The impact of coronavirus on access control: today and in the future

As COVID-19 continues to weave its way into our daily lives, it’s imperative that companies take a step back and consider next steps as we begin to plan for the new normal. It's probably safe to assume that most of us weren’t around in 1918 for the Spanish Flu outbreak, and while it’s helpful to learn from the past, there have been quite a few changes since then. With this quickly spreading pandemic changing the way we work, travel and live, we find ourselves in uncharted territory. 

In a time of so much uncertainty, it has become overwhelmingly clear that it has never been more important to control what you can, for yourself and those around you, and take preventive measures to ensure health and safety for the future. Today, social distancing has changed the way we go to work, shop, and even what types of jobs are deemed essential. Companies have been forced to completely alter their business practices, and there's been a push to innovate new tools to help us understand, navigate, and stop the spread of this pandemic.

Because workplaces, are prime locations for viruses like COVID-19 to spread, we’ve witnessed a major shift in coronavirus office policies. For many businesses who are now operating with minimal staffing or a fully remote workforce, that means drastic changes to who has building access, and how employees are coming and going. 

Impact of COVID-19 on Security

While the US government has identified access control and security as part of the essential workforce during the pandemic, many businesses are still trying to navigate how to ensure the security of their physical spaces and assets without having someone on site, and how to pivot daily operations as they shift to a remote working environment. Even with fewer employees actually coming into the office, there are still security risks to consider: 

  • Access for regular deliveries and maintenance

  • Updated door schedules and operating hours

  • Possible internet or service interruptions

  • Limited or no access to security systems that run on localized servers

  • Inability to deactivate or replace lost badges, cards or fobs 

  • Access needs to allow for regular cleaning and disinfecting in the facility

One way organizations are attempting to address some of these concerns is to install a lockbox onsite that holds a key or credential and can be accessed by anyone who has the code to the lockbox. While this seems like a convenient solution, the credential would need to be changed out weekly to prevent someone cloning or copying that credential at any nearby convenience store, not to mention, a communal lockbox will need to be disinfected after each use, presenting its own set of new potential problems. There has to be a better, smarter way.

Future-Proofing Access Control 

As the situation with COVID-19 continues to develop, it is challenging us to put new tools in place to mitigate risk going forward. Now is a good time to consider updating your access control to a more modern, future-proofed system that can still be effective, even if 90% of the office is working remotely. At Openpath, we built a complete access control platform around prioritizing the experience and the protection of the user, inclusive of many features and functionalities designed to enable a remote workforce and prevent the spread of harmful germs in commercial properties. 

Remote Security Management

Transitioning to a cloud and mobile-based security system makes site management simpler and safer, without the need to depend on localized servers or on-site personnel. When it comes to updating for coronavirus building security, a system that can be managed remotely offers greater control and flexibility. For example, Openpath’s cloud-managed access control solution offers the following tools for secure and convenient security management that can be done from anywhere: 

  • Remote Unlock - Any entry point can be remotely unlocked from anywhere, which means you don’t need to be on premise for unforeseen situations such as an office delivery or temporary entrance for an employee. This discretionary feature can be made available to authorized users on a mobile device or in the Control Center. 

  • Lockdown - In the event of a breach or emergency, a Lockdown or Lock-Open Plan can be immediately implemented from anywhere. You can activate the appropriate lockdown plan based on the potential scenario underway. The Plan can also be remotely reverted when it is no longer needed. 

  • Instant Mobile Credentialing and Guest Passes - Instantly issue a secure mobile credential to anyone who needs it with the click of a button. No need to track down lost or stolen keycards or fobs, and skip the hassle of reissuing one that would need to be delivered or handed over to someone in person. Employees can simply use their phones to access the facility, offering a more sanitary experience for the entire office. Guests can access the facility at set times via a text or email link, without needing the Openpath app or a guest keycard.

  • Door schedule changes - Now that workers are coming in at odd hours and shifts are being spread out differently, all the old schedules and permissions need to change. With Openpath tools, administrators can easily navigate unexpected building closures, manage multiple office locations from one application, delegate permissions to local admins, and make real-time changes to keep access available and facilities secure.

  • Real time alerts - Get notified immediately of any access event, including potential security threats such as a door left ajar or forced open for extra peace of mind that your facility is secure when you aren’t there. 

  • Integrations - Openpath’s open platform allows countless integration opportunities to streamline your system with other tools, offering a heightened security experience. For example, our integration with Milestone video monitoring solution lets you associate access events with video footage, giving you real-time video feeds that the system administrator can monitor remotely. 

Preparing for Post-Coronavirus Office Security

As the world begins to normalize again, and we are able to reopen our doors to the public and to our employees, organizations need to be prepared for a shift in what will be expected as acceptable when it comes to safety and security. Health and hygiene will take a much higher priority, so how can we best prepare? 

The arrival of COVID-19 has heightened our awareness of all the things we touch throughout the day: door handles, light switches, even our faces. Innovating new ways to reduce contact is essential in a post-coronavirus world, especially in the places we spend the majority of our time: offices, schools, apartment buildings and retail shops. Openpath offers several hands-free options that will not only be appreciated by your customers, tenants, and clients, it will be demanded.

Hands-Free Unlock

No need for your hands to touch the reader in order to unlock an entry. With Openpath’s hands-free access mode, users can easy unlock a secure door using one of the following methods instead: 

  • Unlock the door directly from the app on your phone. 

  • Unlock by simply waving your hand in front of the reader.

  • Touch the reader with a covered body part such as an elbow.

Taking it one step further, some clients are choosing to install automatic door openers alongside Openpath readers and software. With a fully automatic system, teams no longer need to touch door handles, giving them germ-free, frictionless and ADA-compliant access. 

Two-Factor Authentication

Some of our more security-focused clients who have fingerprint readers at every door certainly don’t want to force employees to touch the reader, but need to remain compliant for security needs. For COVID-19 hospital security, for example, admins can enable 2-factor authentication via mobile phones so that users can use their faceID, fingerprint, or personal passcode to unlock their phone. Using the phone’s internal biometric verification in lieu of a fingerprint scan offers a more sanitary solution that doesn’t compromise security.

Resources for Updating Your Security System 

These aren’t the only factors that are important when it comes to securing your facility in a post-COVID environment. If you are in the beginning research stages of planning a new security and access control system, there are resources available to help guide you in the right direction. Additionally, the team at Openpath and skilled system integrator partners are always ready to answer your access control questions.

First, we recommend every facility owner or manager to take advantage of a risk mitigation site walk with one of our trusted partners. An informed system integrator local to your building, as a classified essential service provider, has the ability to audit the systems you currently have in place so you understand where you are at risk, allowing you to make informed, personalized decisions when you begin updating your security system.  A customized access control solution gives you the flexibility to tailor your system to suit your unique needs, whether you’re building a complete access control solution from the ground up, or if you have a legacy system in place already and just want to add the cloud and mobile capabilities on top of it as an upgrade. Our current climate serves as a reminder that we can’t be certain what is in store, so the best thing we can do is to be prepared. Your access control system should be just as flexible, resilient, and future-proof as the population of people it is designed to protect.