We have been talking about the return to the workplace for over a year and while we must be closer to that happening, there is no clear end to the pandemic in sight. Vaccine rollouts have certainly accelerated our path to the end of the crisis, but that end is unlikely to be a definable moment. Instead, we will begin returning to our offices when the balance of public health and economic pressure drives regulations to allow it. This will be while the virus is still circulating, albeit at a lower infection rate. Our buildings, therefore, will need to be part of the solution by protecting occupants from virus transmission, and these strategies should start with access control.
According to the 2021 Return to the Office Survey published by Brivo and WhosOnLocation, 53% of workers expect to be back in a physical office full-time within the next six months. However, 59% of respondents have expressed health and safety concerns about returning. According to the survey, the biggest concerns about returning to work are office hygiene and protective measures, proximity to other workers, and effectiveness of contact tracing. All of these aspects can be addressed, at least in part, by access control systems designed specifically for virus mitigation and physical security.
“As COVID vaccines roll out, organizations that have been operating remotely or at lower capacities are now planning for a return to offices and other workplaces. While some may remain remote permanently, those who are returning need to address health and safety,” said Steve Van Till, CEO, and founder of Brivo. “People need simple, practical ways to enforce contact tracing, social distancing, and healthy building requirements.”
“Software has always been an important factor in the development and growth of the physical security business. We are now entering a new epoch in the Video surveillance business driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI),” explains our comprehensive physical security report. “AI Technology can and will make a direct and massive contribution to increasing the performance and value of video surveillance solutions. However, security systems are by no means an island and in many cases, they will ultimately need to be connected with the wider IoT, if all the information is to be converted into actionable data.”
When integrated with AI-enabled occupancy analytics and video surveillance, access control systems can bring a much greater degree of detail to track and trace systems, then access control can prevent identified occupants and visitors from re-entering before they are cleared to do so.
Sometimes the access control system itself can be part of the problem, especially in the context of infected surfaces. Many existing access control systems involve physical barriers that must be moved by those entering or exiting the building, other systems involve touching cards or phones onto readers or handing identification over to security personnel, such systems can become a hotbed of virus transmission and undermine return-to-work strategies. In response to this, contactless entry systems are becoming a must for buildings that require access control for security in the post-COVID era. Smartphone apps and AI-enabled facial recognition lead the way in this regard and those integrated into wider building systems can offer greater safety and functionality.
“From a design perspective, there is an increasing demand, due to COVID-19, for touchless access. In this case, the integration of technologies and the use of machine learning can be leveraged to provide efficient, safe, and secure access. Machine learning and AI are well adapted to leveraging data sets and, over time, gaining an understanding of conditions and matching them to access control and individual requirements,” said Salvatore D’Agostino, CEO of IDmachines. “The more that physical security systems adopt standard data types, sets and structures and the more intelligent these systems become, the more intelligence can be put into the predictive analytics.”
Predictive analytics is a goal for access control. Understanding who is likely to come into the building, where they are likely to go, who they might meet, and what they might touch provides even greater detail for virus mitigation strategies. However, like controlling occupancy levels, enacting secure touchless entry systems, biometrics, contact tracing, and advanced predictive analytics, access control systems need to be integrated into wider systems. For the ultimate virus-smart buildings, access control can play an important part in an integrated ecosystem of proptech that provides streams of data to be analyzed by AI. The result is a building that intelligently applies preventative and protective virus control that will support a safe and productive return to the workplace.
“While AI is becoming an integral part of business operations in myriad market segments around the globe, security applications have been slower to adopt it into the mix. However, the added health risks organizations now face from COVID-19 have forced both security solutions providers and users to rethink how AI can help mitigate those risks,” says Kurt J. Measom, VP of technology at Boon Edam Enterprise Security. “Integrated systems are tapping into advancements in AI-driven solutions that are accelerating development of cloud integration platforms and a growing inventory of mobile access control devices, touchless and biometric options.”