Technology Integrations Are Producing Effective Results in Visitor Management
By Josh Gerena
A visitor management system can help your corporate, educational, or municipal campus in many ways beyond the obvious ones. Not only can a visitor management system heighten security and safety—mainly by vetting visitors before they’re permitted to enter a facility—it also can help campuses be compliant with occupancy levels dictated by fire codes and other regulations. A visitor management system will improve the experience of those who visit your campus by simplifying the flow of registration and connecting visitors with an on-site host.
There isn’t only one way for campuses to do visitor management. Registering people who arrive and move throughout your campus can be handled by dedicated visitor management software, by an access control system with a visitor management component, or even by a video intercom system. Because IP-based solutions make interoperability between technologies straightforward, it is becoming commonplace for these and other systems to be integrated. Integrated technologies provide more extensive security and safety features and meet the unique needs of campuses.
Visitor management is often performed as a function of electronic access control, because these systems’ strength is in restricting access to everything from a small IT closet to an entire building. Visitors can be issued credentials in the form of PINs, traditional access cards or even QR Codes that can be read by surveillance cameras or video intercoms that are equipped with QR Code readers. The system can generate a unique QR Code for any visitor, which sets the time period of their access and authorization level for specific doors. The code can be emailed to the visitor and upon arrival presented to the camera or intercom. If the credential is recognized, the data is then transmitted to a door controller to grant access.
Not every access control system offers visitor management features, however. In some cases, dedicated visitor management software may be a more viable solution if it offers deeper registration or other features not offered by access control. For example, the software may allow visitors at a corporate campus to sign a waiver or a non-disclosure agreement using an e-signature. Dedicated visitor management software also may allow the user to connect to a database of unauthorized individuals.
It is becoming increasingly common, especially at schools and businesses, to integrate with a public or private database containing identities of people who aren’t allowed to enter the premises under any circumstances. This may be a database of non-custodial parents prohibited from picking up their children or a database of registered offenders not allowed near schools and daycares. It also could be a proprietary list of terminated employees who pose a potential risk to an organization. In some applications, facial recognition is used to establish that the person entering a building is the correct badge holder. This helps uncover situations in which a person attempts to use a misappropriated badge.
Visitor management isn’t limited to dedicated software or electronic access control; other technologies such as video intercoms, surveillance cameras, video management systems (VMS) and network speakers also can do the job. Today, multiple technologies are being integrated to create unique visitor management solutions.
Visitor Management Integrations at School Campuses
One of the more common applications at schools is using IP video intercoms integrated with access control systems. When a visitor arrives at the school, they may be asked to show a driver’s license that lets the school determine whether they’re welcome or not before granting access. High-resolution video combined with clear, two-way audio communication makes this a rich solution for screening visitors. Intercoms may be integrated with and transmit video recordings to a campus’ VMS, for a documentation of the interaction.
The integration of access control with visitor management and a VMS solved an ongoing problem of theft at one school. The visitor management software registered visitors’ identities and the access control system logged time of arrival and time of departure from the school. Through integration with the VMS, specific time stamps were created, which allowed the school’s administrators to search for the video feeds that were recorded during one person’s specific exit time. On these feeds they observed the visitor walking out with items belonging to the school.
What’s more, the school went on to conduct a forensic search based on “facial analytics,” which are attributes of a face, over the previous 90 days that this person had been on the campus. The search resulted in enough video evidence to pursue multiple charges of theft.
In this case, a whole solution was created by integrating four different systems: the visitor management software to log identity; access control to allow entry and exit and provide time stamps; video surveillance cameras to capture the visitor’s whereabouts; and a VMS to conduct a forensic search of the visitor’s actions. The district was able to trace every single incident of theft from the school.
Visitor Management Integrations at Co-Working Offices
Co-working and shared-workspace companies are big users of visitor management technologies, especially solutions provided through integration. These offices often are located within larger buildings along with other, non-affiliated tenants, so their customers may need PINs or QR Codes to gain access to the main entrance. In this scenario, the QR Codes are populated by the visitor management software as part of a specific access control user group.
It is important for co-working companies to have this kind of control, because not all of their shared-workspace clients may be authorized to be in every space at all times. Once a worker is inside, they may be required to scan their QR Code to unlock an office suite, a conference room, or an individual office. Some co-working companies have clients that require higher levels of privacy, so controlling access to specific rooms is one way they accomplish it.
While surveillance cameras equipped with QR Code readers can be used to scan visitors’ QR Codes, many offices like the aesthetic of a video intercom because it can be flush-mounted. They may not be using all of the intercom’s features right off the bat, but these offices are looking towards the future. For example, the intercom’s buttons can be programmed to call a front desk for help in the event a worker gets locked out.
In one scenario in which a co-working office has very long hallways where most visitors aren’t supposed to go, a motion analytic on the video intercom’s camera alerts a guard, who then communicates through the intercom to ask the worker if they are lost and helps redirect them away from prohibited areas. Network speakers also could be utilized to announce messages or speak to workers remotely.
Some video intercoms feature a screen that can be used for displaying the status of the room. For example, it may show a conference room’s line-up of meetings and list of occupants. This could prevent others from knocking on the door and disrupting a meeting. And because the video intercom is a communication device, a person in the room can trigger a call to a person outside the room without opening the door. This offers a unique solution that may be just what an office or campus needs.
Reporting & Use of Visitor Data
Visitor management software allows for reports that indicate who is present on a campus, who is hosting them, and which areas they’re visiting. The most intense reporting capabilities are available through integration with access control as part of a feature called mustering, which can provide very detailed information about room usage. Co-working companies have an elevated use for this information in order to make the most efficient use of their space.
Detailed reporting also helps active campuses manage their occupancy in order to comply with fire codes. And these reports can help campuses account for all individuals in the event of an emergency such as an evacuation.
An effective visitor management solution offers multiple advantages to campuses, ranging from compliance to security and safety. Understanding that different technologies can be integrated for this function means the possibilities are limitless for meeting unique campus needs.
Josh Gerena is the Segment Development Manager of Multi-Dwelling Units at Axis Communications.