Enlisting Physical Security to Fight the Spread of Coronavirus

Workplace managers worldwide are grappling with how to implement best practices to prevent the entry of coronavirus-infected individuals into their offices. While access control security is generally the first line of defense in preventing unwanted human entry, until biometric sensors are sophisticated enough to perform instant disease detection, it’s not an option for preventing virus invasion. However, when integrated with identity management and visitor management systems, today’s access control can play a significant role in reducing the spread of contagion.

While the public’s risk of contracting the virus and associated respiratory illness, COVID-19, is considered low, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has encouraged the public — especially businesses — to prepare.

The most obvious preventative practices are simply urging employees to clean their hands often with hand sanitizer or soap and water and simply emphasizing that employees stay home when sick, notifying the office if they do contract the virus.

But even if an employee or recent office visitor contracted the virus and followed the self-isolation advice of the CDC, an office manager would still want to know when these now-infected individuals last entered the premise, where they traveled inside and potentially who they met.  The ability to effectively trace their presence and identify other occupants who potentially crossed their path provides a whole new level of digital forensics to aid prevention.

This is where an integrated system of access control, visitor management and identity management could save time and potentially lives by providing HR and office managers with an accurate record access for individuals in a workplace over a specific period.

Identity Management serves as the authoritative source where an organization stores its employee information including network authentication, authorization, roles and privileges across a system or enterprise with the goal of increasing security typically under the IT or Cybersecurity umbrella (think login credentials, tools & database access).  When access control and credentials are integrated with identity management, the combined system records a history of the physical presence for any specific employee.  On any given day, you can know if an individual entered a building, an elevator, a specific floor, even a particular room with enough reader placement.

This is powerful data for an office or property manager to quickly identify other occupants who may have been exposed so, while respecting confidentiality, they can be instructed to get medical testing and stay at home. For an enterprise organization, integrated identity management and physical security can even scale across multiple buildings, states or regions to trace an individual’s steps within a building portfolio.

If access control is integrated with a visitor management system, the same tracking capability can be used for a visitor or outside consultant granted temporary access to the workplace for a one-time meeting or short project assignment. The visitor is given a bar-coded “credential” tied to their contact information for entering approved spaces during pre-set time periods. This extends the data-based forensic capabilities beyond the employee base to all individuals accessing the premise.

While we may never see a day when a physical security system can identify and prevent the entry of an individual carrying an infectious disease, we can use currently available smart technology to help reduce the risk of spread.   This is one very real, very current example where connecting HR / IT systems with physical security is advantageous, but there are many more use cases where the value is clear.   Leading access control providers like Kastle Systems, a nationwide provider of managed physical security for commercial properties, offices and multi-family buildings, are providing this type of integration, visibility and flexibility today.  Kastle drove the standard for physical and logical access identity (PLAI) integration adopted by the industry five years ago and they offer impressive visibility to customers via their KastleConnect offerings seen here https://www.kastle.com/solutions/integrated-identity-management/.

HR leaders, CIOs and business leaders should ask their current access control provider how they can keep their HR identity management systems and visitor management systems all in sync and seamlessly extract relevant data when critically needed.