As lockdown eases and people begin to return to work, Pete England, PAC’s global product manager, examines the challenges this presents in terms of security and access control, and some of the key issues that organisations and building managers need to consider.
It’s been a tumultuous few months during which all aspects of our lives have changed. As the ‘new normal’ is defined and workplaces begin to welcome employees back, those responsible for building services infrastructures are busy reappraising how existing technology and ways of operating need to be adapted and augmented to create more hygienic environments. Security and access control is no exception and has the potential to be a vital part of an effective infection control strategy.
Point of contact
By now we are used to washing our hands more frequently, using sanitiser before and after touching anything and avoiding physical contact with shared surfaces. Given what’s at stake from cross contamination, it’s not surprising that people are changing the way they engage with technology. Research from Foolproof found that 80 per cent of people believe they will now behave differently when interacting with public technology that they have to touch.
This cautious attitude will hopefully permeate into the workplace. Initially at least, returning employees are likely to be nervous, apprehensive and uncertain. On top of that, a place that was previously familiar may now seem alien and there is likely to be some confusion about how any new operational policies work in practice. A building’s security and access infrastructure will therefore play a vital part in reducing bottlenecking, enabling people counting, enforcing social distancing, ensuring wait and hold areas operate correctly, and maintaining the effectiveness of one-way systems.
Greater consideration will also need to be given about how people access and egress a building, who is on the premises, where they are, how long they’ve been there for and who they have been in contact with. This will involve assessing how access control can be integrated with identification credentials such as cards, tokens and smartphones, and devising ways to check whether facemasks and other items of personal protective equipment (PPE) are being correctly worn, or if temperature screening has been carried out.
On the radar
This is where video verification, video analytics and greater integration of security and access control provide vital business intelligence (BI). BI now has the ability to evolve from something that simply supports sales operations to providing data that builds resilience and maintains safety.
Social distancing will remain a key facet of lockdown easing and infection control strategies, so identifying, verifying and analysing where in a building this is not taking place, and acting on it quickly, is imperative. Video management and analytics systems can establish awareness of a situation, confirm that distances are being maintained, respond to unsafe behaviour and analyse data to identify areas and activities that are proving problematic. Integration with other security and access control technology makes it possible for designated personnel to be sent real-time alerts when people are too close together or a space is overcrowded.
Any issues need to be dealt with quickly and it might not always be practical to deploy security personnel to attend. Both audio and visual messaging can be integrated with video to automatically send a message to politely remind building occupants to maintain a safe distance if the video identifies people crowding in a particular area.
Viruses and bacteria are able to survive on surfaces for up to three days and, put simply, the fewer particles that are on a surface, the lower the chances that someone touching it will become infected. Although contactless technology has been considered a luxury rather than a necessity, this will change as employers and building managers make their buildings as hygienic as possible in order to mitigate any potential health risks.
Avoiding the use of devices that could easily become contaminated should be high on the agenda. Take, for instance, the humble request to exit (RTE) button, which has become a common access control device but is often touched by many hundreds of people each day. Contactless variants are now available to help reduce the possibility of cross contamination and protect occupants, while also lowering the number of surfaces that need to be regularly cleaned.
The current situation will also hasten the move towards contactless biometric technologies, as well as mobile credentials. The latter allows a user to authenticate their smartphone and use it as a way to enter and exit a building. Gartner has predicted that by the end of this year 20 per cent of organisations will use smartphones in place of traditional physical access cards and tokens. Highly secure, they offer a range of contactless identification modes and often incorporate two-factor authentication (2FA) functionality, which allows them to be used for contact tracing. Quick and easy to configure, by downloading an app a virtual credential can be produced in a smartphone wallet, allowing the user to have multiple virtual ‘keys’ for different areas or sites.
As we enter unchartered territory, it also provides an opportunity for organisations to look at how they can reduce the capital and operational expenditure associated with their security and access control systems. Cloud based options are outpacing all other forms of security technology adoption and for those that haven’t moved in this direction, now is the perfect time.
The cloud allows users to pay as they go, tap into advanced technology as required, lower the amount of on-site IT resources they need and make the use of remote monitoring easier. Meanwhile, planned preventative maintenance, firmware and software updates, regular patching, firewalls, malware prevention, encrypted password changes and other preventative safeguards protect data. To highlight the importance of this, a study by Morphean found that 77 per cent of respondents believe that their physical security systems are not optimised. This has significant data integrity implications can contravene the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
One step beyond
As we enter the post-lockdown era organisations need to use security and access control technology in smarter ways than ever before in order to combat the spread of infection, protect building occupants, create more hygienic workplaces and adhere to new safety guidelines, while observing data protection regulations. For many this will be a step into the unknown and a daunting task, however, adapting to the fundamental changes in the way we work, as well as in workplace design and operation, will be made easier through the use of technology that is readily available and by working with best in class manufacturers.