Is now the time to have hands-free Access control?

27th November, 2020

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    Access control is just as much a conversation topic today as the Covid-19 pandemic, social distancing guidelines, Thermal imaging screening, and deep cleaning of touchpoints to mention just a few.


    While Covid has changed our health and safety policies at work in many ways, what will be of importance for the future as we go back to some normality post-vaccine deployment?


    It is human nature for most of us to go back to our normal routines such as catching public transport, ditching the Zoom or Team conference calls, and revisit our clients and suppliers in person. Oh, how we long to have meaningful conversations again, face to face. Hoping to forget the lonesome quarter of a year in lockdown in our home offices.


    That is all very well but has the last year of Covid-19 educated us on how we should be dealing with all future visitors to our business premises?


    Many businesses that have Access control with touchpoints, have or should have had their Access Control adapted to non-contact Access Control in those areas that require entrance authorisation to minimise personal interaction with the Access Control hardware and safeguard staff, contractors, and visitors alike.


    In many premises, digital Keypads require the punching in of a 4-digit code with our fingers or some minimal reading distance RFID card readers would have had some personal contact on a daily basis. No matter how much regular sanitation was applied to those touchpoints, a constant fear of contamination in these Access Control areas remain as these are a centre for collecting bacteria.


    We are sure that many companies found some solution during the Covid pandemic period but how many businesses have thought of renewing their Access Control technologies to adapt to the new normal?

    There will be hundreds if not thousands of employees eager to return to their offices, factories, and other places of work who will not want to use Access Control Keypads or minimal distance RFID readers, due to their ongoing concerns over hygiene, bacteria, and possible virus contamination.  


    As employers, we should not disregard the staff, contractors, and visitors’ concerns of using existing Access control with Touchpoints but address the issues that are forthcoming.

    Instead, we should be reviewing our Access Control systems now and look to future proof them, where hands-free Access Control provides everyone with confidence and reassurance.

    If hands-free Access Control is not a priority upgrade for businesses today, then it should be tomorrow.


    In most cases, existing Access Control systems will allow for ‘Terminals’ to be swapped out, meaning that a conventional keypad terminal can be replaced with a long-range RFID card reader.

    Whether you use the same manufacturer’s optional Terminals or a 3rd party manufacturer, as long as the reading technologies are the same with the same technical connectivity and transmission data technology, a simple upgrade from a Keypad to a long-distance RFID reader should be easier to apply.


    Other Access Control manufacturers will offer a large range of Terminals and Readers, giving a variety of solutions to existing systems whether these be internal for persons at doors or vehicles at Barriers and gates.

    There are hundreds of Access control suppliers offering ‘contactless’ or ‘noncontact’ solutions. Yet what technology offers businesses the best solution to make better decisions on the most suitable technologies available to them.


    Long Range RFID


    Contactless Access control can be easily achieved with a single long-range RFID reader, reading Access cards at 1 to 5 metres. In most applications, the existing RFID (Radio-frequency identification) cards could be used when card frequencies are matched between the cards, Readers, Access Control panels and software.


    Long range RFID


    Long-range RFID cards, tags, fobs, stickers and bar tags can be used on the person or on the vehicle to allow non-contact access authorisation and creating non-contact areas.  


    These systems are widely used at doors, roller shutters, barriers, and gates, giving the opportunity to upgrade complete sites to long-range RFID access control, bearing in mind that RFID cards on persons should be activated in single-user activations. It is not common practice to have Long-range Readers in situ, where multiple person’s long-range cards can be read simultaneously, thereby possibly granting authorised access to non-authorised persons.


    A single long-range RFID reader or ‘Terminal’ is usually connected to a Door controller which maintains all the intelligence of authorised users, which in turn can/could be connected to the Computer Network and a software programme / PC which manages users, authority levels, door access rights, entry and exit schedules and more.


    Upgrading a site with several long-range RFID would benefit a networked software application to be run, monitored and managed.


    Facial Recognition


    Face recognition Access Control has been around for many years, and continued development has made it widely available commercially. Face recognition tablets, Face recognition CCTV cameras using internal video analytics or video graphics-based software with built-in video analytics or Biometric Data points are some of the different product lines sold worldwide.


    A budget-driven Face recognition tablet can be installed as a single door unit, allowing for Faces to be programmed directly to the tablet and programmed with Entry/exit schedules for individuals, groups, or by varying metrics such as specific times. Different Face recognition tablets allow authentication for Face only or Face and RFID card, to give greater security levels where required on site.


    Face recognition tablet


    With a Face recognition tablet, a camera views the person’s face and screen display to assist the person’s optimum position to ‘read’ their face. Additional features such as LED lighting to compensate for dark or ambient lighting within the Access Control area are commonly found on these tablets. With varying connectivity functions, lock outputs, alarm outputs, IP network connectivity, monitoring outputs, and built-in algorithm database, these devices offer a perfect noncontact Access control solution. Reading distances vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but cope with metres of distance between a person’s face and the Face recognition terminal giving greater prevention of contamination. Some of today’s marketed Face recognition tablets work in conjunction with face Mask wearers, identifying a face mask wearer yet still have enough detail of faces to use their internal algorithms to verify authorised users.


    Face recognition tablets with mask detection enable users to further reduce the spread of germs and help prevent possible infection.


    We now also see these Face recognition tablets accept hand palm identification, where bespoke algorithms count palm shape, palm print, and palm vein positions. The palm of the hand is simply shown in front of the Palm/Face Terminal. The data (fingerprint, line structure on the palm, and shape) of Palms or Faces is then compared to the stored data of users, in many cases hundreds or even thousands of users within the Terminals database.



    Many of these Tablets come in varying model types and features and offer single door only or multi-door control, via a centrally operated software management suite to give scope for larger multi-door sites/applications.

    The use of Face recognition tablet has grown rapidly over the last 5 years, especially in various South East Asia markets where the use of these devices are chosen for contactless payment verification instead of the traditional cash, debit, or credit card.



    Face Recognition CCTV cameras and Face recognition Video streams



    Video or CCTV Face recognition cameras may seem an attractive small additional cost to an existing CCTV system however an end-user should consider specialist advice first. Many CCTV cameras are marketed as Facial recognition cameras. A basic camera without any intelligence can show a face on a full-screen Monitor, to be recognised by a Security guard, yet this does not mean it is a Face recognition camera.

    Some Facial recognition cameras have built-in algorithms to calculate and determine a head, a body, and face, sending that information to its Recording device and marking that video as face recognition. Unfortunately, these types of cameras do not determine the faces between authorised access users and Non-entry users and merely show video images with coloured squares around the heads to indicate that a face had been detected and recorded as an incident.


    While true facial recognition cameras carry internal algorithm data and or query a database to the different user faces against a detected face to compare to validate, standard CCTV cameras use more basic functions to market themselves as ‘face recognition cameras’.


    Nonetheless, true Face recognition CCTV cameras still offer a suitable solution to an existing CCTV system if the technical specifications match each other and perform in unison.  Again, we recommend that end users seek professional guidance from their Security Integrator regarding true Facial Recognition cameras and their ease of use and integration possibility into an Access Control system.

    Facial Recognition cameras can be mounted higher up on walls or ceilings being out of reach, thereby minimising contamination with no possible contact.


    Video Analytics based Face recognition



    The facial video analytics market is vast. Take your iPhone or Android mobile phone for example. It is more than likely that you use Face detection and face verification to unlock your phone these days, than using your biometric fingerprint or an old as hat 4 or 6 digit number to gain access. End-User acceptance of Face detection via their phones has in many ways verified to Industry that different market sectors will use face recognition software to either gain access to a system, software, mobile phone or in the security sense, compare a face against an existing database such as a database.


    Mobile phone face recognition


    Taking car number plate recognition as another example, we have all got used to the fact that car Parking houses, smart motorways or town-center car parks are in many cases operated with ANPR cameras (Automatic Number Plate Recognition). These ANPR cameras work on the same principles as Face detection cameras, i.e. Algorithms to determine the shape, size, contrast difference, height, and so forth, to compare against an existing database or build a new reference marker to compare against in the future.


    Video analytics-based Face recognition are generally software-based systems, utilising existing cameras (with a certain performance specification) to capture the image or face in this instance. The different software’s in the market today may take one or multiple pictures or frames to apply and compare the live image against that of thousands of images stored on a database and ultimately verify or deny the comparisons.

    Video analytics in facial recognition and Access Control is common also and often lending itself to larger-scale projects where multiple Access Control points need monitoring simultaneously.

    CCTV video analytics real time alerts

    Often, these software solutions as an Access Control system carry a larger project cost. However, splitting the overall cost ratio over the multiple doors makes this highly efficient Video analytics system a competitive solution for larger site users or even National and global users where authentication is used, managed and monitored globally.  


    As these systems are Database driven, being able to scale to a global Access Control verification system using a Cloud-based Central library is not only feasible but cost-effective by using existing CCTV infrastructures no matter what manufacturer brand of cameras there are on site.


    Face recognition in Access control is widely used, often as a 3rd party verification system to authorise entry/exit via another manufacturer’s Access Control hardware (Access door Controller). Without doubt, today’s technological advances with Video Analytics, Biometric analytics, and Biometric scanning of faces, palms or hands, manufacturers have started to move towards contactless Access Control for some time now. To end-users this means that its not Sci-Fi anymore, but a realistic solution to achieving noncontact Access control


    While many brands are specific to a main purpose, such as surveillance, payment verification or crowd management for example, equally there are many Facial Recognition systems purposefully built for Access Control.

    For the future as we see it, contactless Access Control will gain more and more in popularity, acceptance by users and more greatly attributed and appreciated in the fight against Viruses such as Covid 19.


    Biometric Access Control


    Biometric Data has been in use for hundreds of years, well before any CCTV camera and Facial Recognition software was about. The simplest verification was for one person to recognise another person either by description or a painting. In this case, a person verifies live that the description matches that person’s hair, eye colour etc, or a painting depicts the real person exactly.


    Today’s Biometric Fingerprint, Iris Scanning, Palm and Vein finger Biometric Verification technical capabilities are far more advanced than the public are aware of or have an appreciation for.


    Biometric types


    However, as you will no doubt have noticed by traveling from or to a Major Airport, Passport waiting times are being reduced with Biometric Fingerprint verification or Biometric Iris & Face scanning Terminals. Widely accepted and highly secure in their application, working in conjunction with local government databases, these Biometric products are of the highest calibre working 24/7 and literally building databases of hundreds of thousands if not millions of travellers worldwide.


    One such provider of Biometric verification systems is IDEMIA, which in 2020 brought out its MorphoWave Biometric touchless hand scanner to the markets globally.


    The Morphowave Biometric scanner records four fingers, in 3D model with one passing hand wave over the Biometric Sensor. With contractors and visitors in mind, QR codes can be scanned to allow access (if visitors and contractors are not stored in the database) as well as a range of RFID cards as optional user’s preferences.


    Having highlighted these technologies through a small window, the answers to upgrading the building’s Access Control in the future to non-contact or touchless Access control is a reality.

    Whether security budgets are large or small, options are available to all businesses. Simple user instructions for one door applications or a technically function and feature-rich Enterprise system with integration possibilities and Cloud-based global Access Control solutions are on the market now.


    Why wouldn’t you want to future proof your Access Control with non-contact Terminals and minimise the health risk to all who enter your premises?

    That is a question, that we hope to have answered in a small way but very much depends on the business owners asking themselves?


    As previously mentioned, it is business owners and decision-makers that need to evaluate their staff, their visitors, suppliers, and contractors’ expectations of health and safety at work, as well as company policies requiring to provide a healthy working environment.


    Unfortunately, these technologies only solve one problem at a time. By that, we mean that the technology assists in verifying authorised access to premises or not, without risking themselves to bacteria exposure on Touchpoint Access Control products.


    Once you have been verified and granted access, do you touch the door handle and pull it open or do you expect the door to open automatically for you, thereby avoiding contact with a door handle that has been touched any number of times?


    Automated door openers are seen as more architectural Ironmongery sector products yet are more in need in Access Control than ever before.

    And without any doubt, automatic doors, or automated door openers will hold just as important a role as contactless Access Control and a subject matter to be highlighted in future blogs.


    We believe in the best practice in all that we do, whether it is network cabling structures, Wifi installations, Audio Video Systems or Security systems.

    If you are contemplating an upgrade, a new installation and need the current advice on how to future proof your business, speak to us at ACCL.


    ACCL is a structured cabling Network company, with an Access Control and CCTV security division. Our company can provide the solutions, whether it is to a small business, education centres, NHS premises, Stadiums or large-scale factory/distribution depot.

    We can provide our customers with Thermal temperature technology, CCTV or Access control and advise the best use in conjunction with Social distancing guidelines with a client’s health and safety team to determine the best solution to their Covid-19 risk mitigation plans.


    Related topics: People counting CCTV systems




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