Study shows technologies used to protect workers during pandemic will have lasting impact

Retailers and integrators have an opportunity to build on the success of mobile technologies as users demand an easy upgrade path for more features.

Few aspects of daily life have remained untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even the seemingly simple and straightforward process of entering, exiting and navigating the workplace is no exception.

Security vendors and integrators have been helping their customers solve challenges they could not have imagined just a few years ago, from managing new types of health and safety protocols in the physical workplace to defending against cyber threats in a fast-growing, remote world. These changes are reflected in the most recent 2022 edition of HID Global’s annual State of Physical Access Control Report.

Supporting new organizational practices

HID conducted its last survey in 2020, and since then, nearly 10% fewer respondents felt their current system at least met their needs. The global pandemic has significantly altered too many fundamental organizational practices for old approaches alone to suffice.

Dealers and integrators have helped their customers overcome these challenges. This includes ensuring they can use traditional credentials and physical ID cards as well as newer, more secure technologies. Almost a third of respondents use 125 kHz low frequency (also known as proximity) and 35% use magnetic stripe technology, but the survey also showed that 32% actively use mobile ID and 30% actively use fingerprint, face recognition or iris recognition technology.

A sizeable group of respondents plan to upgrade or are in the process of upgrading – 17% to biometric access control and 19% to mobile technology.

Demand for mobile technology likely increased due to its ability to reduce or eliminate physical touching of various access-related surfaces during the pandemic. Interestingly, demand for this technology didn’t decline as the pandemic’s containment eased.

The digital transformation towards a touchless experience has led to new applications that not only benefit from the safety of touchless interactions, but also from their security, convenience and efficiency.

A key trend accelerating mobile device adoption is the transition to trusted, centralized ecosystems of cloud-connected access control devices, applications, and trusted mobile identities. These ecosystems allow people to access many different building services through their cell phones and other devices. They also give organizations the ability to future-proof their solutions, increase flexibility, and give users more credential options.

At the same time, however, users face challenges when using these technologies, and this is where retailers and integrators have an important role to play.

Meeting the needs of the user

One of the top needs cited by respondents was easier PACS administration. 43% of respondents said they would, and 27% said “integration with other business systems” was one of their top three challenges. Upgrades were also singled out.

Part of the challenge for installers, integrators, consultants, and vendors is implementing upgrades while balancing the differing needs and influences of different end-user departments.

The majority of study participants indicated that C-suite leadership had ultimate authority over upgrades, and a majority of respondents also cited physical security, IT and information security, and facilities teams when asked who the have final authority over upgrades, or at least made final recommendations.

One of the reasons physical security and cyber/IT security departments are collaborating more closely on upgrades is that many of today’s IP-based physical security systems and devices connect directly to the organization’s network.

While this has certain benefits, these direct attachments can also create vulnerability risks. Relying on vendors and protecting their products “in-built” with support such as ISO 27001 compliance is not enough. IT professionals need to be confident that no PACS element connected to their network introduces security threats.

The cost was also called the upgrade barrier. 38% of respondents said this was their top upgrade obstacle. 15 percent struggled most with ROI or budget prioritization issues. Still, despite these obstacles, 38% of respondents plan to upgrade or update some portion of their PACS this year.

For some of these respondents, probably the biggest motivation for an upgrade is the long-term convenience of today’s open, long-term standards and solutions versus proprietary alternatives. For other respondents, certain emerging technologies were of greatest interest.

43% were interested in upgrading to “touchless/contactless” and 41% said they would like the ability to use mobile devices in a new access control system. They gave similar feedback when asked about the single most effective technology to improve PACS, with 20% choosing touchless and 18% choosing mobile access.

Changing work patterns

One of the biggest takeaways from the 2022 survey was how much access control was impacted by changes in work patterns.

Organizations that have adopted a hybrid workspace model (remote and in-person options) now need a better way to monitor building occupancy for greater efficiency and to facilitate more informed real estate utilization decisions. They need to know more than just how many people are in their buildings.

Also important is real-time location systems (RTLS) data on the number and location of employees and visitors on site. 39% of respondents said their organizations have this capability, and 34% said they know the number of people but not their location. Only 21% monitored neither the number nor the location.

According to survey participants, the most common way to monitor occupancy data is their access control systems. With this type of occupancy monitoring solution, it is easier to assess office space needs and decide how best to transition to a hybrid working model, ensuring desk space is available when needed.

42% of respondents said they use their access control systems to understand staff occupancy and 34% to understand visitor occupancy. Time tracking is another application for these systems, with 24% of respondents using them for employees and 15% for visitors.

The pandemic has changed daily life in more ways than most people could have imagined, especially in the workplace. One change is that access control system users now expect much more from their solutions than they did before 2020, including the ability to monitor occupancy data so they can improve organizational efficiencies and make better decisions about facility utilization.

The pandemic has also triggered new requirements, such as B. Monitoring and managing hygiene and safety measures, reducing physical touchpoints, and enabling the transition to remote and hybrid working models for millions of people. Various mobile technologies were key to these new opportunities, and as users embraced them, it quickly became clear that their benefits would extend far beyond the pandemic.

Not only have they improved health and safety management, but they have also increased safety and comfort, increased building efficiency and created a significantly better and more enjoyable workplace experience.

Luc Merredew is director of product marketing at HID Global.


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