In the years following 9/11, office intercom systems transformed from mere communication devices to a vital part of a building’s security infrastructure. They were interfaced with video cameras, access control systems, facial recognition, alarms and alerts, and monitoring systems to safeguard workplaces from intruders and terrorists. Physical security was on top of everyone’s mind. And intercom systems provided an obvious and simple solution.
Fast forward to 2020, and the pandemic is causing another quantum shift in how the world thinks about security. This time around, businesses are responsible for protecting their workplaces and people from an invisible intruder. As SARS-CoV-2 continues to disrupt businesses and economies, video intercom systems are once again on the frontline of security. But this time, the intercom has the force of modern technology on its side.
Video intercom systems today
Gone are the days of fixed intercom systems that consisted of metallic faceplates with a bunch of commonly touched buttons, hardwired into the building and connected via landlines to fixed tenant stations. Today’s intercom systems are sleek integrated devices with touchscreen displays, cloud-managed directories, and wireless connectivity. Their modern features make them capable of protecting employees and visitors from seen and unseen threats. For example:
- SIP and WebRTC technologies have expanded the reach of office intercom systems regular landlines, smartphones, and browsers
- VoIP protocols have fueled the growth of IP video intercom systems that only need a power and internet connection to call people around the world
- Cloud-based intercom systems are interfaced with access control systems that allow security teams to schedule automatic entry for delivery and cleaning crews
- Video intercoms are also integrated with facial recognition and mobile access control to provide more robust security
Use of video intercom systems eliminates the need for face-to-face interaction with visitors. A modern video intercom system supports a work-from-home culture, where employees can speak to visitors and other employees via smartphones sitting right at their homes.Office teams can admit guests, deliveries and cleaning services remotely. Video intercoms that are built into access control systems can be used for entry surveillance to ensure that a distance of 6 feet is maintained between individuals while they enter the workplace.
Cloud-based video intercom and access control systems have the capacity to integrate remote health screening for building occupants and visitors. A health check is provided through the app prior to arrival. This can be as simple as recording temperature (at-home temperature checks are considered best practices by the CDC) or as in-depth as completing a questionnaire. One submitted entry can be granted or denied based on risk.
Health screening information is kept confidential in the cloud-based server. Questionnaires and screenings completed on paper, on-site are at much higher risk of confidentiality breach and privacy violation. Time is critical when it comes to contact tracing and an occupant health log can make a significant difference, as well.
Commonly touch surfaces such as push buttons or keypads have become unsafe because of the risk of transmission of disease. The virus can live on most surfaces for several hours and can spread to people who touch that surface after it was infected. Video intercom systems allow employees and guests to walk through the office without making contact with these surfaces. Automatic touchless access can also be scheduled for visitors by sending links through email or mobile app.
Video intercom access control systems are quickly replacing key cards and other legacy methods. Aside from the transmission of disease, eliminating key cards decreases overhead and overall operational cost.
With cloud-based video intercom and security systems, security teams don’t need to come to the office to manage authorizations and credentials. They can add or remove users and change access levels from anywhere through mobile or browser interfaces. Unregistered visitors can speak with their host from the door terminal and are granted remote access even from outside the building. Entry surveillance video intercoms are being used to monitor the entry and record events to the cloud. Security teams can view entry photos or video from anywhere in real time or later on.
Russia and China are using facial recognition to monitor quarantine restrictions and wearing of masks. In America, companies like MasterCard, Amazon, Chevron, Walmart, and McDonald’s are either using or planning to use facial recognition for a variety of purposes—from analyzing moods to authenticating payments. The latest video intercom systems offer built-in facial recognition that can be activated as an option where a higher level of security is required. Face recognition allows touchless entry for users, who just have to look at the intercom camera to unlock the door. No need to dig for a phone or start an app.
A safe return for employees and visitors
Access management using video intercom has been a growing trend throughout the past few years. COVID-19 kickstarted the rapid growth of the industry as it has highlighted the necessity of access entry systems that not only prioritize security but the health of occupants as well. As we’ve seen, making sure facilities maintain healthy practices is just as important as protecting physical security. With that, we get a glimpse into the future of secure access control solutions.