By: Kim Brown
Date Published: August 24, 2021
Touchless security technology will change the way we interact with access control systems. Access control systems are highly effective security tools, especially when combined with other forms of protection. These systems secure doors with electronic locks that can be opened using a special access code or device (including key cards, fobs, or even a smartphone).
Access control systems can be broken down into three main categories: discretionary, mandatory, and role-based.
Discretionary access control
Discretionary access control (DAC), the least restrictive system, allows management to customize access based on need. It typically grants access permissions based on set lists and directories. A workplace may use this system. Let’s say all employees get the same code to lock and unlock the office’s alarm system. An employee could share this information with a cleaner, granting them access to the office, even though the boss did not directly share that information with the cleaner.
Role-based access control
Role-based access control (RBAC) is probably the most popular access control system. It grants pre-defined access permissions based on a person’s position or role. Condo communities would likely use this type of system. While this is the easiest type of access to set up, it’s not very flexible. Administrators typically can’t grant users access beyond their role. It’s harder to make exceptions if one is needed.
Mandatory access control
Mandatory access control (MAC), the most restrictive system, prevents administrators from granting access permissions based on parameters defined by the software or its owner. People are granted access based on their specific role or classification level. They would have to create a new profile if their access needed to be changed. People granted access to certain places or items are not permitted to share their access information with others.
Access control systems aren’t always touchless
Even though most access control systems don’t require much physical contact, many do still require a small degree of touch. Think about using a fob or card to gain access to a building or parking lot. You have to physically tap the electronic lock to open the door or lift the barrier. And in many cases, people still need to pull or push the door open after it’s been unlocked.
However, the idea of touchless systems has gained new levels of prominence as a direct result of the 2020 pandemic. Contactless systems aren’t new, but they are expected to become more mainstream now that there has been a shift in attitude about public health and safety. Even after the pandemic, there will be a continued demand for secure, touchless security.
A shift to truly touchless technology
Organizations across many different industries are recognizing the need for smart, safe and healthy buildings. Whether it’s a school, a condo, or an office tower, everyone wants to be in an environment that caters to their best interests. As a result, managers and decision-makers are turning to cloud-based, AI-powered, connected security solutions that can be managed and accessed from a single platform. These types of systems, including mobile apps, motion sensors, Bluetooth or NFC, and biometrics, increase efficiencies and often allow for more comprehensive data collection at each “touchpoint.”
The healthcare industry was one of the first industries to adopt touchless access control. They’ve implemented security features like facial recognition technology to ensure staff and patients can minimize touch while allowing them to gain access to locations that they are permitted to enter. This futuristic approach is now being adopted by a handful of educational institutions, transportation companies, commercial real estate organizations, and other businesses or institutions that must balance safety and convenience.
While many praise the benefits of this type of security system, facial recognition and other biometric identification systems don’t come without controversy. Though it can be a more secure option and offer heightened fraud protection, those opposed to the technology argue that the benefits simply aren’t worth the privacy risks. Furthermore, it can be challenging to regulate, and it’s hard for the public to know for sure that the system is being used correctly. Privacy advocates believe that facial recognition should never be the default, and that people should have a choice to participate if they want to. Companies that adopt this system will need to seriously consider privacy issues before the technology is installed.
Near Field Communication (NFC)
Near field communication is a set of communication protocols that allow two electronic devices that are in very close proximity to connect. NFC devices can act as a form of electronic identity, key card, or be used for file sharing.
NFC technology is used in some guard tour systems, giving security guards a safe and easy way to complete patrols. Guards do not actually have to tap the checkpoints. Instead, they place their smartphone close to the NFC tag and scan it. The software will automatically register the time the checkpoint was scanned. Guards can also attach photos, or an incident report to any checkpoint, making it simpler to share critical information with management.
Rather than physically touching card readers to electronic locks to gain access, companies may install motion sensors so that staff and residents can enter a building by waving their hands. These sensors will need to be paired with a card reader that can detect electronic credentials from a reasonably close distance.
If the building or condo offers public access during working hours, the motion sensor is an excellent option because no one has to touch any surface to enter the establishment. The card reader/lock can be customized so that credentials are only required after 5pm.
Nearly everyone has a smartphone, which is one key reason why security systems may start using apps to verify identification. Students or employees would open up the app on their smartphone when they are very close to the reader, and tap a button on the app to unlock the door. Bluetooth low energy (BLE), wifi, or cellular data would be required to send and receive requests and verify people’s identities.
Some systems may harness the power of BLE and successfully send a request to verify someone’s identity even if the phone is locked or buried in their bag. This type of system keeps people moving, and is particularly useful to large establishments that host hundreds or thousands of people. Note that you will also need an application that can receive requests for verification from the access system for this option to work.
Touchless security is something that will benefit guards, managers and the general public. We should expect to see more of it as it becomes less expensive. Touchless systems maintain security and safety in a building while minimizing the spread of germs. Commercial office buildings, schools and condominium communities are likely to embrace touchless systems since there is a need to protect people and allow for a lot of movement.
Smartphones and facial recognition, as well as other technologies that don’t require people to touch anything, show great potential for solving some friction points that currently exist for the security industry. Nevertheless, there will still be individuals who try to tailgate or get around barriers. For that reason, it’s best to have an integrated security system with active security guards. They can stop unwanted visitors from getting into a building, even when access control systems cannot.