Keyless Access Control for Flexible Workspaces

By Bernhard Mehl
September 12, 2018

The demand for flexible workspace is rapidly growing around the world—with an influx of independent workers in the market. Freelancers, contractors, and developers prefer non-traditional or coworking spaces to their apartments or coffee shops, finding it easier to concentrate when they're surrounded by busy, inspired people working on great projects.

Telecommuting work is increasing in popularity and even large corporations have started using coworking spaces to test out new partnerships and expand their office spaces for small and agile teams. The world of business is becoming more simple and more efficient—flexible spaces are typically uber-modern, they ensure quick and seamless access, as well as smooth operations for all members. One of the key aspects that enables this agility are the latest technologies, such as keyless access control systems, so members and clients can enter a building with no added effort for staff.

Not all access control systems are secure—we recently announced an initiative to test access cards to show their vulnerabilities. You can send yours to Kisi Labs to be hacked and duplicated by a Kisi technician for free.

Common Access Control Methods for Coworking Spaces

Keyless access control became possible because of magnetic stripe cards, smart cards, proximity reader cards, keyfobs, Wiegand cards… and, of course, smartphones. Confused? Here's a simple explanation:

A key card is an alternative to the traditional metal key and will open an electronically-powered door if you swipe it (swipe reader), tap the card on it (proximity reader), or insert it (insert reader).

Magnetic stripe cards are checked by the reader of the magnetic stripe, providing access once it gets verified and accepted; however, these cards are not very secure because they can be easily broken or duplicated.  

Smart cards possess a microchip, which is difficult to duplicate, so they provide a higher level of security than the magnetic stripe cards. Such cards do not require contact with the reader and are popular among laptop owners and office staff.  

Proximity cards are also contact-less due to a wireless antenna embedded in the plastic. They’re as safe as smart cards.

Wiegand cards provide a more upgraded keyless access control because they contain the identification information of each staff member in the wires embedded in the plastic. These cards are suitable for sensitive environments that require increased confidentiality.

Key fobs look more like plastic keys rather than cards, but they also allow keyless locking and unlocking of coworking spaces.

Moreover, your mobile phone can also grant access, using your biometric data, to keep security at the same high level.

How Does Mobile Access Control Work?

A smartphone can support keyless access control with the correct system in place. Members of coworking spaces can unlock the building using a mobile app that ensures cloud-based control of all doors and entrances. In most cases, it is powered by Bluetooth and provides a secure connection. NFC (near field communication) technology can also be used to get the phone connected to the reader. Apple’s IOS also added support for Core NFC (iPhone 7 and 7 Plus). Certain access control companies can integrate member management software for coworking spaces, like Optix, Croissant, or Nexodus.

Pros and Cons of Keyless Access Control

Freelancers working from home often voice the concern that members of coworking spaces enter and exit the building quite often; however, implementing mobile technology for keyless access control ensures much higher security than a traditional apartment key. First of all, it’s more convenient—the only thing you need is your smartphone, wristband, or tablet. No more lost keys or cards for management to replace. Second, the owners of coworking spaces can save time and costs related to the production of the cards and key fobs; therefore, switching to mobile access control will help to reduce the plastic waste in the ocean and the time and staff of your space.

Biometric authentication and cloud-based access control are also serious reasons to choose keyless access control for coworking. Still hesitant? Well, you can always combine the latest technologies with the traditional access control options to get extra protection.

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Phone-based systems are not just a small-business solution. CEO of Kisi, Bernhard Mehl, comments: “If you see the average of three doors connected then that might seem low but, in reality, one door relates to around 50 employees—so those are locations with about 150 people on average, including satellite offices. That’s quite significant.”

Mobile Access Control Adoption by Industry

Kisi examined which industries are investing the most in mobile access control technology. To do so, the average size of mobile access control installation projects by industry were measured. Commercial real estate topped the list with 23.5 doors running mobile access per facility. Education management came in last with 1.0 door running mobile access per facility. 

Physical Security Statistics: Mobile Access by Industry


The number of shooting incidents at K-12 schools, according to the CHDS, reached an all-time high at 97 incidents in 2018—compared to 44 in 2017. Cloud-based access control companies, like Kisi, offer a lockdown feature for active shooter situations or emergencies, making it an effective protective layer for places that are targeted, such as religious institutions, which come in near the top of the list with 4.0 doors running mobile access per facility. 

Based on industry size, it makes sense that commercial real estate tops the list, with 23.5 doors running mobile access per facility. Cloud-based access control enables these larger organizations to scale more seamlessly and allows large organizations, like telecommunications, to deploy the most manageable IT solutions available, eliminating the need to create and manage a business’s own IT infrastructure over time.

“Commercial real estate is, of course, the driver of mobile adoption since they have the largest buildings,” Mehl adds. “The key here is to show that mobile-first technologies are not a risk but an innovation that brings positive ROI and allows agencies to reposition their buildings as forward-thinking establishments.”

The scalabelilty and ease of use in onboarding an organization allows many different types of industries and businesses of different sizes to adapt a cloud-based access control system, either using keycard or mobile credentials for access. 


Mobile Access Control by State

Looking specifically at the United States, Kisi analyzed in which states companies are investing the most into upgrading to smartphone-enabled access systems. Of the currently installed base of access control readers, around 20 percent will be mobile capable by 2022, according to a recent IHS report. Cloud-based systems, like Kisi, are future-proof—allowing over-the-air updates in real time and unlimited scalability for users.


“Mobile unlock technology makes you think of the major tech hubs like New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles,” Mehl adds. “Looking at which states have the largest projects, it’s surprising and refreshing that those are not the typical ‘tech cities, and yet that’s where access control technology really makes an impact.” The fact that the largest projects are seen in states outside of the typical tech startup landscape is evidence that mobile access control is highly applicable across industry sectors.


For further questions about this study, reach out to Kait Hobson (kait@getkisi.com)

Bernhard Mehl

Bernhard is the co-founder and CEO of Kisi. His philosophy, "security is awesome," is contagious among tech-enabled companies.

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