Guest chair: Mark Schreiber, CPP, CPD – President and Principal Consultant, Safeguards Consulting Inc. (USA)

Steve Bell – Chief Technology Officer, Gallagher (New Zealand)
Francois Brouillet – Product Line Manager at Genetec (Canada)
Andrew Fulton – Vanderbilt, Strategic Business Development Director (Northern Ireland)
Eric Joseph – Director of Business Development, LenelS2 (Carrier) (US)

This session is sponsored by IDEMIA

Key points

Setting the context to the discussion, guest chair Mark Schreiber highlighted the value of examining how access control has shifted from supporting regular security operations to serving additional functions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Steve Bell observed customer enquiries in relation to access control supporting return to office efforts largely fell in to two main categories, namely using technology to minimise contact between people, and using features that can pinpoint where staff have been and who they have been near to identify those affected and limit disruption when a member of staff tests positive for covid-19. Steve notes there was an existing trend towards using touchless technology prior to the pandemic, but that this has been accelerated. He suggests there is merit in focusing touchless access control on the most public areas, where risk of virus transfer is highest, despite the reality that some subsequent areas of a building still require physical touch (such as door handles). Steve provides an interesting example in relation to universities to illustrate the point that organisations are changing the way they want to use their systems. He suggests that moving forward organisations will be more aware of how their access control systems can continue to offer added value in a variety of compliance contexts, as well as serving their original security purpose.

Francois Brouillet noted that while interest in getting more out of existing access control systems was a trend prior to the pandemic, he has seen an acceleration to this trend and gives some interesting examples such as managing the use and availability of PPE and managing/limiting the flow of people through buildings. In respect of whether access control is a ‘game-changer’ in enabling re-opening of buildings, Francois observed that technology is not a silver bullet but that the ability to change system capability quickly and at short notice has been a significant enabler, as has the ability to provide key data needed to make decisions. Francois also highlighted three facets of good customer service that had been significant recently: supporting customers to see the full range of features available in their systems so they can assess which may be useful; adapting the way support is provided in a context where it is less easy to gain access to the site to assist; and helping customers understand whether possible solutions will really be effective in the field. Francois sounded some caution around using temperature screening to automatically deny access to buildings as he highlighted that is just one part of the procedures needed to control risk.

Andrew Fulton talked about some of the successes in responding to the covid-19 pandemic, such as developing software quickly to enable reporting for contact tracing, and adapting to new requirements for visitor management and occupancy control. He also noted some changing trends in the popularity of some types of technology. Andrew highlighted that the fundamental change in relation to access control is the shift from whether someone is allowed in to a building, to whether it is safe to allow them in. He gives an interesting example about the ability to automatically deny access to anyone living in a particular area when localised lockdowns are being enforced in that area. You will hear Andrew talk about the need to make some developments and also some redeployment of existing tools in order to meet customers needs. Andrew cautioned that while systems are being used for more purposes than previously and there has been a focus on re-opening buildings in a safe way, existing concerns around crime and security must continue to be addressed.

Eric Joseph categorises the impact of the covid-19 pandemic as totally unique and reflects on how quickly organisations changed from normal operation to closing off their buildings. He gives a number of examples of the functionality that Security Managers are now looking for in their access control systems and remarked on the importance of being able to add new technology to existing foundations and adapting quickly to respond to what is a constantly changing problem. Eric notes that whether the focus is on security or, as currently, on health, a key role of access control is in minimising and mitigating risk. You will hear Eric talk about how after an initial rush by customers to find something that could help them, they are now more conscious of finding solutions to current challenges that will also hold potential to assist them in the future. Eric highlights a positive in that the pandemic has offered the opportunity to demonstrate how much additional value can be gained from existing investment in access control and how critical the information the systems can generate can be to enabling a business to function. He also notes the importance of looking ahead to how businesses may change as a result of the pandemic in order to offer suitable solutions.

Charlotte Howell
17th September 2020

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