By Lee Copland| August 10th, 2023

The rise of hybrid working, triggered by the pandemic, has led organizations to re-evaluate how well they are managing access to their buildings and workspaces. In many cases, as the pandemic receded businesses didn’t go back to their old way of doing things, and despite implementing ambitious back-to-work-strategies that including surveying staff and assessing their estates, many reached the conclusion that they needed to make significant improvements.

Reviewing their current systems and policies, organizations found that they were still relying on outdated, labor-intensive ways of working. For example, they still had siloed technologies that left gaps in security, such as card-based access control systems that let former employees and temporary contractors access facilities long after their authorizations had expired.


Drawbacks With Stacks – And Breaking Free

Siloed systems and technology stacks are less efficient, and they also prevent potentially valuable data from being harnessed and put to good use. In many ways, COVID-19 highlighted the true value of access control – technology that should not be a stand-alone grudge purchase, but one with huge potential when upgraded as part of a fully integrated security management platform.

Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, as companies continue to adapt their workplaces to changing requirements, access control is taking a starring role, especially at larger companies.

We’ve seen a number of new market drivers post-pandemic, and while it’s a challenge to predict the future, particularly given the broader macro trends – including geopolitical tensions, economic uncertainty, environmental concerns, and human rights developments – access control as a security management platform will undoubtedly have vital part to play.

We are likely to see existing trends gather pace even as new factors emerge. And overall, we expect a continued positive outlook for 2023.


Eliminating Nuisance Alarms

Access, surveillance, fire, intruder, and other systems generate numerous alerts and notifications, many of which are nuisance alarms caused outdated hardware and software. This reality is set to make system health monitoring a de facto requirement.

For instance, a common access control irritating alarm is the door forced open (DFO), often caused by a faulty request-to-exit motion sensor. This should be picked up by device monitoring. Yet today, AI-powered analytics can go a step further by analyzing the video corresponding to each door transaction. If exits continually result in a DFO, AI will point to a faulty sensor, allowing faster rectification.

So, access integration with VMS is becoming ever more crucial, and having a wide choice of integrations a real advantage.

Organizations also want to move away from unfair pricing structures, such as costly federated architectures and high ongoing annual fees, as they improve monitoring operations and build 24/7 domain awareness. To thrive, access control vendors need to offer varied, off-the-shelf VMS integrations to suit different applications and budgets. And their customers need the flexibility to choose from a mix of cameras, including highly accurate-AI models.


Integration, Integration, Integration

Security teams are under increased resource pressure, which means that control room operators and officers need to be ruthlessly efficient. This is particularly the case in regions that are facing labor shortages and wage inflation.

To this end, demand for systems integration is going beyond just a video and access. Vendors increasingly need to be able to offer off-the-shelf connectivity to a wider range of intruder, intercom, key management, and fire systems, as well as sector-specific requirements such as such as elevators systems in hotels and multi-use developments.

Integration with popular corporate databases such as Microsoft Active Directory also closes gaps in security when it comes to on- and off-boarding staff and contractors and removes those inefficient technology stacks, as well as the additional cyber concerns of protecting multiple databases for staff, contractors, and visitors. Managing multiple systems from a single pain of glass eliminates the wasted time switching between siloed systems; it lets operators respond more quickly to verified alarms; and it allows more efficient reporting.

And this leaves security teams more time to focus on higher-value tasks, delivering greater value to stakeholders and improving employee retention.


Tailgating Headaches

Unless continually monitored, access control systems are unable to detect tailgating events. Installing an anti-tailgating system or deploying anti-back pass within access control, can solve this problem. However today, combining access control with AI video provides an even more effective solution. AI-powered analytics can automatically analyze video corresponding to every tap or transaction and detect tailgating when it occurs by looking for abnormalities in the number of people or vehicles going through a door or vehicle gate.

AI also has the potential to go a step further by analyzing trends that allow repeat tailgating offenders and hot spots to be highlighted. Security teams can then act by giving warnings, or sending automated messages to those responsible, to engender a cultural change that embraces safety and security.


Frictionless, Touchless, And Biometrics

QR codes and biometric mobile credentials are already becoming the preferred choice over proximity cards, as not only are they more efficient to manage they are also far more secure. Yet AI-powered facial recognition is seeing a huge resurgence as it becomes more widely used in access control. Not only does facial recognition technology offer secure touchless and frictionless access to facilities, it’s also on track to offer more value for home working.

For example, the same AI-powered tech can be used to ensure that only authorized employees view and work with sensitive data. If an individual moves away from their laptop – or if another trigger event occurs, such as shoulder-surfing, or the door of a secure home office being left open – access can immediately time-out.

There is no doubt that home-based working is popular, yet there is a real risk of “productivity paranoia” setting in. If bosses worry that home workers are less productive than their office-based teams, it can lead to a cycle of “productivity theatre” as workers struggle to demonstrate they are pulling their weight, often working longer hours and weekends. The predictable result is tiredness, lower productivity, and work-related stress.

Addressing this problem, the same tools can become part of a two-way engagement structure, used to ensure that employees take breaks from their desks, and that they can report concern anonymously, or call for emergency help.


Sustainability And Data Insights

Sustainability has been featured in several of our previous blogs, and we are seeing growing momentum in this direction as organizations increasingly seek to measure and improve practices. Looking ahead, it’s clear that being a sustainable and trusted technology partner will become even more important.

Technology will provide new, smarter solutions. For example, where organizations adopt hybrid working models, facilities managers will increasingly find value in trends data that helps them to optimize building and space usages by day and season.

Data from the access control can provide better understanding of building usage, people flow, and occupancy. Shared with other stakeholders, such as facilities management and operations, these insights can allow buildings to be operated more efficiently.

If a facility or workspace is not being fully used, savings may be identified. For example, when occupancy levels are low or time restricted, the HVAC system and lighting can be fine-tuned to reduce waste.

And given the extreme weather conditions of the past year, we can expect a more determined focus on environmental issues going forward, particularly on the urgent need to tackle climate change. Businesses know they are not yet doing enough to stop the acceleration of global warming, and that every sector will need to re-double its efforts – and then some – particularly with many facing government legislation and levies.

Businesses are finding that not having ESG policies and effective programs in place, with achievable goals, is already resulting in lost revenue and missed opportunities to win new contracts.

Looking ahead, increasingly it will be accepted that change is essential and that even small steps matter.

Even the modest percentage decreases in energy use that smarter access control systems now make possible will be valued. And that’s especially true for larger facilities and organizations with multiple sites to manage.