Access control can produce access to intelligence

Friday, March 4, 2016

YARMOUTH, Maine—It doesn’t take a sophisticated access control system to keep people out of the building or allow them inside. Nor does it take a high-end system to provide useful data that can help a company’s bottom line.

Nevertheless, by underutilizing access control systems they already have in place, many mid- to large-sized businesses are missing opportunities to utilize data that can save money and create recurring revenue, according to security experts interviewed by Security Systems News.

“Unfortunately, the reality is that the physical security department and access control are often looked at differently than other parts of a company because they don’t generate revenue,” said Scott Sieracki, VP of sales of Viscount Systems.

That mindset is changing in many large companies—particularly Fortune 500 companies, Sieracki said. “For tens of thousands of smaller companies,” however, the capability is in place, but “it hasn’t been a thought.”

“They look at access control as a capital expenditure, with operating costs from consumption,” rather than as a tool for revenue or cost savings, Sieracki said.

So what kind of data are we talking about? At the most basic level, door locks, card readers and the security cards themselves can provide information instantaneously on the comings and goings of employees and contractors. This can allow managers and decision makers more intelligence on building usage, resource use, suspicious activity and how much time vendors are spending on the job in your facility.

“If the contractor is in the building for 15 minutes and provides an invoice for two hours of work,” the data mining has produced a savings opportunity, Sieracki said.

At Fortune 500 companies, he said, you’re talking about hundreds and thousands of contractor work in any given month for which access control can validate billable hours.

The ever-evolving structure of work days and work weeks in the 21st century almost demands the kind of information that can be culled from access control systems, said Mitchell Kane, president of Vanderbilt Industries.

With a facility open 24/7, he said, badges, cards, readers and locks can provide information leading to “ad hoc” scheduling to close off some areas, maximize building use and lead to more efficient use of heating systems.

“It’s exciting what the end user can do” with the information, said Kane. “It’s clean and easy. … The opportunities are endless.”

It is conceivable that half of a large company’s conference room space is not really needed, after analyzing usage and patterns from data provided by access control systems, said Eric Green, senior products manager at Honeywell, also based in New Jersey. It is certainly reasonable to increase “real estate” efficiency by 20 percent, he said.

Green said one company, after crunching data, “looks at every employee and asks a simple question [based on analytics]: ‘Do you need a desk?’”

Sometimes the answer is no, Green said, and oftentimes the answer is, “less than we thought [if] you’re not in the office half the time.”

Beyond turning bad things, such as waste, redundancy into good things like efficiency, accountability), big data from access control can be a planning and anticipatory tool.

“There are so many vertical markets [that can] create opportunities for recurring revenue,” said Sieracki of Viscount. When a company goes through a compliance review from a federal government agency, data from access control can provide a “pre-emptive move” on items that may have required post-review action steps, Sieracki said. Instead of launching an internal investigation for non-compliance, he said, the data can be ready before the audit is done, along with an instant action step: “We are deactivating that card.”

“Access control is only as smart as the last time a person mined the information,” Sieracki said.

At Lenel Systems International, said Ross McKay, director of product management, an access control dashboard system provides information in a fraction of the time it would take at least one employee to access and analyze reports with the same data.

“When you are creating customer reports, it’s time consuming,” McKay said. “Running reports takes a long time to get to the point of ‘aha.’ With a dashboard system [as part of the access control and tied to the server], you might be saving 30- to 90 days to get useful information. … You can process the information over a cup of coffee in the morning. It’s far less manual, far more intuitive.”

For integrators, McKay said, “Rather than be an ambulance running to the bottom of a cliff … they are more of the good guy,” providing routine monitoring of systems, recurring revenue and less troubleshooting.

Added Eric Green, “Integrators are on the front line with the customer. They are the first to see opportunities [for new data sources] and ultimately the ones responsible for delivering the value these opportunities represent.

Simply put, Green said, business intelligence provided by access control systems can be like having an administrative assistant who, on any given day, might be the most indispensable person on your staff.

“If you’ve ever had a good administrative assistant who anticipates what you need, it’s there before you ask for it, and it’s glorious when that happens,” Green said. “This is having a system [providing information] based on data that anticipates what you need.”

While many companies have been slow to use information that is a by-product of a basic security feature, industry insiders agree that the realities of the market and the demands of regulatory reporting will compel them to change.

Eventually, said Sieracki, they will say something like this: “Hey, if this is relevant information, let me slice and dice it.”