The Next Phase of Access Control

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Man Opening Door with Mobile PhoneAs the pandemic unfolded in the spring of 2020, our industry pondered how it might impact customers’ security needs. At IPS, we anticipated a change in customer demands. We started seeing some almost immediately; other changes took time to materialize. Some we expected; some were a surprise.

With a year of the COVID crisis behind us, the impact and kind of changes have become much clearer. A pair of industry reports looking back at 2020 have recently been released and their data complements what we see.  HID’s 2021 State of Physical Access Control and Security Sales & Integration’s 2021 SSI RMR Deep Dive studied both end users and security integrators, just like IPS. 

We thought we’d share some of the highlights from these reports and our observations in this post.

43% of organizations reported that their current access control system does not meet their current needs 

According to HID, only 43% of customers felt that their access control system met their current needs. What’s shocking about this number is that when HID started this survey in 2018, the results were over 70%. This swing illustrates the impact of an extremely difficult and challenging year on access control.

Remote administration requirements became much more the norm

As we left the office and began working remotely, so did the access control administrators-but they still needed access to their systems. Some required additional licenses. The simplest kinds of systems did not support remote administration. Basic activities like changing a schedule that could have been accomplished with a few clicks at an in-office workstation became more difficult. Even adding new users or replacing credentials became a greater chore. Where the admin may have had a box full of cards or fobs in their desk, it wasn’t in their home office. Many asked if there was a simpler way.

Remote management needs rose

Fewer people in buildings changed the dynamics of managing those facilities, increasing the demand for getting alerts and changing how they got delivered. Prior to the pandemic, an alert on a hard client workstation may have been adequate. In 2020, that alert needed to be sent to smart phone. Mobility features which may have been categorized as “nice to have” quickly became a “must have”. The ability to unlock a door from anywhere you’ve got a cellular or network connection became extremely useful. Need to momentarily unlock a door for a contractor or an employee? Remote managers wanted to grant access using their phones. Simply tap a button and unlock.

Integration is more important   

Get an alert that a credential was denied? Want to check out who it was? Don’t want to log into a separate system since doing so remotely is a pain? These needs amplified during 2020. The desire to access video through the access control system surged forward.

Visitor Management Systems became more valuable

As facilities reopened, visitors started coming back shortly thereafter. Protocols were often put in place to screen visitors for their current health, recent travels, and other risk factors. Much of that was done by either asking questions or photocopying a questionnaire and having someone write the answers down.  It was a paper heavy system, at best. After doing this for months, many organizations longed for an electronic system that could check in visitors and review site safety protocols. By using an application designed for visitor management, it would enable better guest tracking, support contact tracing and, in general, keep better records.

New sites, new doors

Not surprisingly, demand for new access control systems grew. Companies that didn’t previously have an electronic access control system now wanted one to have more control.  In many cases, these were simple, smaller systems featuring readers on exterior doors.  Set schedules, add users and manage users.  It wasn’t unusual for a business to just want one door with access control. Some locations proved particularly challenging without networks and required cellular service to communicate with readers.

Cybersecurity concerns continued to increase

When placed on a network, access control systems can potentially create vulnerabilities. The massive Russian hack piggybacking off of a SolarWinds application created more awareness and concerns about cybersecurity across organizations ranging from large to small, public to private.

Interest surged in touchless and frictionless access control systems

Following the guidance of health professionals, we were told to frequently wash our hands after touching common surfaces. Many inquiries were made about reducing touches in security. Picture a front door that has a sensor on it. When it senses a person, it opens. The employee can proceed to a turnstile and present their credential. The turnstile opens and allows them to head to the elevator. They get in the car and it automatically directs them to their floor. The notion is a pathway is created all the way to their workspace with limited surface contact.

The preference for alternative credentials increased

As a society today, we barely function without our phones. You might leave for work without your wallet, but you definitely won’t forget your phone. Administrators continue to ask for Bluetooth credentials which can be loaded on an individual’s phone (and just as easily, created remotely). The trend has been labeled “Phone as a Badge”.

Additionally, “Face as a Badge” (FaaB) is a new technology which is gaining momentum. FaaB revolutionizes credentials, creating a completely touchless authorization and increased security. As a truly unique credential, FaaB has become a preferred 2nd or 3rd authentication factor means for high security areas such as server rooms, bank vaults, etc.

ROI & Cap Ex spending is a challenge

HID reported that the biggest obstacle facing companies was creating ROI or getting a capital expenditure approved. A traditional on-premise, four door system could easily run upwards of $20,000 including locking hardware. With many companies facing financial uncertainties in 2020, investing in a new traditional access control system may not have been a possibility.

Cloud-based offerings continue to increase in appeal

According to SSI’s report, cloud-based access control grew by 7% in 2020. Commonly referred to as Access Control as a Service (ACaaS), it removes the server controlling the system from the local site. On-site door controllers are connected to a cloud-based server and a web browser is used to update users, schedules, and more. It eliminates maintaining another server onsite, which can eliminate the burden on an IT department (if the company even has one). ACaaS is often associated with a smaller down payment and then a monthly subscription fee, which likely contributed to the increase in ACaaS subscriptions in 2020.

Evolving and changing demand inspires new products and features

In summary, 2020 saw demand for new systems, features, and applications. The notion that only 43% of organizations felt their system met their needs is staggering figure. The industry responded with new products and modules. All of the trends and changes listed above can be accomplished. Many systems that are currently deployed have a new software update or module that can be unlocked. That’s good news for many customers – their existing system can be expanded or modified to accommodate their unmet needs. Lastly, new offerings have come onto the market which have placed a premium on mobility – literally using your smartphone to manage the system and simplicity. If you only need one door in an out of the way location, there is an affordable solution available to you.

If you’d like more information about these trends or the complete reports of HID’s 2021 State of Physical Access Control and Security Sales & Integration’s 2021 SSI RMR Deep Dive, please contact us for more information.

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