Create a secure and welcoming environment with automated visitor management

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Article by HID Extended Access Technologies, Business Development Manager – Identity and Security, Ian Holmes.

How can organizations create safe work environments that people actually want to visit?

For many, visitor management systems are the answer. Visitor management systems are increasingly common as part of facilities management strategies for government buildings, workplaces, schools and medical facilities.

When combined with self-service technology, these systems become an important first step in a visitor’s journey, providing an enjoyable and frictionless experience for customers, contractors and employees.

Safety first — the problem of human error

Yesterday’s reception areas were run entirely on human power. A visitor would enter the building and proceed to security or a reception desk, where they would tell the attendant or receptionist the purpose of their visit while providing identification. This attendant would then verify the visitor with the building occupant and enter the visitor’s information into the system to create a visitor pass.

Unfortunately, humans are prone to error. Information can easily be mistyped, the building employee can be difficult to find, and the visit can be unexpected. With the possibility of dozens of visitors arriving at the same time, each needing access to different areas to connect with different people, a receptionist or security guard could easily be overwhelmed.

Furthermore, they are not only supposed to be on top of visitor schedules but also capable of spotting fraudulent IDs from different states and countries. It’s easy to see how someone could be granted access to the wrong area or allowed to enter a place that should be restricted to vetted employees and contractors.

Automate for a warm and secure welcome

On the other hand, an automated visitor system virtually eliminates user error, establishing a safer building for visitors and staff. Sophisticated self-service systems allow visitors to register at multiple kiosks rather than waiting for a security guard.

Modern self-service kiosks often feature a document reader that simply scans an ID verifying their visit and scans their ID based on the level of security required.

Removing the task of manually entering information into a security system speeds up the check-in process while freeing reception and security staff to better respond to visitor and staff needs.

From Documents to Data Tokens: Understanding Credentials

What we call “credentials” is generally a document, card or data token issued to an individual by a third party that allows them access to the premises while they are there. These credentials can include a visitor badge, printed or digital QR code (2D barcode), radio frequency identification card, or government-issued IDs such as passports or driver’s licenses .

Following the registration of a visitor, one or more identifiers or tokens can be used during navigation in the building. This includes a final check before leaving the site – a crucial last step for fire safety and contact tracing.

For more secure applications in data centers, schools, or government buildings, government-issued credentials can also be used to register a visitor before granting access to secure areas on-site.

Common Types of Credentials

Let’s take a closer look at the common types of credentials that a visitor management system can process.

  • QR codes – High user familiarity, low cost transmission, extremely fast data decoding
  • RFID cards and tags – High level of security and encryption, programmable and reprogrammable, contactless technology
  • Government-issued IDs – Highest level of assurance, automatic registration using personal data, allows the use of facial recognition technology

Understand readers

After a visitor registers and receives an ID, that data token or identity document must be read by a device at an entry point. These readers are generally positioned on a reception counter or installed on a stand-alone self-service terminal alongside other peripherals for printing badges or issuing access cards.

Readers are often connected via USB to a host PC with visitor management or access control software running locally. Embedded computing and Internet of Things (IoT) technology allow high-performance devices to communicate directly with a server or cloud service over a local network for easy deployment and integration. IoT-enabled devices are now widely used in airports and public transportation networks to improve passenger flow and experience.

The best visitor management systems can accept the credentials that an organization currently uses. For example, a building with multiple tenants may have multiple security systems.

In a company, the insider attaches a QR code to the meeting invitation; when the visitor arrives, he will scan this code at the kiosk. Meanwhile, another can simply ask a visitor to arrive, register at the registration kiosk, and scan their driver’s license or national ID card.

Security requirements may also depend on the type of visitor. After all, an interview attendee poses less of a threat than a contractor, so the required credentials should reflect that.

In this case, an organization may wish to issue the prospective employee with a temporary barcode to scan on their phone or print upon arrival at the site. However, as the contractor will have access to secure areas, it would be prudent to register them using their government issued ID.

Ideally, the temporary barcode and government ID can be read and verified on the same device.

Capture data accurately and efficiently

Using multi-modal devices such as the ATOM ID Document Reader allows an organization to automatically capture personal data, barcodes and high-resolution images of presented ID.

Using sophisticated optical character recognition technology, personal data such as cardholder name, document number and address can be automatically read from the ID and transmitted to the visitor management system. This data can then be used to register a new visitor or cross-check against a list of pre-registered visitors or employees.

Images of an ID captured using multiple wavelengths of light (white, infrared, and ultraviolet) to expose printed visible and invisible security features can be used to supplement automatic authentication.

A wide range of authentication techniques are used to determine whether the document is genuine or not, including optically variable ink detection, UV pattern matching and cross-checking of personal data in the machine-readable zone, visual inspection area and the biometric chip.

For added assurance in self-service or partially attended applications, a facial image extracted from the document data page or biometric chip can be used to complete a 1-to-1 facial match with a live image of the cardholder of the document to ensure that the visitor is who they claim to be.

This ability to read different national IDs, barcodes, RFID cards and even digital EU COVID certificates on a single device allows a visitor management system to accommodate a much wider range of visitors.

The future of visitor management starts now

The world is becoming increasingly connected due to global trade and cultural exchange. As a result, organizations and workplaces are transforming from national to international entities at an unprecedented rate. The systems used to manage the multitude of individuals frequenting a site must be as flexible and dynamic as the organizations that deploy them.

Multimodal devices provide a simple, single point of contact for all types of visitors across an entire global organization for a safer, easier world.

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