With so many people making their way into an office building on any given day – whether as a prospective job candidate, a vendor with a delivery, or for a client meeting – it is vital that today’s visitor and employee management systems are prepared to keep the grounds safe from unwanted visitors, including COVID-19.
When the coronavirus pandemic abruptly made its way into our lives, visitor management systems that required many shared touchpoints or were slow, cumbersome and caused congestion suddenly posed newfound health concerns. Demand grew almost overnight for fast, touchless visitor management systems that could do more to keep people safe.
Important in normal circumstances, safe efficient access control has become even more critical due to the pandemic. There is a heightened sensitivity and recognition of the fact that this will likely be with us for the long term.
Now that vaccines are becoming more widely available and government regulations and lockdowns seem to be lifting in many areas, many companies have decided to open their doors. As they do, visitor management systems can play a vital role in making the modern office building a healthier environment for everyone.
Before the pandemic
When visiting an office building, a medical facility, or a college dormitory it is not uncommon to be greeted with some type of unsupervised visitor management process. You may have signed a logbook with a pen or used an iPad or kiosk to type in your personal information. You might have been handed a temporary badge to gain access to the building. All these scenarios involve touching objects shared by many people.
Physically touching anything designed to be used by many people can be especially scary given how easy viruses can spread via contact with contaminated surfaces. The average person’s hands typically carry at least 3,000 different bacteria belonging to more than 100 species, according to US researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, and viruses can linger on a surface up to several days.
Concerning statistics such as these are everywhere, and the average employee or office visitor is more aware of them than ever. The pre-pandemic reliance on physical touchpoints in visitor management make it very easy for germs to spread. Whether it is a kiosk touchscreen, or pen and logbook, the very process poses a risk of infection. Particularly due to the long lines that can form when processes are slow to navigate, as manually entering your information takes time. To keep people moving through safely, the process should be touchless, frictionless and fast.
Touchless biometrics in the office
Biometrics can eliminate the need for physical touchpoints used in today’s systems by using a person’s face, voice or iris. Modern biometric solutions are mobile and frictionless, using a device’s native camera and microphone to perform highly secure and convenient identification and authentication without the need for specialized equipment or hardware.
Instead of a touchpad to type in their identifying information, visitors or employees can be prompted through a personal device, or a dedicated purpose device to provide their face and voice, granting them access to the building, or notifying someone inside of their arrival without touching any shared items.
Speed is also an important factor in a visitor management system—and it can be improved with biometrics. By replacing manual data entry with face, speaker or iris recognition, visitors and employees can move through the process more efficiently. In addition, expedited visitor management reduces the potential number of people in a shared space, like a lobby, at any given time. This reduces security concerns and helps visitors adhere to social distancing guidelines.
While addressing health concerns is essential through the elimination of physical touchpoints, biometrics can also strengthen a building’s security by eliminating the need for passwords or physical tokens, such as keycards. Traditional access methods such as those are especially vulnerable and susceptible to theft and loss. Instead of relying on items that you have, such as a password or keycard, biometrics rely on something you are. When tied to visitor management, they provide a much stronger security solution than modern alternatives.
Factors to consider
The following factors can be helpful to consider when evaluating which visitor management solution is best for your access control application:
Health and wellbeing: Does the solution address current-day health concerns? Does it proactively anticipate future concerns? After a year of COVID-19, people are sensitive to shared physical devices such as kiosks or touchpads more than ever. Check-in procedures that involve large numbers of people touching shared objects leave visitors feeling worried about their health. Biometric modalities such as face, iris or speaker recognition can eliminate the need for physical touch points altogether.
Frictionless convenience: Is the solution convenient for all involved? Visitors, employees and office managers want the check-in process to be quick and painless. Spending a long time waiting for a receptionist or someone to come and get you is frustrating, and if a kiosk’s user interface is vague or confusing, the inconvenience grows. Incorporating biometrics allows for a very simple and frictionless process, getting people to where they want to go more easily than ever.
Access security: Is the solution secure? Security is paramount when it comes to visitor and employee management solutions. Companies want to know who is visiting their offices and whether they are authorized to enter. Modern biometric solutions address these needs by being highly secure; removing the need for things that can be stolen (such as keycards) with something that cannot: a person’s unique physical characteristics.
System upgrades versus replacement: Does the solution in question require full replacement? Or can it leverage the investments you’ve already made in access management? Visitor management solutions that do not rely on physical guestbooks and sign-in sheets can sometimes be expensive to implement, with pricey kiosks, cameras, and hardware to install. However, it’s not always a requirement. Often biometrics can be added to an existing system, upgrading its functionality without new hardware. This approach can be more effective in terms of time and cost.
Biometric modality availability: Lastly, which biometric modalities are supported by the system you’re considering? Any provider looking to incorporate biometrics into its visitor management solution should take note of the number of modalities available through a single biometric vendor. Biometric modalities such as face and voice are available for very low cost as they can utilize the standard sensors available on a modern smartphone or tablet, namely the camera and the microphone. Iris based biometrics can also be utilized with purpose-built cameras.
All three modalities are available through many modern vendors, but very few vendors can provide solutions that include them all. Engaging with a biometric solutions provider that offers you more options allows for a great deal of flexibility should you want to add or switch modalities without shopping around for a new vendor. Additionally, instances that need the highest level of security could leverage a combination of modalities.
Mobile biometric authentication may be right for you
The latest mobile biometric authentication solutions are ideal for offices looking to get back to normal, post-COVID. These solutions are designed to enroll and authenticate visitors and employees securely and conveniently using biometric modalities such as face, voice or iris. They can integrate with existing visitor management infrastructure for an easy upgrade to touchless functionality.
Leading mobile biometric solutions available today leverage the cameras and microphones found in today’s smart devices to perform secure identification and authentication, eliminating the need for new hardware and cumbersome touchscreen interfaces. They speed visitors and employees through the checkpoints quickly and without friction, reducing long lines and mitigating social distancing concerns. And, most importantly, they are more secure than passwords, key cards or other contemporary alternatives, using spoof-resistant liveness detection to make sure any impostors are kept away.
Solutions that incorporate mobile or tablet based biometric authentication can help alleviate worry and increase workplace confidence as visitors and employees return to the office. They eliminate unsanitary touchpoints, empower people to get where they need to go quickly, are frictionless, highly secure, and can be integrated into existing visitor management systems.
With contactless solutions now here to stay, it’s imperative that visitor management providers critically examine the benefits mobile and tablet based biometric solutions can provide when considering upgrading their system and choose a provider that gives them the flexibility to configure the system to their needs.