Return on investment merges with higher level security thanks to visitor badging that can be run by any employee or even the visitor.

From a CEO perspective, there's value in welcoming visitors warmly and consistently. To mirror the importance of corporate cost containment, different staff members at different hours and days cover the reception desk. There also is a growing need to make sure that the welcome is a secure one.

So it is no wonder that computerized visitor management systems – ranging from stand-alones to networked gear – are welcoming visitors, business partners and contractors to more corporate facilities.

IT infrastructure compatible

Much more than a visitor enrollment system, visitor management solutions deliver performance and reporting functions with high levels of security control. In addition to being compatible with most IT infrastructures and databases (including SQL and Oracle-based systems), today’s sophisticated visitor management systems also allow integration with other security technologies such as access control and video surveillance.

Those “paper and pen” visitor log-in methods, usually only requiring visitors to sign a logbook and often not even calling for identification, fall short when it comes to a business need for confidentiality. The log book is usually openly displayed and available for anyone to peruse.

New technology computerizes the process and stores information in a database for later polling to generate specific, user-defined visitor reports. In addition, such systems provide printed visitor badges for a more secure and professional method of registration.

Aside from the processing and data management functions offered by visitor management systems, one of the most critical features to consider when evaluating a system is its ease of use. Depending on the application and system deployment, the visitor management system may be used by security personnel or in a “walk-up” configuration where guests interact directly with the system. At ABC Radio Networks headquarters in Dallas, TX, visitor management is deployed in the lobby at the receptionist’s station, which can be staffed by one of 15 different employees on any given day. Using a Web browser to log on to the PassagePoint (STOPware, San Jose, Calif.) Intranet module, employees can even pre-register visitors so the receptionist has visitor registration on screen when the guest arrives. For the numerous group visits or extended employee visits to the facility, pre-registration capabilities simplify and streamline the sign-in process, while providing a comprehensive record of all entries and exit activities in a single system.

A more recent advance -- self-registration kiosks – provides enterprises with cost savings and efficiency.

Visitors can sign themselves. One innovative kiosk solution is from Friendly Way, Inc. and consists of a touch-screen monitor, rugged keyboard, printer and PassagePoint housed in sleek, scratch-proof enclosures that can be installed in virtually any environment. In an unattended lobby or access controlled entrance, the kiosk enables visitors to scan their identification, enter the appropriate data and print a badge. The system notifies the host via e-mail of the visitor’s arrival and records all data in an easy to use format.

Visitor management systems can immediately call up details of those people within the facility.

Watch-list features

Visitor management systems can also play a critical role in “first alert” security applications. One new feature in such systems is a watch-list feature, which can display photos of people on the look-out list. The lookout list can include lists developed in-house as well as auto-import of the Homeland Security watch list. Should an unauthorized visitor attempt to enter the facility, the system will flag the guest and the appropriate action can be taken.

Some visitor badging systems now can capture data from a person’s drivers license. A case in point is the EasyLobby (Needham Heights, Mass.) SVMTM 9.0 Secure Visitor Management system. Instead of just capturing a visitor’s scribbled, unreadable name in a guest book, EasyLobby’s more secure visitor management and badge system electronically reads the visitor’s ID (drivers license, business card or passport), and accurately captures all relevant information about them in a Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle database, including the name of the person being visited, the reason for the visit, entry and exit times, and the visitor’s photo and signature (both optional).

There also is a need for integration of visitor badging with access control, video surveillance and IT.

An example, Bradenton, Fla., GE Security’s Visitor Central works with both Picture Perfect and Secure Perfect access control management systems and, in addition, it features an open API, letting security and systems integrators develop an interface with current access control systems.