The perimeter is the most obvious target for criminals trying to get into a residential estate. The longer the perimeter, the better the chance they can find somewhere to sneak in unnoticed.
But for estates that have secured their perimeter efficiently, the next most likely target is the gate where criminals can try to sneak or con their way in.
Visitor management (VM) is therefore a critical part of estate security as pretending to have some or other reason to be on the estate can often get the gate opened and allow you to roam freely. Over the years, we have seen the migration from visitor books to more advanced technologies, such as biometrics, licence scanners and CCTV to support the VM function.
In addition, the advances in technology make it possible to create an integrated platform today that not only incorporates VM, but the estate’s other security systems and even operational systems – such as bookings at the golf club – all on the same system that will have all the information available to authorised people at the touch of a button. The ideal solution is to have a solution that enables the efficient and fast management of all estate business, integrated into a single interface.
To find out more about what is happening in the world of visitor management, Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked a few of the leading providers of VM and additional services and solutions to the residential estate market for their input on VM in 2020 and beyond. Our respondents were:
• Brett Wray from Entry Pro.
• Chandi Kruger from GLOVent Solutions.
• Mpho Radiokana from neaMetrics and Suprema SA.
• Zulmira Ferraz from Powell Tronics.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What functionality is included in modern-day visitor management systems and what benefits to these solutions offer to estates and residents? Are cloud solutions becoming an integral part of VM or do estates prefer holding sensitive data on site?
Brett Wray: Today’s age of modern technology means that our lives have become more and more dependent on smart technology and the security industry is no different. This is, in this case, a tremendous advantage. At Entry Pro, we implement smart app technology for estate visitor management solutions. The Entry Pro app allows residents to manage their visitors by providing them with pre-cleared codes prior to arriving at the estate. This not only alleviates entry-lane traffic, but also provides estate managers with access to records which are imperative to estate security and general management.
Our system provides various analytical reports, which ensure accountability within estate security. Although the Entry Pro app is aimed at access control and security of the estate, it also features additional features to assist estate managers with general management of the estate. Entry Pro is POPIA compliant and all personal information provided to us is securely stored on a cloud-based solution, not only for security reasons, but also for physical safety, which is imperative.
Chandi Kruger: GLOVent offers a user-friendly mobile app for residents to send pre-clearance codes to visitors. To save costs, the codes can be sent via WhatsApp. Furthermore, a courtesy notification is sent within the app on arrival and departure of visitors. It also includes features like deliveries and collections, group bookings and innovative ways to give visitors access to the estate.
As far as cloud is concerned, cloud solutions are the preferred way of storing data because of the safety of the data and backups. Cloud systems also provide estate managers with access to the data anywhere and anytime; they don’t have to be on site to access data.
Mpho Radiokana: Visitor management solutions have, in recent years, become an integral part of integrated estate management solutions that are able to provide information, not only about visitors, but also information pertaining to the estate facilities and events. They are also able to provide instant communication to all residents, reporting of incidents, etc. with clever statistics and analytics that provide the necessary information enabling management to make decisions on their day-to-day management of these estates.
Residents making use of modern-day visitor management systems have the ability to generate pre-cleared access credentials for their visitors. Depending on the system, this can be an access PIN, a QR code or a mobile smart CSN card, in which case the visitor uses their phone in place of a physical card for access.
In addition to the standard features of most visitor management systems, residents are also given the ability to apply for the reservation of estate facilities, this being anything from a clubhouse to other communal facilities that require booking. Certain systems also encourage active reporting of any incident that may be of concern to estate management, providing residents with the convenience of submitting a report from their mobile phone on matters such as burst water pipes, broken streetlights, etc. Other features include panic buttons in case of an emergency, which send a distress message to estate security with information of the requester.
We have also seen visitor management systems becoming very analytical and being able to track patterns, which may prompt estate security to pay attention to behaviour, such as a certain resident having a higher volume of visitors every month compared to other residents, which could point to someone running a business illegally in the estate. Alternatively, for example, all visitors belonging to resident X never use their access credential to exit the property, which prompts security to investigate those instances as it means visitors may have another way to exit the property apart from what is allowed, which could pose a security risk.
When it comes to cloud vs. on-site storage of sensitive data, many VM systems seem to be opting to have their solutions hosted in the cloud. This, for some estates, is a suitable option for them as cloud-hosted solutions may prove more affordable than hosting on-site with predictable month-to-month costs, easy scalability if required, more stringent data security measures and less risk of the physical hardware, including the data residing there-on, being stolen.
Zulmira Ferraz: As technology progresses, modern-day visitor management systems have surpassed the antiquated methodology of scribbling your name and a contact number in an eloquent table on a clipboard. Using tools such as handheld licence decryption devices, licence plate recognition cameras, mobile apps for visitor pre-authorisation and transaction history, and web portals with online reporting and statistics, visitor management systems are now able to provide a large collection of accurate access information and flexibility previously not available to estates nor their residents.
By being able to share the responsibility of visitor access with the residents by requesting that they authorise their visitors’ access through the estate portal or visitor management mobile apps, the estate is empowering the residents to be more conscious of who is being let onto the estate. What we have found with estates that have encouraged this facility amongst their residents is that there is a more receptive and knowledgeable approach to security and systems upgrades as residents feel more involved in the protection of the lifestyle they have invested in.
As for cloud vs. on-premises, the stand-alone systems are gradually moving to cloud-based environments purely based on the fact that these systems, in our experience, are on sites with little infrastructure or are managed by management companies that share a portfolio across various properties. The larger or more established estates, however, tend to favour an on-premises solution so as to better manage POPIA compliance.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: With the coronavirus top of mind of late, are you seeing estates adopting touchless technology for VM? How important are guards in current VM solutions?
Brett Wray: Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Entry Pro developed a temporary touchless solution for our clients that was implemented within two weeks of the virus hitting South Africa. The temporary solution didn’t require any additional equipment or changes for our clients, which expedited the process of implementing it as quickly as possible.
Any visitor management solution is reliant on the accurate information being provided to the estate by the visitor. With our system, the record trail is more accurate and full accountability is attained at all times.
There are various products on the market that allow touchless technology, such as RFID linked to number plate recognition of residents, however this only includes the vehicle registration details but not the occupants of the vehicle, which could have been stolen or hijacked. We do not recommend this option to our clients.
We do, however, offer a touchless biometric reader to our clients, which doesn’t require any contact. Although some facial recognition readers are available, the developments still have quite a way to go before it would be an option for estates or any widespread implementation – and it has quite a significant cost implication.
Having said that, Entry Pro believes that guards still play a crucial role in visitor management and access control. We believe that it is still vital for guards to play an active role in tasks requiring human action to fulfil system parameters. With technology advancing at the rapid pace that it is, human interaction will no doubt become obsolete in the future, but for now, they still play a vital role, especially in estate visitor management and access control.
Chandi Kruger: Guard interaction is a very important aspect in visitor management. With our solution, the power of giving access is taken away from the guard, but the guard is still needed. In estates with no guards present at the gate, the estate is vulnerable.
Facial recognition with temperature readings is an important aspect for biometrics, as this will assist in preventing the virus from spreading. GLOVent introduced a non-touch solution for residents, where residents can open the gates with the mobile app used for generating codes for visitors.
Mpho Radiokana: Contactless access control technology not only assists in the health/hygiene aspect, but also improves the overall user experience of visitors, improves the job of the guards and where adequate system training has been provided, it will also reduce the waiting times.
Technology alternatives to physical guards are on the rise, although guards remain a crucial part of security management. There are some efforts with technology to reduce the head count of guards, such as drones doing patrols, but there is only so much that a drone can do.
Zulmira Ferraz: The coronavirus pandemic has, in a relatively short timeframe, had a substantial impact on visitor management and access control overall. Users are acutely aware of surface contact and so are driving the estates and the security sector to move to more contactless or hygienically safe security systems. Interest in solutions like licence plate recognition, UHF remotes or long-range tags, and even the old trusted technology of proximity RFID tags has spiked quite drastically in the last few weeks in South Africa.
This is not to say that the highly secure biometric technology is being discarded; quite the opposite actually. With the great advances that the biometric manufacturers have made with their contactless hand or facial biometric devices in the last year, many estates are in the process of upgrading their security entrances.
The biggest change that we’ve noticed in the last few weeks is that many estates are putting a lot of thought into the systems that they have to urgently invest in, thus not only opting for solutions that are safe for residents’ use, but that also allow for alternate access options for visitors and contractors. These alternates range from issuing visitors with QR codes that can be read by the more advanced technologies, to WhatsApp messaging containing one-time access codes that are verbally given to the guards who then can enter them on the handheld devices for authentication rather than the visitor physically typing it into a keypad reader.
As a company that is actively involved in the residential estate sector, we are currently in the process of investigating and incorporating additional technologies to our VM solutions, such as LPR, QR codes, voice prompts, facial recognition, self-service kiosks and thermal imaging technologies for temperature monitoring so as to better align our systems with the new normality of life during and post coronavirus.
While our VM is predominantly self-service from a resident perspective, it is and has always been our recommendation that visual or physical verification be part of the estate gate access process to ensure the highest level of security. Guards will most likely remain an integral part of estate security for that additional visual verification, not to mention a personal touch to round off a visitor’s experience of the estate, however, we suspect that guarding companies will reduce the number of bodies at one time on the estate if and where possible to minimise the risk of infection.
We have noticed with many of our clients with guarding facilities, that great care and effort has gone into training their teams on the necessary health and safety precautions relating to COVID-19 and the public.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Are VM platforms today standalone solutions or are they integrated into broader management platforms? What does your company offer in terms of integration – only VM or platforms that can integrate or manage other security and/or operational systems?
Brett Wray: Some visitor management platforms still function as a standalone solution, however it has been our experience that, as with everything else, clients require more. The Entry Pro solution is definitely a standalone visitor management platform, but it is also much more.
We strive to assist our estate managers with additional features and added bonus capabilities to assist them as much as possible with estate management. Not only that, but we are also able to integrate with other management portals and applications. Our reporting and analytical data provided from our system, for not only security but also general estate management, is invaluable and unsurpassed, as well as crucial to our clients.
Chandi Kruger: Visitor management is a value-added service that GLOVent offers. The VMS can be integrated into the CMS, document management, database management, licence plate recognition and resident access control systems, giving the estate a turnkey solution with one master database. The GLOVent core product can be integrated with any third-party solution.
Mpho Radiokana: Certain providers give the option to have the VM system integrated into other management platforms. This is often beneficial and the information can feed into one system, allowing for more effective management of access control.
Suprema products can be used as standalone systems, but many options exist where Suprema has been integrated into leading technology specialists such as Avigilon, Isonas, Gallagher, Impro, Paxton, Software House, Cathexis, Arteco, Milestone, Hikvision, Ipixa, Jarrison Time and more, with further integration opportunities available through API or SDK-level integration.
The iVisit visitor management solution is a neaMetrics-built solution that is fully integrated into Suprema’s BioStar 2 for visitor access control. iVisit is a value-adding solution that enables property managers to significantly reduce the overall running costs by eliminating recurring costs associated with dial -in systems such as SMS and airtime bundles. Additionally, costs are reduced by enabling sharing of the same access terminal used by residents with other user groups for access (visitors, contractors, domestic and general staff) instead of different user groups all using their own dedicated terminals.
Zulmira Ferraz: Many of the VMs on the market are standalone solutions. At Powell Tronics, we cater for both a standalone solution, namely PT-Scan, as well as a fully integrated solution, PT-Guest, both of which have allowed us to grow a successful and established footprint across the South African residential and business estate sector.
Our PT-Guest solution is integrated into Impro Technologies’ Access Portal and Impronet access control platforms with several options of visitor pre-authorisation for the resident, i.e., both an IOS and Android app, web interface and SMS short-code option.
As many of the larger estates have also invested in estate management systems including our own HOME solution, and in order to keep up with the market requirements, our PT-Guest solution also offers secure API integration for these systems to incorporate the strength and functionality of PT-Guest in the back-end while having a seamless front-end that residents have become accustomed to.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What specific VM solutions/platforms do you supply to the estate market and what functions do they fulfil apart from VM (if any)?
Brett Wray: The Entry Pro system in not an off-the-shelf product, we offer a wide variety of functions and features to assist our clients. Our system was designed by estates, for estates, and we offer the management of various estate management functionalities. We are constantly developing and adding new features, requested by our clients, to our system. Our system, designed for convenience, is easily accessible from your mobile device. Entry Pro has been an industry leader for over a decade in access control and visitor management, and with our collective 30 years’ experience in the security industry, we have a deep understanding of the industry and our clients’ needs and are able to adapt to any environment.
Mpho Radiokana: We supply a wide range of hardware that supports various authentication modes, including card, mobile smartcard via mobile phone, PIN (keypad authorisation), fingerprint and face. The extensive range of hardware includes readers that are feature-packed and fit into both centralised and decentralised access control systems and are suitable for both indoor and outdoor installation.
On the software side, the Suprema BioStar 2 platform is a web-based open integration platform with multiple modules, including a video module, which allows for access and video management from a single platform. Apart from visitor management functionality, BioStar 2 offers full access control and time and attendance features, so it can be used to allow access to residents.
Additionally, we have a team of developers with expert knowledge and extensive experience in Suprema products and identity management in general, that are able to work with large estates and security managers requiring specific solutions.
In the near future, we foresee an upgrade to the iVisit VM, BioStar 2 access management platform, as well as new hardware. These will introduce features that will help in managing the global epidemic and will improve the overall access management experience.
Zulmira Ferraz: As mentioned in the previous points, Powell Tronics has successfully been offering the PT-Scan and PT-Guest solutions to residential and business estates for the past five years. By having both a standalone and an integrated visitor management option, we have been in a fortunate position to be able to offer clients holistic access security within varying budget constraints. Apart from the capability of capturing accurate visitor and access statistical information, our ability to integrate to various estate and facility management systems ensures that estates have end-to-end solutions that cater for all aspects of estate life.
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