Even before recent terror alerts, companies were aware of the need to understand the movements of visitors into and within their facilities. Visitor sign-in sheets just aren’t enough. Stick-on badges, while adding a level of continuous identification during the day, do not record visitor information. Photos are still rarely captured in many relatively primitive visitor management systems.

Today, corporations and public institutions alike seek out added security through the use of electronic visitor identification systems.

Security customers also demand that these software systems track employee access data as well as visitors.

Software Driven

In light of such high-level requirements, discerning buyers now turn to the integration of photo-imaging hardware and software with their visitor processing applications. In the past, the visitor processing application was typically developed as a standalone software application separate from the access control application. Due to recent demand for more sophisticated, yet user-friendly systems, access control software developers are integrating the two needs for a seamless user interface and personnel database, working closely with clients to develop the necessary features. As a result, the integration of the two systems has created an enterprise solution for the access control and visitor processing market.

For the past couple of months, I have been reviewing the latest advances in the visitor processing software market and have seen some notable features developed by various manufacturers. This column examines how a visitor badging system can operate as a standalone platform or be integrated into the access control and security monitoring system.

Visitor badging systems allow for the capture and processing of visitor information from any of a number of enrollment stations networked throughout a facility. Visitors can be pre-enrolled to speed up the entry process when they arrive. This can be done from any workstation on the corporate network, with the appropriate client software application.

Visitor photos are captured using an on-site camera at the enrollment station, or the picture can be pre-enrolled if it’s received by email. Visitors are then logged in and out electronically (usually either by mouse click or barcode) so that roll calls or reports can be generated at day’s end. Newer applications also include self-enrollment on-site or over the Web to speed up that tedious process of registering into the facility.

Visitor sponsors are automatically emailed when the visitor arrives with the entrance location and time of arrival so that they can be met. This email can be sent to a desktop, PDA or cellular telephone, depending on information technology capabilities.

Back-Up Capabilities

A visitor badging systems can also act as a back up to the corporate access control system. If fully integrated with the company’s access control system, employees who forget their card can be given a temporary card for the day with their photo, name and department details, so that temporary access cards need not be issued.

With such systems, information and visit details are readily available, within one screen, for streamlined use by security and reception personnel alike. Photos, user-defined data and time in and out registrations are captured from within the one screen. And quick-print functions ensure that the visitor is processed effectively and efficiently.

Collecting or what’s called data-mining visitor information also becomes more user-friendly with the sophistication of the integrated system. Thanks to comprehensive reporting tools available to the system, data provided to the end user can come in many different user configurable formats.

The benefits of an integrated software application such as the one described above, and the involvement of employees helping security personnel efficiently manage and control visitor movement throughout the property, are a definite advantage.