Entering a Touch-Free World
Access Control in a post-COVID reality
The arrival of COVID-19 has forced us to think about everything we touch on a daily basis: door handles, lift buttons, handrails to name a few. This of course has brought about a rapid change in workspace practices, as communal buildings are high-risk environments for cross-infection.
As Australia begins its slow journey back to business post-COVID, we enter a reality where touch free Access Control for safety and security has gone from a benefit to a necessity. The pandemic has seen fast tracked projects that may otherwise have taken years to deploy – from access control to secure building practices, and many of these changes are likely to endure in the long term.
Andrew Miller, General Manager at International Security Control Solutions Pty Ltd (ISCS), has seen many organizations transition from full-time workplaces to staggered shifts with a limited number of staff on site, or to a skeleton staff with remote workers.
“All these scenarios require an Access Control platform that is flexible in its setup and also a way of distributing credentials to people who may never have had to use one before.”
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our credential production effectively doubled. Access control systems were slower to move but we now have a steady line of orders, particularly in the long range hands-free area as well as our new Facial recognition based temperature scanners which have gained tremendous interest.”
Scott Johnstone, National Sales Manager, Gallagher, has also seen a significant increase in activity, particularly within the large commercial and government sectors:
“The pandemic has seen activity in some industries accelerate and has required the fast deployment of security solutions to secure new, remote, or temporary bases of operations.”
“There has been a noticeable increase in the need for access control to protect assets during the absence of staff, allow essential operations to continue safely, and to apply security improvements during this unique time.”
“We have seen sites installing hardware to support best practice outcomes, such as exit readers to control the number of people in a given area and for accurate contact tracing records, and biometric readers for frictionless access. Visitors also bring challenges for organisations and clients have been working to improve the use of visitor management systems to address the risks they pose.”
Market predictions were of course already expecting the use of biometric technology to increase five-fold to US$70 billion by 2030 before the pandemic hit. Although we could see a move away from contact biometrics such as fingerprints, other forms of biometric identification offer a level of security and flexibility ideally suited to our newly evolved work practices.
Iris scanning has been growing due to its high level of accuracy, and 3D imaging looks to be making facial recognition considerably more reliable, with these solutions being used to enter workplaces, unlock computers, sign-on to business systems, access the company server and connect securely to VPNs
Already experiencing growth pre-COVID, the use of smartphone-based credentials has also proved useful in managing the changed conditions during the pandemic, and the technology seems likely to emerge as a ‘new normal’ practice. Not only do mobile credentials offer enhanced security, they also have the benefit of being rapidly deployable and simple to maintain remotely.
Multi-factor authentication, which can be implemented on devices at set up, and the fact that a mobile phone is far less likely to end up in the wrong hands, make mobile credentials extremely secure. Add to that virtual buttons, location awareness, mass contact and emergency response capabilities, suddenly a switch to mobile access control credentials right now seems not practical, but essential.
COVID-19 has certainly forced companies to examine their working practices and business operations in novel ways, but what do the changes so far tell us about what security solutions and innovations may be here to stay?
Scott Johnstone, Gallagher, suggests “It’s almost certain that organisations will have a different approach to flexible work arrangements, concepts that were deliberated over for years have been brought to life in a matter of days. The world has found many faster, leaner, more agile and flexible ways to work, and I think many of them are here to stay.”
Andrew Miller, ISCS, on the future: “We believe the whole nature of the working environment will be closely monitored as things begin to return to normal. When companies evaluate some of the practices they were forced to adopt, I think we can expect to see mobile credentials, visitor management policies and flexible working hours embraced as longer-term solutions. Carefully managed and ‘elegant’ solutions will be very beneficial in this new working environment.”
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