How One Quick, Low-Cost Upgrade to Office Building Access Technology Can Improve Occupant Experience

By now, we’re all familiar with the far-reaching shifts that the COVID-19 pandemic set in motion. While the sense of acute crisis may have passed, many neighborhoods, industries, and economies continue to experience its lingering aftereffects. Some may never be the same again.

The changes have been particularly painful for office building operators whose tenants are now looking to downsize their real estate footprint, sometimes permanently. As of September 2022, high-end urban markets have seen some of the most pronounced transformations, with the vacancy rate in Manhattan jumping to 14.3% of total office space in 2021 — a 44% YoY increase and the highest vacancy rate on record. During the same period, the average rent fell 6.4% to $74.39 per square foot.  Nationwide, the Kastle Back to Work Barometer has shown recent occupancy increases this fall, though still well below pre-pandemic levels.

This isn’t to say that tenants are vacating all office spaces as their employees begin working from home en masse. But it is the case that many companies are rethinking their real estate strategies. Consultants such as McKinsey & Co. advocate that “companies should stop viewing real estate as a mere cost center and instead approach and configure it as a source of competitive advantage.”

In this approach, aligning a business’s real estate strategy with operational goals likely means purposely designing workspaces that will attract top talent. This isn’t an easy task when many people have become accustomed to the ease and comfort of working from their own homes. Employers will need to carefully consider how they can create workspaces that are so useful and amenity-rich that they entice workers to return to the office.

Business and human resources leaders have become increasingly attentive to the onsite amenities they can offer their employees, things that will show how far they’re willing to go to support holistic wellness and work-life balance as well as on-the-job productivity. This means that many are engaging in what’s being called a “flight to quality” — there is a diminished need for larger spaces, so organizations can afford smaller spaces in higher-end buildings with updated amenities.

In a world where the competition for talent is fierce (and where the best workers will need to be cajoled — not forced — to visit collaborative workspaces), the tenant demand for higher quality office building space can be a smart strategy for employers.

It’s imperative for operators of existing properties to find cost-effective modernizing strategies. In a market where office space is harder to fill, and with bottom lines in mind, operators will need to optimize upgrades where they’ll be most readily noticed by tenants. Access management is tangible. Tenants engage with it multiple times a day and, if it doesn’t work, can cause conspicuous headaches. Adopting a mobile, smartphone-based approach, is a noticeable tenant-appreciated strategy. However, a total overhaul may be too expensive, for some building owners.

Fortunately, there’s a new way to upgrade your building’s access control system. It’s now possible to breathe new life into your existing radio frequency identification (RFID) access control system by adding Bluetooth-enabled smartphone access capabilities without replacing the current system.

What is KastlePresence® Express?

KastlePresence Express is a new solution that enables property owners and building managers to offer mobile access to their tenants without replacing their existing infrastructure. By inserting a small transistor inside the RFID reader of their current access control system, they can convert it to operate as a modern, smartphone-based access system.

This way, employees can enter the building by merely scanning their smartphones, which today’s tech-savvy workers find convenient and attractive.

KastlePresence Express requires a far smaller initial investment than replacing an entire RFID system with a new smartphone-based access control solution, but it makes the building feel just as modern. Installation is easy and fast, which means there’s no downtime. Plus, tenants won’t need to deal with the inconveniences associated with a major construction project during the transition phase.

The existing RFID cards will continue to work, so there won’t be any disruption to the experience of those building occupants who would prefer to keep using that system.

But those who want a more modern solution can enjoy all the benefits of smartphone access without the cost or inconvenience that a total overhaul approach would require. This makes KastlePresence Express a best-of-both-worlds approach that provides tenants with the convenient amenity they seek, while balancing cost-effectiveness and ease of installation.

Benefits of smartphone access for employees, tenants, and property owners

Being able to use your smartphone as a credential for physical building access offers greater convenience as well as enhanced security. Today’s employees and tenants appreciate the effortlessness and ease of use that this future-focused technology brings. They like the fact that they always have their phones with them — after all, the average American picks up their phone more than 160 times per day. And they know that they’re far less likely to lose their phones than they are to misplace RFID access cards.

In addition, mobile access credentials provide stronger security than RFID cards. Each signal is uniquely encrypted each time that it’s used, and it’s only accepted once. By contrast, commercial RFID systems send the same signal every time. It’s possible to make a copy of an RFID card at your local hardware store, so a lost or stolen card can provide criminals with a quick and easy way to gain entry to your building.

Property owners who integrate KastlePresence Express with an existing Kastle RFID system will continue to enjoy access to Kastle’s cloud-based access administration platform and activity data reporting, both of which can be monitored from anywhere using a single database synched directly with the tenant’s active user roster.

But even if you don’t have all the benefits of an existing Kastle system, KastlePresence Express will still enable you to transform your legacy RFID system to improve occupant experience quickly, easily, and at a price that will fit your budget.

To learn more about how Kastle Security’s state-of-the-art access control solutions can set the foundation for a robust security plan, check out our keyless entry and workplace access management solutions, where you’ll learn how to transform office access into an attractive amenity.