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Exclusive: Access control transformed with visitor management integration

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The challenges of 2020 showed why siloed access systems must give way to data-rich integrated solutions, writes Lee Copland of Maxxess EMEA

During the early months of the 2020 pandemic, organisations became aware of how little solid data they had concerning the way people were using their facilities.

As the new coronavirus spread and the scale of the problem became apparent, it became obvious that there was a glaring gap in corporate knowledge. Executives realised that it might be helpful to know exactly who had entered individual facilities each day, where each of those people had gone, where they had spent extended periods of time, who they had come into close contact with and who they had potentially infected. But that kind of granular detail was just not available.

Because, while many big organisations had some capability – using their access control systems to review the arrivals and departures of individual staff members for example – the data was often in disparate databases, limited to full time employees and was not much help in decision making. It could not readily be interrogated or analysed to answer those suddenly pressing questions around potential infection risks.

It might be possible to check when a member of staff had used their access credentials to pass through a particular entrance at the start of the day, gather some dwell time information and what time they had left a building, but that was the limit of the information available and often only available on a site-by-site basis. And it didn’t include everybody, because while most full time employees were included, that still left large numbers of contractors, temporary staff and visitors being admitted using a separate system, in some cases still based on hand written entry logs.

Events last spring moved rapidly and over the following months for most organisations the focus shifted elsewhere – including to quick-fix infection control solutions such as fever detection cameras that have been of limited value but delivered little, longer term value.

But some organisations saw the need for more far-reaching changes and recognised the need to know more clearly how people were using premises. Used standalone, the latest visitor management solutions can deliver huge benefits, but even more value is unleashed when they are integrated with standardised access control across entire estates.

That value goes well beyond the need for infection risk reduction and extends into many of the areas that organisations will need to prioritise in the competitive ‘build back’ period to come, from the race to cut carbon and energy waste, standardise processes and procedures to drive improved efficiency and productivity and enhance visitor and employee experiences. In all this, optimising the way buildings and facilities are used will be increasingly important. Are premises being under-used – or is peak demand and overcrowding at certain facilities causing problems?

The granular, accurate, usable data that comes with integrated access and visitor management solutions is key to answering these questions and to delivering improvement.

Eliminating security gaps

So, what do these integrated visitor management solutions look like?

They liberate organisations from the difficulties of managing multiple premises and people using stand-alone, siloed systems. By integrating access control and visitor management with widely used databases (such as Microsoft’s Active Directory and Outlook) they allow visitor processes to be automated and to include not just full-time employees but all site users, including freelance contractors, temporary workers, cleaning and maintenance teams, visiting customers, VIPs and delivery drivers. This eliminates previously clunky and time-consuming processes caused by disparate systems and security gaps caused by human error.

Today, contractors and guests are booked in by the member of staff who is hosting their visit (through Outlook, for example) and they are automatically sent confirmations, arrival instructions and QR codes needed for access. When the visitor arrives, they simply present the QR code to the IP intercom reader. Depending on the required security level, entry can be permitted via self-enrolment or following manual ID checks. While this is happening, the relevant host will receive an automatic notification to come and meet their guest.

This approach to integrated visitor management reduces pressure on reception staff, saves wasted employee time and frustration when it comes to simply moving between different sites or organising meetings. It also ensures a smoother and more impressive and frictionless experience for guests. No more using dated signing in books, manually printed visitor badges, waiting in busy reception areas, or entering vehicle registration details to access car parks.

Integrating access control into wider visitor management solutions enables functions to be extended almost without limit, to meet the requirements of every site. For example:

  • Integrating ANPR cameras and video analytics to allow rapid vehicle access and link automated signage or send notifications ahead of time to include parking space allocation.
  • Including on-arrival messaging to guide visitors from car parks to use correct entrances and optimise people flow.
  • You can dial-up or dial-down ID verification and screening processes to match the level of security and risk.
  • Enabling access to specific meeting rooms or provide access to guest Wi-Fi or floating staff to access individual site IT networks and systems.
  • You can make it easy for staff to work more flexibly, to book meeting rooms and gain access to resources at different locations.
  • Using the same processes to manage delivery vehicles and their drivers, directing arrivals to specific holding areas, reducing bottlenecks and ensuring the smooth running of loading bay operations.
  • And facial recognition systems can be integrated at mission-critical sites where you want multi-factor authentication to restrict entry to facilities or sensitive areas, such as server rooms, or high-risk environments such as machinery and plant rooms.

Make informed decisions

It’s never been easier to plan and experiment with new working arrangements, to redesign workspaces, to focus on employee engagement and to make informed decisions about workspace usage.

Because with all these functions, organisations can have full audit trail and data-interrogation capabilities and provide dashboards to for at-a-glance intelligence.

This precisely addresses the weaknesses in traditional access control systems that were identified by organisations at the start of 2020: the blind spots and lack of comprehensive data across multiple sites that prevented them from adapting their operations quickly and meeting the new challenge of operating premises more safely and hygienically.

With the new generation of integrated visitor management technology, organisations will know exactly who has used which facilities at any given time.

So there has been a step-change in interest in these integrated solutions over the last year. We’ve seen major deployments in busy healthcare settings, where there has never been more pressure to operate efficiently and we’ve seen investments in sectors from hospitality, mixed-used facilities, higher education, to construction.

If there is one common link between all these users, it’s that they are all in future-facing sectors that are gearing up for rapid growth and change. And the driver is their need for usable data that gives them better control.

So, it would not be surprising if, looking back, 2020 could be seen as the year when opinion in the security and FM industries really began to tip in favour of more integrated, ambitious approaches to visitor management. It has been seen how operational efficiency, flexibility and preparedness can all be improved once you move away from the traditional, siloed model of access control.

There are now more powerful arguments than ever for integrating access systems into overarching and data-rich visitor management solutions.

To find out more information about Maxxess, visit: https://maxxess-systems.com/

This article was originally published in the March edition of Security Journal UK. To read a free digital copy of the magazine, click here.