COVID-19 forcing rapid security technology changes
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to tremendous changes in many people’s lives. Businesses have adopted new technologies and turned to online solutions to keep their operations functioning as they continue to navigate obstacles to find their new normal.
As such, the speed of development and adoption of this technology has been at a much faster pace than normal. Further reinforcing the need to adapt, a 2020 survey found that 80% of consumers think public touchscreens, such as supermarket self-checkout or fast-food ordering screens, are unhygienic.
In the security industry, one of the overarching themes since the pandemic began is touchless technologies and maximising the opportunities they provide. So how are we adapting?
One such example is touchless lifts. For years, you have been able to integrate your access control credential with lifts. However, there has been rapid advancement and deployment of new touch-free technologies over the last eighteen months, including retrofitting lift buttons with touchless sensors, using QR codes and web apps for floor selection, voice control, or even a hand-tracking motion control solution.
As lift manufacturers rush to provide hygienic solutions, including a filter system that treats air with ultraviolet light, other companies are quickly developing integrations to expand and enhance the use of touchless interfaces.
Mobile credentials and apps have been available to the security and access control industry for some time, but the pandemic has seen rapid adoption and additional applications being considered. Even Apple is looking to get in on the action with their announcement around Home Keys in their Wallet. This looks likely to extend to hotels and other locations too.
The main advantage for consumers is that a mobile credential eliminates the need for carrying additional cards or fobs, and means people no longer need to touch their credentials on, or close to, the reader. Of course, unless automated doors are used, this convenience doesn’t fully address hygiene concerns if a user still has to touch a door handle to gain entry.
Driven by the rise of smartphone availability and the proliferation of integrations between different technologies, mobile apps are now mainstream in security and access control too.
Before entering their workplace, a user can turn on the lights and air-conditioning, check the video feed, unlock the door, and disarm the alarm – all from the safety of their car. Using an app also reduces the number of shared surfaces that people have to touch in a workplace.
It’s not just lift or access control companies that are taking advantage of this technology. With open protocols and documented APIs, other businesses can tap into the manufacturer’s infrastructure and deliver additional benefits.
A great example of this is the Property Technology market where combining access control, mobile credentials, visitor management, and more, allows communities with disparate households in close proximity, to co-exist more safely.
Property managers or landlords no longer need to be physically present to meet new tenants and show them through an apartment – they can grant access by assigning mobile credentials remotely, and automate tasks like credential management for move-in and move-out.
Biometrics credentials have also seen rapid advances in solutions to meet the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic. This ‘what you are’ credential still has security and convenience advantages over ‘what you have’ (fob or card) or ‘what you know’ (a PIN) methods, but some biometric fingerprint scanners have been put to the side for hygiene reasons.
However, the mainstream adoption of touchless biometric technologies such as iris scanning, or the introduction of facial recognition that can authenticate users wearing facemasks, shows how far this technology has come recently.
The CCTV industry has been quick to react by adding thermal monitoring features to existing systems, or creating new temperature screening hardware. However, very particular usage requirements, such as indoor locations with no sunlight, specific humidity and temperature ranges, and only screening one person at a time, means it’s difficult to get accurate readings, making many installations ineffective.
Arguments can be made for whether this is a great example of getting new technology to market quickly, or just cashing in on public and official fears around the pandemic. What can’t be argued, however, is that the development and deployment of some of these innovative technologies – even if not perfect – has been sped up thanks to the challenges thrown at us by COVID-19.
As the world continues to navigate towards to whatever ‘post-COVID’ environment emerges, existing technologies will continue to be repurposed, new technologies developed, and increased rates of public adoption will continue for the next few years.
Chief Technology Officer
ICT – A unified solution for access control, intruder detection and building automation