Study Shows Technologies Used to Protect Workers During Pandemic Will Have Lasting Impact

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

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

Security dealers and integrators helped their customers navigate challenges they wouldn’t have imagined just a few short years ago, from how to manage new types of health and safety protocols in the physical workplace to defending against cyber threats in a rapidly expanding remote world. These changes are reflected in HID Global’s most recent installment of its annual State of Physical Access Control Report, for 2022.

Supporting New Organizational Practices

HID conducted its last survey in 2020 and, in the intervening period, almost 10% fewer respondents felt that their current system at least met their requirements. The global pandemic significantly changed too many fundamental organizational practices for old approaches, alone, to suffice.

Dealers and integrators have helped their clients cope with these challenges. This includes ensuring that they can use both traditional credentials and physical badges as well as newer, more secure technologies. Nearly one third of respondents are using 125 kHz low-frequency (aka proximity), and 35% use magnetic stripe technology, but the survey also showed that 32% are actively using mobile IDs, and 30% have actively adopted fingerprint, facial or iris recognition technology.

A sizable 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 grew likely because of its ability to reduce or eliminate having to physically touch various access-related surfaces during the pandemic. Interestingly, demand for this technology did not diminish as pandemic mitigations eased.

The digital transformation to a touchless experience led to new applications that benefit not just from the safety of contact-free interactions but also their security, convenience and efficiency.

A major trend that is accelerating mobile adoption is the transition to trusted, centralized ecosystems of Cloud-connected access control devices, applications and trusted mobile identities. These ecosystems make it possible for people to access many different building services through their mobile phones and other devices. They also give organizations the ability to future-proof their solutions, increase flexibility, and give users more credential technology options.

At the same time, however, users face challenges as they deploy these technologies, and this is where dealers and integrators have a major role to play.

Meeting User’s Needs

Among the biggest needs cited by respondents was easier PACS administration. Forty-three percent of respondents said they wanted this, and 27% said “integrating with other enterprise systems” was one of their top three challenges. Upgrades were also singled out.

Part of the challenge for installers, integrators, consultants and vendors is how to implement upgrades while balancing the diverse requirements and influences of various end-user departments.

The largest portion of study respondents said C-suite leadership had final authority related to upgrades, and a majority of respondents also cited physical security, IT and information security, and facilities teams when asked who had final authority over upgrades or at least made final recommendations.

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

While this has certain benefits, these direct attachments can also create vulnerability risks. It is not enough to rely on vendors and the “built-in” protection of their products through support like ISO 27001 compliance. IT professionals must be certain that no PACS element attached to their network introduces security threats.

Cost was also cited as an upgrade barrier. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said this was their biggest upgrade obstacle. Fifteen percent struggled most with ROI or budget prioritization issues. Still, 38% of respondents plan to update or upgrade some portion of their PACS this year, regardless of these obstacles.

For some of these respondents, the biggest motivation for an upgrade is likely the long-term convenience of today’s open, long-term standards and solutions, compared to proprietary alternatives. For other respondents, specific new technology was of greatest interest.

Forty-three percent were interested in upgrading to “touchless/contactless capabilities” and 41% said they want the ability to utilize mobile in a new access control system. They gave similar feedback when asked about the single most impactful technology for improving PACS, with 20% citing touchless and 18% choosing mobile access.

Shifting Work Patterns

One of the biggest take-aways form the 2022 survey was how greatly access control has been affected by changes in work patterns.

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

Also important is real-time location systems (RTLS) data about both the number and location of employees and visitors on-site. Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents said their organizations have this ability, and 34% said they know the number of people but not their location. Only 21% were not monitoring either the number or location.

According to survey respondents, the most common method for monitoring occupancy data is with their access control systems. Having this type of solution for monitoring occupancy data makes it easier to evaluate office space needs and decide how best to transition a to hybrid work model and ensure desk space is available when needed.

Forty-two percent of respondents said they used their access control systems to understand employee occupancy, and 34% to understand visitor occupancy. Time and attendance 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 efficiency and make better facility utilization decisions.

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

They have not only improved health and safety management but also enhanced security and convenience while increasing building efficiency and creating a significantly better and more enjoyable workplace experience.

Luc Merredew is Director of Product Marketing for HID Global.

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