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Will 2020 Be The Year Mobile Building Access Technology Takes Off?

With as much change as we have seen in the way people interact with their buildings, the way people get into them has changed very little. The vast majority of tenants and their employees still use key cards or key fob technology from the 1990s. That might be about to change, though, as new smartphone-based mobile access options hit the market. These options provide people with frictionless mobile access throughout secured spaces in commercial buildings and the workplace, and also enable personalized workplace experiences.

We are seeing a huge appetite for mobile access solutions from Class A building owners, particularly in major cities such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles, and many owners are already piloting the technology. They know that they need it to attract discerning tenants (a sentiment that may deepen if, as expected, commercial vacancy rates continue to rise.) As a result, I believe we’ll see owners adopt mobile building access technology en masse in 2020. 

There are four key factors driving building owners and landlords towards mobile access. These are the heightened need for security, the elimination of lost cards/fobs, an increased ability to admit and monitor visitors and an overall increase in tenant experience.

First and foremost are the improvements to security. As mentioned, today most buildings are secured with access control systems that rely on RFID key cards and key fobs. However, many RFID cards and fobs are still running on 30-year-old technology. Because of the standardized platform on which these systems were built, they are not secure. Many cards can be cloned in seconds just by standing close to them with the right scanner. Putting access control on a mobile device gives it the security that comes with them. Now most phones come with fingerprint or facial recognition, something that was once only reserved for the most secure buildings in the world.

Eliminating risks of card or fob loss is another improvement, as they are notoriously easy to lose. We recently completed a Physical Security Trends Report and were surprised to find out that 17.3% of card/fob users have lost at least one in the last year. It isn’t just the security that that this poses that is impactful either. It takes a physical security employee an average of 12.2 minutes to replace a lost card or fob, not to mention the additional cost of replacing lost cards. The average 40,000-person company loses 10,378 key cards/fobs per year, and the overhead of physical security dealing with these lost cards is equal to one full-time employee. And, if they haven’t been deactivated (and often they are not), the company has all of those cards and fobs floating around in the world with the ability to access everything from the front door to the IT server room. So, all of these lost cards are costing companies a lot of time and money, not to mention the environmental impact of millions of plastic cards and their electronics.

Mobile access is changing the dynamic for secure visitor access as well. Managing physical security with key cards is less than ideal for visitors, and that’s become a bigger issue thanks to the growing onslaught of food and package delivery in office buildings. For security and visitor experience reasons, most companies want each visitor to be granted a unique temporary credential. However, traditional access security companies today charge for each new credential, making it prohibitively expensive for landlords to issue a unique credential to a visitor. It’s also time consuming to manage the potentially high number of visitor key cards being checked in and out. Key cards can also easily be passed from visitor to non-visitor to facilitate access, the same way non-guests gain access to hotel rooms and other amenities they did not necessarily pay for.

Lastly, the mobile access control revolution is improving the tenant experience. The Class A landlords we speak with, across the board, are increasingly focused on the tenant experience (they have even given it the cute monicor of TeX). It is a noticeable change from when we started working with commercial landlords two years ago. We are seeing a big technology push not just in major cities but across the country. Tenants are focused on more than location and aesthetics and now expect technology amenities and features in their space, and they are willing to pay for it. Smartphone-based mobile access enables landlords to provide the perfect frictionless curb-to-office access experience for both tenants and visitors.

The beauty of this technology is that the readers themselves can typically be installed in minutes and are far less costly than traditional card reader/credential technologies (readers are in the $200 range). A building requiring hundreds of readers can be fully equipped in a few days.

Longer term, mobile access and identity solutions have the potential to affect many areas of the tenant experience. Not just building access, which is already happening today, but also areas like network access, mobile printing, and logging into laptops and conference bridges. It makes a lot of everyday office experiences more seamless for tenants and guests, while improving security for landlords. With all of the benefits from mobile access control the adoption often seems like an inevitability. Maybe more exciting are all of the other benefits, even those that haven’t even been thought of yet, that come from having access to our buildings at the palm of our hands. 

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