The Future of Access Control: 10 predictions for 2021

By Bernhard Mehl
January 11, 2021
Access Control 2021 Predictions

Access control was never an industry of fast change. “2020-21 could turn this situation completely on its head. Companies will radically rethink their workplaces and since access control is the gatekeeper of those, it will be at the center of attention” says Bernhard Mehl, CEO of Kisi.

As people start returning to office spaces for work, one scenario could suggest that nothing changes from how we operated before. Perhaps, with the introduction of the vaccine on a large scale, everyone will be ecstatic to get back to the office. Or, it could be that the health crisis will persevere for a longer time than imagined, and that office spaces will remain unused for a prolonged period of time, like an abandoned ghost town of open work spaces and copy machines. Likely our reality will be somewhere in the middle of the two scenarios.

Matt Harris, Head of Workplace Technology at visitor management firm Envoy told us last year:

"As of now, everyone who comes into the workplace—including employees—will be visitors. As workplaces are forced to limit occupancy and track access in a new way, the challenge of designing a welcoming experience is more important than ever. That means the workflows for reserving space and gaining access will need to be more dynamic, more integrated, and more seamless."

The challenge seems to be the same, maybe now more than ever.

Taking this as a starting point, we thought of ten predictions about how the role of access control in 2021 is expected to change.

1. Office occupancy measurement

Understanding how many people are on site becomes crucial across the landscape of workflows, from office utilization planning, to adhering to local policies of maximum capacities, and auditable logging of productivity. Since access control systems record and report who is coming in - it’s only a matter of configuration of the system to actually measure who is there, and for how long.

2. Remote on and off boarding each location

As companies are capable of remotely on and off boarding at a company level, doing said process on a per location level can enable the dynamic shifting of employees to accommodate business needs. Dynamic per location bookings operate in a similar fashion to gate access on an airline carrier, designed in a controlled-fashion. Access control manages dynamic access to specific locations, controlling the details about when and where certain access points are open, for how long, and to whom. 

3. Company and personal storage

With variation around who is on site at a business location or variables such as desks in open seating areas being reassigned over time, companies should plan to invest in desk-independent lockable storage solutions such as those in gyms, in order to store personal belongings or valuables. This can also prevent property abuse, employee theft, or simply confusion.

4. Touchless access

Employees are re-entering the workplace, more safety conscious than ever. With hygiene in mind, they will not want to touch door handles or traditional access points. Choosing solutions that are touchless, wave to unlock, or offer hands-free functionality will be expected for entry points.

5. Health conditional access

Access control with a history of your medical information or current health status will soon be the new normal.  Expect to see more automation in order to decrease safety fears and increase user experience. For example, perhaps a user has been tested for current ailments, is immune, or is vaccinated - and as a result of that is allowed to unlock access points. Those with symptoms that should be addressed would require healthcare follow ups in order to qualify for access entry. 

6. Acceptance of biometric access solutions

Another trend to expect, is in thermometer testing.  These tests will drive biometric sensors with functionality like body heat capabilities and lay the groundwork for future biometric access functions. Privacy concerns have not allowed this method to get a wide acceptance, but options like face or fingerprint readers, are definitely tools being considered for the future of access control.

7. Mobile based visitor systems‍

Personalized invitations found on visitors’ mobile phones helps promote avoidance of touching common spaces such as visitor lists or physical check-in tablets. 

8. Enforcing proper shared amenity use‍

In order to enforce health policies like disinfecting meeting rooms or shared amenities like water fountains after use, expect to see more security cameras installed.

9. Cleaning Service Level Agreements (SLA’s)‍

New SLA’s with cleaning firms will go beyond the normal scheduling of cleaners. In order to guarantee cleaning within certain timeframes, cleaners might have to check in on facility checkpoints to prove this area has been disinfected in the required times. Commonly used surfaces like kitchen counters, door handles, fridge handles, and coffee machines will have to be wiped down more often and with more attention than previously expected. 

10. Minimum social distancing‍

Social distancing measurements for common areas might be adopted as modeled by retail solutions during social distancing times in order to understand what % of the time, and how many people were within specific radiuses from each other.

Bonus prediction:

  1. Executive home security will likely level up to match the access abilities of the corporate office. As cloud-based technologies take over the market, users will more and more want to rely on similar systems in a residential setting.  This will bridge the gap between commercial and home security.

After the initial shock of empty offices is overcome, access control in 2021 seems to be changing it’s own game. Let’s see which predictions hold up, and what other ways workplace managers will come up with to get everyone safe into the workplace! We believe that the solutions that can be used long-term, in addition to help with relief of COVID-19, will have the most chance of success.

We want to hear your predictions too!  Send us your thoughts at:

Bernhard Mehl

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