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    With offices and workplaces finally opening their doors thanks to the easing of lockdown restrictions, the past year has forced us to reflect and change the way we think about access control. In helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of employees, businesses have increasingly adopted contactless access control technology, changing to help combat the pandemic with innovations such as mask detection and fever screening. As a business it’s important to be aware of such high-tech advancements to ensure the safety of your employees.

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    Access control has come a long way since keypads and card readers, and will only continue to evolve. Today, we'll explore three major access control trends to look out for in 2021. We'll explain how they work and how they can make a positive change to the way your business operates.

    Mobile Credentials

    Keyless technology is fast becoming the predominant contactless access control solution. This is thanks to the advent of smartphones. IHS Market estimates that by 2023, 120 million mobile credentials will be downloaded as we see more businesses move away from traditional options such as access cards and fobs. If you're buying a new access control system make sure it will support mobile credentials now or in the future.

    In light of the COVID-19 pandemic this prospect has become even more appealing. Businesses now have a more sanitary, hands-free method of access control. The benefits don't just stop there, however. Mobile access control is fast, flexible, and cost-effective.

    How does contactless mobile access control work? This cutting edge technology is very easy to grasp with users able to download security credentials directly to their smartphone. This can be done by clicking a link sent to them by the access control operator. These credentials are checked by a mobile-capable reader which relies on either a Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, mobile, or NFC connection. Access is then granted or denied. This evolution in access control allows users to carry a key on them without the need for costly cards or key fobs. You can simply take your phone and wave it in front of a reader or. In some cases, you can even wave a hand, and it will recognise the phone credentials in your pocket. It's as easy as that.

    This technology allows you to issue access credentials without someone needing to pick a card or fob. A new hire or contractor can be added to the system ahead of their arrival.

    As an extra layer of security, multimodal or multi-factor authentication can be used in tandem with mobile credentials. This can require a PIN or biometric data such as a fingerprint. This is mandatory in industries such as oil, gas, data centres and power plants though is becoming more standardised.

    Unsurprisingly, mobile access control is continuing to show an increase in uptake among businesses. HiD reports that in 2021, more than 50 percent of companies have upgraded to mobile access, are in the process of upgrading to mobile, or have plans to deploy mobile access in the near future. This marks a large increase over 2019's statistics, which showed that only 31 percent of companies were at the same stages of deploying mobile solutions. In 2021, there's a growing push towards phasing out legacy physical access control in favour of more secure contactless solutions. Not only to boost convenience but protect businesses from potential credential cloning, reducing their risk to security exposure.

    Other advantages of mobile access control include seamless integration with other smart building systems. With COVID-19 safety guidelines in place, there is a stronger need for more robust occupancy tracking. Integration of mobile credentials can help track staff throughout your building in real-time via Bluetooth.

    Access Control - Mobile Phone - Salto

    Biometrics

    Going one step further, the use of biometrics can remove the need for physical credentials, even smartphones. Biometric data includes fingerprints, voice patterns, iris scanning, facial profile and even the use of DNA, all of which are becoming more widely used in access control. Using biometric credentials is not only convenient but highly secure as it's quite difficult (and illegal) for someone to steal your finger or your eye.

    The use of identity authentication technology in has risen rapidly in recent years. In a report published by security industry specialists Imperial Capital, this sector outpaced all others from Q3 2018 to Q3 2019 with a 35.1% gain in company valuation multiples. The same reports states:

    "Identity and authentication technology, from software to biometric equipment, is continuing to mature, as evidenced by its increasing adoption by an array of government and defence programs in response to increased security threats, international identification programs, as well as increased cloud-based hosted access and ID systems being installed by integrators for both government and commercial sites. The acceptance of analytics, behaviour and related biometric modalities … have all played a role in the 50% increase in this sector’s valuation since December 2015."

    Facial recognition is becoming more common as a means of contactless access control, capable of quickly granting or denying access to personnel. This technology can be used to flag when there is unauthorised access through mobile warnings. Although this technology has existed for a while, integration with security systems has been limited. This is due to the expensive costs, accuracy issues, and concerns surrounding privacy. However, this solution is becoming more viable as face scanning technology improves in quality and price. Innovation has helped drive down costs of systems which are also easier to control and manage thanks to the cloud.

    Changes in our own attitudes towards the use of biometric credentials is also shifting. Where there might have been resilience to the use of biometrics in the past, our perception has changed in recent years as we continue to see advancements in consumer tech. The use of features such as fingerprint scanning is commonplace in the era of complex smartphones, along with 3D face recognition. Both are being more widely used in the access control strategies of companies in 2021 though it's important to also be aware of other emerging alternatives. These include iris scanning, contactless fingerprints, and even the use of voice patterns.

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    Cloud solutions

    We've alluded to it a few times already. Cloud is the invisible cornerstone in how access control is being revolutionised. We've explored both mobile and biometric access control though the real innovation powering these systems is the cloud.

    Cloud computing has completely changed our day-to-day lives. It has had a huge impact on the way we think about storing, managing, and processing data. For example, when taking a photo or recording a video, we no longer need to store these on our phones, computers, or portable hard drives - they can be instantly uploaded to remote servers where they can then be retrieved whenever, wherever. This same shift from local to remote (or "cloud") server storage has had the same impact on access control. It's a technology we're all familiar with and one that has become a bedrock in today's business security strategies.

    In the past, companies have hosted their data on-site using expensive hardware. This not only demands a lot of physical space but is costly to install, maintain, and upgrade. Switching to a cloud-based solution can help drive down costs while improving convenience and scalability, while allowing security managers 24/7 remote access to data, receiving instant notifications of component failures, security concerns, or event alarms.

    Let's explore some of these benefits in more depth. Without the need for physical servers, the installation process is quicker and simpler, allowing for fast integration with your existing access management system. Using plug-and-play controllers, all you need is internet access. There is no poking holes in firewalls or configuring complicated VPNs. Once set up, access privileges can easily be changed using a connected device to adjust levels of security. 

    Time and money can be saved further down the line with any troubleshooting, security firmware patches, and server maintenance performed remotely off-site. Where most on-premise storage systems need to be checked by technicians for security risks, cloud-based systems are more dynamic, automatically updating every week without you even noticing.

    Imagine if the computer that stored the company data for 500 of your staff was to break down! You would have to collect all 500 access control cards from your staff and re-enroll these cards on a fresh new database, reprogramming all the access control doors. Having a cloud based system means that there is no single point of failure with this database.

    Scalability is another key consideration when integrating the cloud. Legacy systems are often built to work within a single building with multi-site management requiring costly upgrades. As it doesn't rely on local hardware, the cloud can scale from one site to many. This is regardless of where they are located and without the need for complex upgrades or configuration.

    Another bonus you may not have thought of is the way cloud access control can integrate with other systems via open application programming interfaces (or "open APIs"). For example, the cloud can integrate with payroll to help keep accurate timesheets. Or it can integrate with facility management software to automatically raise a work request to your maintenance contractor if there is a problem with a component of the system. It may also be used to establish virtual zones within a building, monitoring which employees have entered this area and at what time of day.

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    What's next for access control?

    If innovations over the past several years are anything to go by, access control will only become more robust in the near future. With smartwatches and other wearables growing in popularity, this consumer technology will inevitably factor into the next access control trends. Looking even further ahead we may one day see implants and neural network technology revolutionise the way we think about security credentials, as far-fetched as it may sound now.

    In light of these trends, it may be time to review how robust your current access control systems are, and what steps you can take to make it more safe and accessible while also reaping the potential financial and administrative benefits for your business.


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