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Access control and visitor management – more than just security

Access control industry expert Lee Odess explains why access control and visitor management systems cannot remain isolated utilities. In the end, access control and visitor management systems will become features of a much broader digital building operating system.

Lee Odess
By Lee Odess Access control expert

Access control, both mechanical and electronic, has been one of the essential utilities of base buildings for many years. Outside of high-security use cases, access control has stayed isolated and offline, focused on delivering security and security only. This was achieved by keeping the wrong people out by layering levels of inconvenience and barriers. Safety, at all costs, has been the sole value proposition. 

The access control industry has viewed visitor management as a necessary, but limited feature of safety compliance. Companies that wanted to collect NDAs and keep a digital log of guests integrated visitor management systems into their lobbies and entrances. Beyond that, there was limited value. 

Prior to COVID-19, digital transformations were influencing multiple changes in both the access control and visitor management industries. Like most changes in the security industry, it was going to be a gradual change. 

That all changed with COVID-19. 

The result of COVID-19 has been an acceleration of those gradual changes; the value and importance of these systems for all stakeholders beyond security and compliance have started to become even more apparent. 

Cloud-based architectures, workflows, rich user interfaces, and integrated ecosystems have brought both out of the security closet and into the boardroom conversations around “getting back to work.” It is no longer ok for access control and visitor management systems to be isolated and just a utility. They are needed to deliver value beyond the locking and unlocking or the digital sign in and NDA capturing.

The benefits of these new digital utility systems are:

Safety is driven by dynamic workflows, situational policies, and vibrant data

Safety has been synonymous with security, and it has been binary: keep bad people out. Due to the digital transformation of these systems, we can now deliver responsive workflow and policy modifications in real-time based on data streams in and outside the access control or visitor management systems. For example, visitor management and access control systems can work together to notify when the people capacity number of a room has been met, sending notifications to everyone that needs one and turning off other people’s ability to unlock a door and enter the room. It is an excellent example of how innovation and technology play an essential role in bringing a higher level of safety to the places we frequent often. 

Convenience of having real-time and with remote access

Historically access control and visitor management systems had architectures that were solely client server-based. The resulting functionality was one of a closed system that existed only on-site and was as up to date as the latest software update or patch. We found during this crisis when working from home, having real-time and remote access was a must-have, not a nice-to-have. Common functionality of systems with remote access capability are lockdown with a press of a button and real-time notifications of activity on-site; no matter where you are. Especially in time of crisis, the ability to have visibility and access to your critical systems is key to keeping some sense of normality to business operations. In a lot of ways, it has been the difference between putting yourself at risk and having even a sense of control.

Health and wellness interactions

For years, access control and visitor management systems were digitally managed in the background, a feature within overall security protocol. In a post-COVID-19 world, rich interfaces will allow for heightened awareness of who is coming and going, and when. With new health protocols in place, along with requirements for building capacities and contract tracing, visitor management systems are now an integral part of a safe workplace. 

Business continuity, collaboration, and experience

Historically, access control and visitor management systems were used to grant or deny individuals access to the building. As we move to the new office normal and invite employees back into shared spaces, these integrated multipurpose systems are a necessary component of a ‘back to work’ strategy. By utilizing the capability of these systems, you will help ensure that your employees are able to do their work safely.

As we move to the new office normal, having access control and visitor management systems work well with other technologies such as Okta, Google Drive, or Slack will be a standard. It’s clear, the historical utility of access control and visitor management systems has changed forever, and for the better. In the end, access control and visitor management systems will become features of a much broader digital building operating system. 

Lee Odess is one of the most accomplished and knowledgeable Building Access experts in the world.  He is the Founder of E+L+C, and former executive of Allegion, a billion-dollar manufacturer in the lock and access control industry. He also served as an Executive of Unikey, a start-up that pioneered the IoT/smart lock/smart physical access control industry and began his career as an Executive with the first cloud-based physical access control manufacturer, Brivo.

Currently, Lee is the founder of and, a media and blogging platform focused on the physical access control and visitor management industry, and Group337, a Growth Studio focused on business creation in the commercial real estate, proptech, and smart home markets for small to large companies in the security, access control, and IoT industry.

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Lee Odess
Author Bio Lee Odess

Lee Odess is an expert in all things physical & digital security. He literally wrote the book on it: "The 6 Phase Changes Shaping Access Control." Labeled as one of the 2020 IFSEC Global influencers in Security and as an uber-networker by the Washington Post, Lee Odess has over 18 years starting, building, and leading businesses with an exceptional track record for sales growth and marketing effectiveness.