The role of access control technology in a smart city

In a smart city, every piece of infrastructure has a role to play. Thanks to the Internet of Things and other innovations, everything from sensor-embedded pavement to smart power lines that electrify a city has the potential to change residents’ lives for the better. But those are citywide utilities, and to fully realize a smart city’s potential we must also zoom in and focus on individual buildings.

Whether you’re letting yourself into your apartment or buzzing the Postmates driver into your office, one of the most common ways we interact with a building is through access control measures. So how can access control systems evolve and adapt to the data- and internet-powered opportunities that come with living in a smart city?

Why does access control matter to smart city innovators?

While access control might not be high on a city resident’s list of day-to-day priorities, successfully controlling access to the public and private buildings we visit daily is an intricate, complicated job. Access control matters to smart city innovators because a cumbersome access experience is one of the biggest inconveniences a modern resident can face — and, as different aspects of city living increasingly become digitized, an antiquated access control system will undoubtedly stick out like a sore thumb.

To securely control access into buildings, property owners and managers have historically needed to install and maintain several different systems, all of which might require different credentials or have different operating systems. This is inconvenient for management and tenants. Property staff are left updating multiple systems — which often requires them to physically go onsite — and tenants are stuck juggling multiple access credentials, which can easily be lost or stolen.

We see these problems arise at buildings throughout a city, from apartments to office buildings to retail spaces. And mixed-use buildings — structures that enrich a city by increasing walkability and improving sustainability — face even more complex access challenges. For example, a building containing residential apartments and office space must effectively prevent an apartment resident from accessing the offices, and vice versa. Without an effective access control solution, there’s too much friction for urban property owners and city residents to secure and navigate buildings efficiently.

And it’s not just apartment residents and office workers who are impeded by a poor access experience. A city’s many delivery carriers also need a way to access residential, commercial, industrial, and retail buildings. Online shopping and deliveries are becoming more and more of a fixture in everyday life — especially in cities. And as more deliveries occur, inefficiencies in delivery methods become apparent. City residents are no strangers to lost or stolen packages and unsuccessful deliveries.

While we can track and monitor our deliveries online, the last mile of that delivery process often devolves into makeshift, analog solutions that differ from building to building. A resident might have to be home to let a courier in and ensure they get their package. In buildings with doormen or receptionists, a courier might simply leave their packages at the front desk instead of using an existing solution, like a package locker — which puts more burdens on staff and increases the chances of a misplaced package. In an increasingly digitized city, the problems associated with delivery courier entry, successful package delivery, and property access administration can be addressed with technology.

Technology is revolutionizing every aspect of city life. And with it, we can redefine the relationships between city residents and the buildings they live and work in while contributing to the Internet of Things mentality that makes life in a smart city easier.

What is the role of access control technology in a smart city?

In a smart city, access control technology can simplify the property entry experience for residents, visitors, and couriers by providing one, central hub that extends a uniform experience throughout an entire property and exchanges information in an Internet of Things-powered network. More concretely, access control technology can simplify the process of securing a building, resolve delivery issues for couriers, and give people more versatility in their building access experiences.

Every building needs controlled access for security, but administering an access control system can be tedious. With the help of technology, owners and operators can spend less time on rote administrative work and more time enhancing their buildings with a human touch. Modern access control technology is cloud-based, meaning multiple people can collaboratively manage and update systems from anywhere. Remotely managing access into buildings makes them safer without inconveniencing the people who need to enter them.

Consider as an example the modern hybrid workplace. As companies downsize their office spaces to accommodate remote work without forgoing an office altogether, controlling access to those spaces can get tricky. How do you ensure simple access for both the local employee who works in-office twice a week and the out-of-town employee who visits the office once a month? With technology.

Solutions like smartphone-based access systems, smart locks, and digital keys enable flexible access without compromising building security. When you empower people to receive digital credentials at a moment’s notice and enter buildings with just their smartphones, you’ve cultivated a truly efficient experience.

Access control technology can also transform the delivery process. Instead of having to be home or in the office to receive a package, we can remotely grant access to carriers using a smartphone app. By guaranteeing successful deliveries, we’re also helping to cut down on multiple trips for carriers and creating a more sustainable process.

Finally, technology also revolutionizes in-building access experiences. A unified access control system that authorizes an apartment resident at the front door can automatically call down an elevator that lets the resident out at the correct floor and unlocks their apartment door — all without the resident having to lift a finger.

The access control systems of tomorrow use the internet to connect gates, doors, and elevators, creating a seamless, intuitive access experience at buildings throughout a city. When you take building access control into account, you ensure that every city resident benefits from the smart city surrounding them.

Written by: editors Smart City Hub
Header image: ButterflyMX

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