Building owners, property and facility managers, and architects are now entering year two of the coronavirus pandemic and the lingering realities of health and safety protocols intended to reduce virus transmission. For business and organizational administrators and executives, the three main focus areas have been restoring trust, health and safety, reestablishing and strengthening business continuity and crisis management strategies, and creating a plan that allows the return to full business operations. A major component of these interconnected goals and mandates is the innovative solutions provided by various security technologies. And chief among these solutions are access control systems and the devices they integrate with to secure building entrances and interior doorways.

According to the research firm Memoori, a global technology research firm, access control, which generally serves the biggest buildings and the largest companies, has experienced the strongest occupant safety mandates, symbolized by the long-term or permanent work-from-home policies of big tech firms. Consequently, this segment has felt a lot of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its various mitigation measures.

The firm asserts that high-tech physical access control essentially serves the same purpose as a low-tech lock for an unoccupied building. However, the wide variety of access control systems that employ buttons, touchscreens, fingerprint and palm scanners, and some secured entrances where occupants may touch surfaces could create an infection risk. Memoori says that “the cautious response and highly anticipated consolidation in large commercial real estate will present a challenge to access control companies, unless access control becomes part of the post-COVID solution.”

Measuring the Security Repercussions

From the initial secured entrance to the overarching access control system, the emphasis is currently on contactless access control and door entry solutions. A myriad of technologies from NFC and smart mobile devices to facial biometrics will help play a vital role in what are now COVID-driven essentials. For example, people counting has become important to ensure social distancing, while tracking employees throughout facilities supports contact tracing, and using advanced analytics can help audit and identify people entering a building as well as efficiently restricting access inside a facility’s most sensitive areas. An integrated strategy for access control, along with tailgating mitigation options including turnstiles, revolving doors and mantrap portals enables building security to implement even more comprehensive control and prioritized security while making use of touchless credentials.

In a recent blog, consultant Nicholas A. Smith Jr., CPP, who is with Willis Towers Watson, a leading global advisory and solutions company, thinks that following CDC directives for maintaining six feet of distance may become embedded as a new cultural practice in post-pandemic society could present an opportunity to assist security professionals in enhancing physical security as more buildings resume occupancy. He offered that one of the regularly recurring client concerns is discrepancies in pedestrian access into secure facilities or office space. For example, some “piggy backing” or “tailgating” attempts may just be embarrassed employees that forgot their badges – but any such attempt that is not handled with an immediate, sober and no-nonsense manner can give employees the impression that an organization does not take access control seriously and may also encourage anyone seeking unauthorized access opportunities to commit acts of crime or violence onsite. He suggests those businesses currently operating in a physical environment, and for all those planning a post-pandemic stage return to a facility, communicate a clear message to employees stressing 100% access card usage and no tailgating.

In fact, the repercussions of tailgating and lax entry security, especially in corporate lobbies and commercial buildings is a challenge that 71% of participants in a recent security survey that we conducted considered a serious breach, with more than 50% of those surveyed admitting that a breach might cost their organizations $500 million in losses or more.

Implementing a COVID-Safe and Secure Solution

Because business operations and the security function have collided during the COVID-19 crisis and are sure to be more intertwined moving forward, health and safety mandates are expediting the migration for almost every building’s secured entrances and interior doors to touchless solutions aiming to reduce every possible transmission path for pathogens. Facilities can also consider designating ingress only, and egress only entrances at exterior entrances to facilitate social distancing and traffic flow. Most systems integrators warn clients against opting for a quick fix by retrofitting existing swinging doors with automatic, low-energy, electric operators, designed for disabled entry, warning that this approach can make unauthorized intrusion much easier.

Instead, integrators and security consultants recommend more advanced security entrance technology such as optical turnstiles and revolving doors that have featured touchless options for decades in various commercial and institutional venues and are specifically designed to protect facilities from intrusion. In fact, even before taking the touchless experience into account, security entrances are the most proven way to address tailgating and other forms of unauthorized entry.

An integrated solution using turnstiles, revolving doors and portals makes it possible to deliver a fully touchless experience for users that truly enhances the security of most access control systems by combining biometric and other proximity technologies. By reading a device carried by an approaching individual, or recognizing their face, the security entrance can verify credentials and enable access by automatically opening turnstile doors or turning the wings of revolving doors. Thus, providing a highly secure and touchless post-pandemic environment.

This article originally ran in Security, a twice-monthly security-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security Magazine. Subscribe here.