Even today, some organizations and facilities still log in visitors through a sign-in book and issue “stick ‘em” paper badges similar to a HELLO I’M badge at a class reunion.

However, slowly but surely corporations, office buildings and numerous types of facilities are upgrading their visitor procedures as they tighten up on lobby and reception desk security. While fewer than 35 percent of SECURITY Magazine readers, in a recent poll, report they have security officers at the main entrance desk, many also say they have added technology or will soon purchase technology to better identify and track visitors, including contractors.

Terror Aftermath

Last year’s terrorist attacks have had an influence on visitor security.

Right after the September 11th incidents, for instance, one of the world’s tallest high rises—Chicago’s John Hancock Center— added more security officers in the main office lobby and instituted a paper-based sign-in system, which requires a visitor to show identification and state where he or she is going. The security officer will also escort the visitor to the appropriate bank of elevators.

Still, improvements overall vary by need and pocketbook.

Simple advances can include varied colors of visitor badge holders to indicate type of visitor or area of a campus the visitor is allowed. Numerous identification and card access control systems now can accommodate visitor badging in a quick and efficient manner through a lobby unit that ties into the main access system in the backroom.

High-security Apps, Too

Video and biometrics have even gotten into the visitor management strategy.

For example, Glavin Security Specialists of Chicago says its client office buildings and condominium complexes are stepping up to hand geometry readers at entrances and videophones at facilities where the entrance may not have a full-time receptionist or security officer.

“After 9/11, people were afraid, frantically looking for any products that had to do with security. Many times, they made emotional decisions rather than rational ones,” says Tom Glavin, the firm’s owner. “Now, these same people are proactively looking at security products and at the same time, they’re finding that electronic hardware is affordable and meets their security needs with even more options and services.”

For some high security applications Glavin recommends biometrics, especially hand geometry. In other cases, the Chicago-based firm sees growing interest in videophones at entrances. There are three parts to that hardware, says Glavin. There is the telephone or intercom as well as a camera at the entrance and a monitor inside. Many videophones come bundled or integrated into a high-rise entry system.

Reusable Plastic Badges

Basic visitor management need not to as complex. TemTek, the firm that sells temporary and self-expiring badges, has a laminated plastic 2-inch x 3-inch badge preprinted ‘VOID.’ It is used with a 2-part TIMEtoken. An expired TIMEtoken can be removed and the VOIDbadge can be reissued with a new TIMEtoken.

It’s a simple way a receptionist can issue visitor passes that automatically expire if not returned during a certain period of time.

Another simple approach comes from J.A.M. Plastics, which has one of the largest catalogs of card and badge accessories.

The firm’s Visitor Badge Holders allow a security department, organization or facility to assign a different color to contractors, temps, vendors, etc. You can choose from the 20 colors as well as clear.

Access control system manufacturers such as PCSC, Software House and DSX all address visitor management.

Access, Visitor Partnerships

Earlier this year, for example, Software House said it had partnered with Stopware, Inc. in an effort to further extend visitor management offerings for C·CURE 800/80000 customers.

STOPware’s PassagePoint visitor management software is a comprehensive software package that combines the requirements of security, badging and visitor management. Front lobby personnel can quickly produce professional-looking visitor badges while capturing and storing visitor information in an easy-to-use database. PassagePoint is designed to meet the security needs of any organization, from one with a single lobby requiring a standalone station, up to a server-based system with multiple lobbies, many buildings and widespread geographic locations.

Lobby Systems

There are also firms that offer stand-alone and networkable visitor badging systems that are separate from card access control.

One example: EasyLobby. With the system, visitors electronically scan their ID (business card or driver’s license), and all their relevant information is automatically captured in a secure database file that includes:

• the visitor’s name, company, address, phone, fax numbers, and email address

• the name of the person being visited

• the reason for the visit

• the time of the meeting

• and the visitor’s photo (optional)

The system can be operated by a receptionist or it can be self-operated by the visitor.

Another Offering Is Visitor Watch

This computer-based system produces professional looking bar coded badges and passes following simple data entry of key information. All appointments are stored and maintained for as long as the customer requires. There is also real-time tracking of visitors to determine who is in the facility and who has left.

Among other Visitor Watch features:

System will automatically time and date stamp arrivals and departures.

Capture and store photos as well as signatures into the database.

True multi-user operation, supports wide and local area networks, can be used in multi-building campus environments.

Web-based visitor pre-registration. Employees register their visitors. Eliminates typing and errors at the reception desk.

There also are Web-based add-on modules such for visitor tracking, kiosk, reporting, and database maintenance, as well as VisitorWatch.Net, a Web-based version for Intranets and Web application hosting platforms.