Big organizations like WeWork, Dropbox and Hines Real Estate are increasingly ditching key cards and moving toward smartphone/Bluetooth-enabled technology to give their employees, contractors, visitors, and tenants frictionless access through secured doors, elevators, and turnstiles. The move also creates personalized experiences from sidewalk to office.
Back in 2011, Netscape founder and venture capitalist Marc Andreesen wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “Software is eating the world.” He was referring to technology companies disrupting their brick and mortar counterparts such as Netflix and Blockbuster, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Eight years later, his essay still rings true more than ever as we are seeing software transform more aspects of our lives—with cars that drive themselves, smart assistants that remind you to leave early because of traffic, and stores that automatically charge you for items when you walk out the door to name a few.
Corporate real estate has also finally begun to realize the impact of software innovation as landlords and tenants increasingly expect more personalized, hospitality experiences which can be automated through technology. One area that is poised for rapid change within corporate real estate and property management is physical security.
Why Technology is Changing Physical Security
Today, most buildings are secured with access control systems that rely on RFID key cards and key fobs. However, many RFID cards and fobs are still running on 30-year-old technology. Because of the standardized platform these systems were built on, they are not secure. Many cards can be cloned in seconds just by standing close to the person/card (for example, while asking the cardholder for directions).
Additionally, the communication protocol these systems use can also be hacked, so transmissions are no longer protected.
Cards and fobs are also easy to lose. According to Proxy’s 2019 Physical Security Trends Report, 17.3% of card/fob users have lost at least one card/fob in the last year, and it takes a physical security employee an average of 12.2 minutes to replace a lost card/fob, not to mention the additional cost of replacing lost cards.
The average 40,000-person company loses 10,378 key cards/fobs per year, and the overhead of physical security dealing with these lost cards is equal to a full-time employee. And if they haven’t been deactivated, the company has all of those cards and fobs floating around in the world with the ability to access everything from the front door to the IT server room.
Lost cards are costing companies a lot of time and money, not to mention the environmental impact of thousands of plastic cards and their electronics.
Managing physical security with key cards is also less than ideal with visitors. Access security companies today charge for each new credential, making it expensive for landlords to issue a credential to a visitor. It’s also time-consuming to manage the potentially high number of visitor key cards being checked in and out.
According to Proxy’s 2019 Physical Security Trends Report, 17.3% of card/fob users have lost at least one card/fob in the last year, and it takes a physical security employee an average of 12.2 minutes to replace a lost card/fob, not to mention the additional cost of replacing lost cards.
Key cards can also easily be passed from visitor to non-visitor to facilitate access, the same way non-guests gain access to hotel rooms and other amenities they did not necessarily pay for.
It’s no surprise the most common way (47.8%) of managing guest access is relying on a local employee to open all doors and escort the visitor around the building. That leads to the biggest challenge with visitor access (44.3%), which is not being able to track guests and where they go in the building.
Smartphones Change the Security Tech Game
Where we’re going to see one of the biggest technology disruptions in physical security for corporate real estate stems from the proliferation of mobile technology and smartphones. Almost everyone working in or visiting a corporate real estate property today has a smartphone that’s capable of all the basics that key cards/fobs can do.
The smartphone, rather the supercomputer, in your pocket can be used to gain access to doors, elevators, turnstiles, just like your old RFID card or fob, but just like other examples of software disrupting existing industries (e.g. Netflix, Amazon, Google, etc.) mobile access actually gives landlords and tenants much more.
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For example, many phones today have biometrics (like Touch ID and Face ID) that allow you to require more than just the phone to confirm personal identity. That gives building managers and security teams the ability to provide extra security at certain access points.
Replacing physical access cards with software running on a mobile device that emits a signal makes it possible to detect when people leave and how many people are in the building—critical information during an emergency evacuation.
Further, mobile access platforms can provide instantaneous access data, enabling security teams to integrate technology like people counters to their access platform. Enabled by instant data, the platforms can now deliver coveted capabilities like passive tailgating detection or open access solutions.
The average 40,000-person company loses 10,378 key cards/fobs per year, and the overhead of physical security dealing with these lost cards is equal to a full-time employee.
And if they haven’t been deactivated, the company has all of those cards and fobs floating around in the world with the ability to access everything from the front door to the IT server room.
The digitization of access also brings physical access control closer to logical access control and enables companies to converge the two to enhance security. For example, an employee may only be allowed to log into a server if she has physically entered the server room in the last hour, bringing the relationship between physical security and information security even closer.
People are also much less likely to lose their smartphone. And when they do, they usually know about it much sooner than when they lose a key card so the security team can quickly remove access. Employees, visitors and contractors will go about their business after losing a key card, but they will not go longer than five minutes without tracking down a lost phone.
Corporate real estate firms can also create personalized experiences for tenants using smartphone/Bluetooth technology. For example, when new visitors approach a lobby desk, receptionists can welcome them and direct them to the floor where they have a meeting. Or if a person enters a conference room and remains for some set period of time, it automatically books the space on their calendar.
The video software senses when a user enters the room, logs in with their account and immediately starts their meeting. This allows the physical security team to engage with facilities and customer experience teams to bring a positive force multiplier to the table from an industry that has been exclusively known as a cost center with a “no” mindset.
The near-term future for corporate real estate firms and building managers will involve creating responsive environments with context-aware capabilities such as automatic visitor check-ins, smart meeting room booking, self-adjusting desks and workstations, and seamless conference activation.
Building Security Assessment Checklist
Start with these basic steps and common security gaps. Move on to upgrades, advanced technologies and other investments as your individual situation warrants. Download your checklist here >>
As consumers have begun to expect more personalized and secure experiences in their daily lives, relying on their smartphone to automate all of their tasks, they will begin to expect it in their workplace. Corporate real estate firms will need to make these experiences possible by moving beyond decades-old technology to examine what new mobile and smartphone technology can streamline and improve the physical security and access experience.
Kellen Duke is the Head of Deployments and Security with Proxy. Before Proxy, Kellen worked on the Global Security teams for both Uber and WeWork.
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