment as workers return to offices.

The much anticipated ‘return to the office’ this summer after months of lockdown and home working has rightly prompted many employers and commercial landlords to think again about the access and security systems they have in place to help create safer working environments.

Reducing crowding, minimising touch-points and keeping accurate tabs on who is where on site are high on the agenda, and many will be looking to change or upgrade existing access and security systems to help meet these new needs as workers gradually return.

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What’s more, with hybrid working looking like it will be the norm in many organisations, it’s expected that some will chose to re-locate to multi-tenant offices where robust cyber security, including between tenants, becomes even more important. Here’s what to consider if you, or your clients, are looking to reboot their access and security system.

Why integrate?

Pre-COVID, site managers may have managed with a relatively straightforward access and intruder detection system integrated with CCTV. But the benefits of more sophisticated integration are significant, especially when you are managing thousands of users a day.

For starters, one integrated system means less cabling and fewer systems to maintain and service. But more importantly, integration allows for a much more superior system including providing site managers with more information, all in one place. It can also allow for intelligent ‘cause and effect’ monitoring, such as CCTV footage automatically appearing if a door is left open or another alert is triggered. All of which makes it easier for security managers to quickly and efficiently deal with situations on site.

Integration also offers the opportunity to create highly bespoke solutions. For example, if you want high level lift control that automatically directs users to the fastest lift for their home floor, to use keyless bike lockers, or for users to be able to park their cars easily via ANPR, including recognising ‘priority’ users, such as those with a disability or executives, or for a complex lockdown protocol in the case of an emergency. All this is possible with an intelligent access control and security system.

Trouble-free access for users

For users, integrated access control means they can use their smartcard or mobile phone to open doors, call lifts, enter car parks and even pay for drinks, snacks and meals with almost no touch points or hold-ups. They don’t need a collection of keys and passwords or PINs. One card, or phone, opens everything they need. Even Two Factor Authentication (2FA) usually only requires users to have a phone, so you can still layer on extra security if you need it, with minimal fuss for users.

Manging visitors

Integrating visitor management software with your access control system has many benefits, especially for offices with many different tenants. Each individual company can create its own visitor passes without having to go through a central security team, and these can be sent to visitors digitally and appear automatically at the right date and time on their phone with a QR code. The passes include access information about floors, doors and other access points the visitor will need to reach, and ensures they can’t go anywhere else in a shared office block.

Case study: Reducing crowds and touchpoints at 77 Coleman Street

A new access and security system was recently installed at 77 Coleman Street in the City of London by Antron Security as part of a complete refurbishment of the luxury multi-tenant office.  

A key element of the design brief was to reduce crowding in the lift lobby and make entry and access touchless. In response, Antron proposed using KONE lift ‘destination control’ managed by Inner Range’s Integriti access control, interfaced with IDL speed lane turnstiles, proximity cards and Forge’s Bluepoint visitor management system.

This sophisticated integration allows users to present cards, or phones, to readers embedded in the entry turnstiles, which also allows them to be read by the KONE lift integration. The high-level lift integration with ‘destination control’ means the lift software takes into account where each of the building’s four lifts are, where the user’s ‘home floor’ is, as well as where other users are going/due to go, and instantly calculates the quickest lift for the new user. Users are immediately directed to the most efficient lift via a display screen on the turnstile.

Visitors scan a QR code generated by Forge’s Bluepoint system to activate their pass, and gives visitors the same seamless, touchless entry route to where they need to go.

Occupancy thresholds

Another way access control systems can manage the flow of people is by setting occupancy thresholds. Users can be counted in and out of entire buildings, specific areas, individual offices or rooms, car parks and lifts. Access can be restricted once an occupancy threshold has been reached, until there is a spare space. All information about occupancy can be transmitted to the site health and safety manager, or facilities manager, for real-time monitoring and alerts.

Tracing people and contacts

Good access control systems allow you to identify close contacts of anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19, or other infectious diseases, by generating detailed reports of where the infected person has been and who else has been near them.

A contact tracing report can be generated and shared quickly and easily. It can show which doors an infected user has passed through, how much time they spent in each area, what time they badged a reader and which other users were near them up to at the time.

Smart building management

Whether you want to automate lighting, heating or air conditioning based on the number of people on site, use ANPR to help users park, ensure cashless transactions for on-site canteens and cafes, or even ensure automated reminders are sent to employees with professional qualifications when they need renewing (particularly important for first-aiders, or other health and safety requirements) this is all possible with intelligent access control.

As is the ability to set up automatic muster reports, showing who is where on site. This can be scheduled to run in the event of a fire alarm to help with health and safety procedures and it can show the last known location of users if someone is missing, site managers or emergency crews will have a much better idea as to where to start searching.

Robust cyber security

Cyber security is important for all sites, and you should expect your access control system to offer end-to-end encryption across any in-house private communication network or between access control system controllers, servers and door modules, or when the core system integrates with third-party products, such as CCTV.

But the best enterprise-level access control systems also offer ‘partitioned sites’. This allows security managers to create users and other global entities that only exist within the partition they were created in. The partitions are completely isolated and invisible to users in other partitions, such as other tenants in the same building, and greatly reduces the chances of cyber criminals or rogue users accessing protected areas and information.

Remote monitoring

The ability for security managers to login remotely was essential even before the pandemic, so they could check details if an alert was triggered. But the need for remote access has increased during lockdown with continued restrictions around social distancing.

Integrators need to consider the most flexible and secure remote access for their customers, which could be via a web client, or a fixed/floating client and a secure encrypted VPN or tunnelling protocol. Whichever way, security managers for large or multi-tenant offices need to be able to access the system from home on an agreed laptop or app on their phone.

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 Global's comprehensive State of Physical Access Control in EMEA Business report, covering all the latest developments within the market.

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