Moving from Keycards to Facial Recognition:
Access Control Trends in Office Spaces

Facial Recognition FPO-2

Traditionally office access control has been synonymous with keycards or keyfobs — illustrated by the lanyards that are a common part of the modern office worker’s outfit. However, as technological advancements continue to reshape our work environments, new methods of biometric access control such as facial recognition are gaining popularity. This article explores the transition from traditional keycard systems to facial recognition solutions and looks at the benefits, challenges, and trends involved.

Traditional Access Control Methods

Keycards and Their Limitations

Keycard systems have been the backbone of office access control for decades — they’re easy to use, there is minimal training required and they offer a reasonable level of security. However, they are not without their drawbacks. Keycards are frequently lost, stolen, or cloned, leaving office spaces — and the associated assets and data — vulnerable to unauthorised access. 

From a cost perspective, managing keycards for a large employee base, including system maintenance and periodic card replacements, can have a significant impact on budgets.

The Rise of Facial Recognition

How Facial Recognition Works

Facial recognition technology uses algorithms to compare a live capture or digital image of a face with a stored template in a database. It’s a technology that is already common in smartphones to manage access and offers a more robust level of verification than keycards. While traditionally these systems have required a delay of several seconds to authenticate a user, modern solutions work almost instantaneously.

Advantages Over Keycards

Facial recognition eliminates the risks associated with keycard loss or unauthorized duplication, as it authenticates the individual user, rather than a token in their possession. It reduces the time spent on manual verification such as checking photo IDs at a security gate, offering a smoother entry experience for employees. Facial recognition systems can also be integrated with other systems for enhanced security measures such as time-dependent access, zonal access control, user tracking and incident analysis.

Enhanced Security and Convenience

Improved Security Features

Facial recognition can be strengthened by adding multi-factor authentication options, such as pairing face scans with mobile device verification. This layering of security protocols makes unauthorized access exceedingly difficult.

Ease of Use and Convenience for Employees

Using facial recognition offers a hands-free, hassle-free experience. A simple glance at the camera is enough to gain entry, which streamlines the process for employees carrying items, removes the need to locate a keycard, and improves accessibility for employees with disabilities.

Benefits for Office Managers

Streamlined Access Management

Facial recognition systems simplify the management of employee access privileges. System administrators can quickly add, edit or remove permissions ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to specific areas, with no need to update individual locks or retrieve keycards or keyfobs. Updates and analysis can be performed remotely, with no need for onsite staff or face-to-face support.

Data Analytics and Insights

The data collected through facial recognition can offer valuable insights into employee behaviour and use of space, assisting in optimised facility management and resource allocation. This is particularly important in today’s hybrid work environments, where office managers face the challenge of fluctuating numbers of employees using the space at different times of day. 

Overcoming Challenges

Privacy and Ethical Considerations

It’s important to recognise that using facial recognition in an office setting raises some privacy issues. The risk of potential misuse of personal information means that office managers need to treat the collection and storage of biometric data with care, ensuring compliance with local data protection laws, and implementing stringent security protocols to protect sensitive data.

Implementation Challenges and Costs

Switching to a new access control system requires an investment of time and resources, which will depend to an extent on whether the existing system can be repurposed and added to, or whether it’s necessary to implement a new system entirely from scratch. 

Initial setup, administrator training and employee onboarding should be carefully managed to minimise downtime, which can have an impact on productivity. However, it’s important to view this short-term disruption in the context of the long-term benefits — which often outweigh the initial investment significantly.

Future Trends

As technology continues to evolve, so will the methods for managing access to office spaces. Trends like artificial intelligence (AI) integration promise even more accurate and convenient biometric access control solutions in the future, with greater automation reducing the impact on staffing budgets by eliminating the need for any onsite presence and allowing self-service support for employees by interacting directly with the AI.

The challenge for office managers is finding a balance between the competing priorities of security, convenience and cost — and this makes facial recognition systems an attractive solution. While there are challenges to consider, particularly regarding privacy and implementation, the benefits to both office management and end users are already clear.

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