Touchless access control systems have been around for years but are gaining popularity during the Coronavirus pandemic. We talked with Allegion about how these systems can be used to help organizations reopen more safely.
Reopening schools for in-person learning amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, as many of us know, has been an emotional topic. While some districts are giving parents the option to send their children to school, others are switching to online learning and a hybrid of the two types.
While some schools have already opened, those that are yet to open or still on the fence have a few options to decrease the amount of high-touch areas on campus. Detaining COVID-19, as many of us know, is not likely as students and teachers return to school, but there are some measures that administrators can take, even if it’s to get ahead of the curve for re-opening in the future.
We talked with Brad Sweet, Commercial Marketing Leader at Allegion, and Melany Whalin, Marketing Manager at Allegion, about access control systems and how these solutions are helping schools and organizations to reopen more safely.
Allegion provides commercial and residential safety and security solutions to “help keep people safe and secure where they live, work and visit.” Currently, Allegion owns over 30 brands with products sold internationally to include Schlage, Von Duprin, Locknetics, and Ives.
What Are Access Control Systems?
If you’ve ever had to swipe an employee card or press a button at an entrance, you’ve already used an access control system. These devices allow individuals to enter and exit buildings or interior rooms without having to touch a door. There are a variety of door access control systems to include those that require physical credentials, like an ID card, to those that use auto actuators for mobility assistance.
How Do Access Control Systems Work?
Access control systems vary in function based on their use-needs and environment. Today, you can find a number of solutions to include card access readers, automatic door openers, actuators, and safety sensors.
Card access readers
Many of us are probably familiar with card access readers through work or school. These devices can grant or deny access to buildings or rooms without the use of physical keys or door handles, making them especially beneficial during the pandemic. Employers or Schools can provide ID cards that can be tapped, swiped, or inserted to grant access. These devices aren’t only great for sanitary reasons but also security purposes.
Automatic door openers
Automatic door openers electronically open and close doors by way a motorized gearbox. The door can be activated by button, card access readers, and a variety of other technologies.
Door actuators transmit the signal to open a door. They can be used in conjunction with devices that allow doors to open through motion detection, waving, or even card access readers.
Door safety sensors
Door safety sensors ensure that individuals can safely pass through an entryway. They are used with an actuator to control the opening and closing of a door.
How Much Do Access Control Systems Cost?
The cost of these solutions can vary greatly depending on the brand, device, and technology. Whalin explained that a reader could cost anywhere between $500 and $1,000 and that there are “a variety of things you can do to make your opening touchless...for a variety of price ranges.” Finding the right solution may require a consultation to ensure the correct devices and technologies based on the need.
Industries Currently Using Access Control Systems
When I asked Sweet which industries Allegion found these systems the most successful, he named “healthcare, government, multifamily [buildings], higher education, and K-12.”
For educational environments at this time during COVID-19, Sweet said, “They’re really trying to just get students back into school, so they’re doing a lot of work on processes right now.” And that’s true as conversations around reopening often focus on student and faculty safety.
I related a past experience with my undergraduate alma mater, Claflin University, that we used access control systems mainly for student safety and security purposes, but today it’s easy to see how that use can be shifted for health purposes as well.
For one, high traffic areas like schools have a lot of touchpoints: exterior door bars, classroom door handles, bathroom doors, and etc. Sweet noted that “implementing [touchless access] can reduce the number of surfaces that pedestrians touch when accessing buildings or rooms, and can help reduce contact transmission.” Honestly, with the number of entry points and doorways in a school or on a college campus, monitoring and sanitizing those doors between students, faculty, staff, and visitors is difficult, and that’s where touchless systems can provide a benefit.
Many corporate offices have transitioned to using various forms of access control systems for security, accessibility, and sanitary reasons. Sweet pointed out that “over the past 20 years most [organizations] have made that move. We do see [the] continuum in touchless conversions in buildings. Many buildings have already installed ADA auto operators.”
Bathrooms are another area of concern with high-contact surfaces. To increase sanitation, “plumbing products” have also transitioned to touchless access. Sweet believes this trend will continue as well for bathroom doors by way of automatic operators “where you just wave your hand and the door opens for you.”
Combining Smart Technology with Contactless Entry
We were intrigued to learn that Allegion and CBORD partnered with Apple in 2019 to create a more hygienic solution for students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Instead of requiring a key card for building access, students could use their iPhone and Apple Watch to access buildings simply by swiping. Many of us are probably familiar with this process through payment transactions. Jennifer Bailey, Vice President of Internet Services with Apple, said, “We were excited to introduce mobile student IDs on iPhone and Apple Watch because they provide an extra level of convenience, security and peace of mind for students….[they] can easily get around campus and also avoid touching readers—which has become even more important today.”
The Future Looks Bright for Access Control Systems
Although there are still many questions and lots of uncertainty around reopening schools and businesses during COVID-19, it appears that companies are thinking ahead about physical solutions that can be implemented, like touchless door entry.
Whalin believes it was coming: “I think it was a trend that was coming before all of this happened...being able to secure a door and use an opening without having to touch it, so it’s definitely here to stay.” Whalin also went on to say she thinks there will be more product development around these types of solutions, and we don’t doubt it.
Ultimately, businesses and organizations that prioritize consumer and student safety will more likely gain their loyalty and respect as we live through new normals and try to adapt.