[caption id="attachment_201059" align="alignleft" width="226"] Tim Hrinak Assurance Media Head Security Technician[/caption]
Understanding and tracking who enters your facility or building has always been a security desire, but with the rise of COVID-19, that need has been elevated to a necessity. You may have encountered some degree of visitor management already, but likely on a basic level. For example, an employee counting people manually as they enter and exit a grocery store to meet government guidelines to restrict occupancy to a percentage of normal capacity, or texting when you arrive at an office and waiting in your vehicle instead of a waiting room. These methods, and others like them, are being implemented across all sectors. It has become a new normal to daily operations and may become a governmental requirement to operate a business.
The examples mentioned previously are effective to address health and safety requirements quickly, keeping a business operational with little to no downtime in a changing landscape of what is essential to meet regulations. However, the labor costs and lost efficiency of requiring an employee to perform these tasks for every visitor can quickly snowball into a budgetary nightmare. One employee managing these tasks can easily incur a labor cost of over $250,000 for a year! Even after emerging from the pandemic, some of the routine tasks that existed before our new normal still require some of that same employee labor.
So how do we solve this problem? Technologies, many of them have existed for some time, have been further adapted to solve these issues in a reliable, easy, and automated way. In retail, conversion counters have existed for decades; you have most likely walked through a door thousands of times and been counted. Each pass through the door moves a counter up, and when integrated with a point of sale (POS) system, provides a ratio of how many customers made a purchase to those that did not.
Let’s take a deeper look at the conversion counter; the counter itself is an independent device, so it is not only used in the retail environment. With the advancement of camera technology and analytics, the abilities of these counters have bounded greatly from the time of a light beam and reflector that could not tell a person’s direction of travel. A Stereo Sensor with 3D People Counter onboard can accurately track the number of people passing through a passageway, including their direction of travel. In addition, it can provide reporting on traffic volume by time, and send notifications such as the occupancy threshold for an area being approached or exceeded. Another added benefit is the ability to connect the camera to an existing or new video management software to record the video or automate other tasks. Just like the old conversion counters, the platform allows for integration with a POS as well. You can even push the live “in area” count to a display for public view and/or activate a stop/proceed signal or gate to completely automate the capacity limits of the area.
Another technology that can be used to address health and safety requirements is a part of visitor management and you have probably encountered this technology when signing in via a tablet for an appointment as this technology is common in offices. There are many parts to a visitor entering a facility or building including scheduling, greeting, checking in, badging, notifying the employee that their guest arrived, and now even health screenings. With a visitor management system, all of these tasks can be automated with a few clicks from one platform, without the need of assistance from anyone but the employee and their visitor. The employee simply enters the visitor's contact information into the cloud-based system, schedules the time and day of their visit, and the workflow takes over from there. Depending on your requirements, the system will automatically begin the tasks you have assigned in the order desired.
The visitor management system can send an email to the visitor with any detailed information about visiting the site, such as directions or where to park, and include a QR code for check-in at a self-service kiosk. Additionally, you could have a health screening questionnaire sent that is required to be completed before the visit, or any other request sent. The visitor can also be screened automatically for criminal history or against the internal watch and ban lists, denying their access. When the visitor arrives, they can present their QR code on their phone to the reader at the kiosk to automatically be checked in. Then another automated workflow can takeover, asking for a driver's license to be scanned, printing a visitor badge with visitor specific information, and notifying the host via email or text that their visitor has arrived.
Visitors may also be allowed to check-in directly from their smartphone when arriving on-site, delivering a touchless experience, which has become more important with the current climate. On that same note, visitor management can be used internally, as well as externally, to monitor all persons entering and exiting the facility or building. Health screenings, temperature checks, occupancy, and contact tracing can be controlled and logged through the system for all entrants, making for one unified location for all information pertaining to occupants of the facility or building at any given time easily accessible and searchable. Reports can be created in a few short clicks. This access data has become more important than ever during the pandemic and this will continue into the future of security systems.
One last useful feature is the ability to integrate visitor management with an existing or new access control system. The visitor can then be issued a temporary credential automatically, giving them access rights that were pre-defined when scheduling the visit. This has the added benefit of tracking your visitor through the facility and allowing them to proceed to a secured waiting area or office. Once the visitor checks out via the kiosk, smartphone, or host, the credential will automatically become deactivated, which means that they will no longer have access to the building with that credential.
In conclusion, people counters, visitor management, and access control systems are each effective as stand-alone systems, reducing costs over time and improving efficiency by automating tasks. The true benefit however comes when you integrate these technologies together into one operational environment, leveraging each of the benefits of the independent systems as one. Combining people counters with visitor management, as well as access control and surveillance cameras, not only provides a complete view of site movement and security, but also a greater position to keep staff and visitors safe and healthy now and into the future.
By Tim Hrinak
Tim Hrinak joined Assurance Media in 2015 as a Commercial Systems Integration Technician specializing in security systems. Before joining Assurance Media, Tim worked in the security industry for a number of years installing DVRs, NVRs, IP communicators for alarm/fire systems, and access systems for commercial and residential clients. Since joining Assurance, Tim has installed and programed many commercial security systems for a wide array of customers. Tim understands the value of staying current in the ever-changing technology industry as Assurance Media’s head security technician. Tim has worked with a variety of customers and can help your business with its individual security needs now and into the future.