Effective visitor management

March 2016 Residential Estate (Industry), Access Control & Identity Management, Editor's Choice

Most people have encountered the dog-eared visitor logbook when visiting either a business or residential estate. Their role as a so-called security tool is however rapidly slipping into obscurity as estate managers realise that they are, for the greater part, totally dysfunctional and highly inaccurate. The advent of electronic visitor management systems provides a most welcome and noteworthy alternative to the archaic paper-driven system.

Added to the fact that the traditional visitor log book does not allow rapid look-up of visitor details, other issues have cemented its imminent demise. These include the fact that any information contained therein can be conveyed to potential criminals or covert marketing agencies when the book is purposely handed over, or it is lost or stolen.

Mark Paynter.
Mark Paynter.

Mark Paynter, Ideco business solutions executive, adds that on all the estates that have implemented the company’s EVIM biometric readers, there have been reports of zero crime. This he says is due to the fact that it is the only device on the market that offers the four-in-one solution of live ID checking, mobile management via a cellphone app, pre booking via web portal, as well as biometric fingerprint capture. The company runs a central EVIM database that provides flagging of suspicious number plates around the country which is available to select partners.

Barry East.
Barry East.

According to Barry East, sales and marketing director at Impro, the primary objective of a visitor management system is to add enhanced security to the estate in identified risk areas. He says that visitors represent a variable because of the level of potential crime they can perpetrate.

Estates therefore need to be able to establish the validity of the information being submitted by the visitor and be able to trace the visitor when they are on site and after they leave the estate. It stands to reason that the more credible the information that is collected, the greater the possibility that estate management will be able to track the visitor.

Impro’s Access Portal system provides a variety of plug-in visitor management solutions, including third-party visitor management products and biometric devices, to tailor-make solutions for residential estates.

Free movement and security

John Powell.
John Powell.

John Powell, MD of Powell Tronics, believes that a good visitor management system will effectively bridge the gap between efficiently improving the movement of visitors in and out of premises, and providing a heightened security offering, as it verifies that the visitor is the person they claim to be. He adds that a visitor management system should be geared around improving the visitor experience, but at the same time offer the estate and its residents the peace of mind that security measures are in place to regulate visitor access and have the backup of valid information should an incident occur.

Powell Tronics has successfully implemented its standalone PT-SCAN and integrated PT-Guest products into numerous large established premier residential estates, newer residential communities with increasing occupancy, as well as on sites where the residential component of the site is a fairly new addition to the venture, for example wine, equestrian or golf course estates. These two visitor management solutions range from straightforward electronic capturing of visitor details to sophisticated solutions that incorporate advanced integration access control on sites.

Paynter says that a visitor management system must clearly indicate who is on the property, must provide an accessible list of visitors and, most importantly, must deter crime. Management should also be able to extrapolate accurate information after events and be able to readily refer back to the evidence log. In most instances, a visitor management system is geared around the security of the residents, rather than as a health and safety tool. Although it can be used to provide this function when estate events are taking place, such as wine tasting or concerts, the ability to conduct live (real-time) identity checks is critical.

Electronic visitor management solutions bring a host of benefits to residential estates. East says that not least amongst these is the fact that one no longer needs to comb through pages of scrawled, often inaccurate or falsified information. Instead, one is able to quickly access data in real time and all information is verified when scanning identity books, driver’s licences and vehicle registration plates.

Furthermore, electronic data can build a reliable timeline on the visitor’s record in terms of the frequency and nature of their visits. This information also provides the ability for it to be used in authorisation processes to determine whether a person is eligible to enter the estate. Since pre-registration can be performed prior to the visitor arriving on site, the validity of their registration and whether they are directly linked to a specific resident can be determined.

Overcoming challenges

Even with the best intentions and strictest guidelines, estates are often faced with unannounced visitors who have neglected to follow the correct pre-registration channels. Unannounced visitors are the most time consuming so estates are advised to speed up the access process using prearranged visitation. This implies that the visitor needs to undertake a pre-registration process using various methods that include online web (cloud) registration or by receiving an automatically generated PIN code via SMS which they enter on a terminal keypad when they reach the estate.

East recommends that estates automate the data collection process to populate the database. Some of this information can be linked to a third-party database that provides confirmation of their identity and adds credibility to the process. It is critical that estates should close the loop by confirming that the visitor is actually expected at the estate by a resident and is not arbitrarily visiting the estate. In addition, the system should be able to establish the visitor’s exact whereabouts on the estate to ensure that they are visiting the correct person.

In most cases, on sites on which Powell Tronics has implemented PT-Guest, using the P-Tron handheld verification devices, the security at the estate perimeter entrances can capture new visitor information and double up on the pre-authorised visitor authentication, by simply scanning their ID or driver’s licence and vehicle registration and inputting any other additional information required such as contractor company, telephone number, number of passengers and in-lane biometric enrolment.

Powell adds that estates are considered to be private property, so the right of admission can be reserved by the facility. Estates and gated communities are advised to carefully evaluate their policy documents to ensure that there are no loopholes in this regard, with zero tolerance being the appropriate course of action.

One way to avoid any confrontation or issues in this regard is to ensure that on the pre-registration form or confirmation email/SMS, a clause is added that stipulates that the presentation of identity documents and driver’s licences is mandatory.

After-hours emergencies are another exception to the rule which need to be handled with discretion and subtlety. In general, residents should inform the estate security that an emergency vehicle will be arriving to attend to their particular emergency. However, East says that it is always good practice to verify the identity of the emergency vehicle driver to ensure that they are not criminals in disguise.

Technology to the fore

A number of products are available to streamline the process of registering visitors, with Internet based pre-registration being the most popular. Residents and visitors who are concerned about the protection of their information can rest assured that the encrypted access code provides complete information security.

The information gathered remotely is then downloaded to an on-site system which means that when the visitor arrives at the estate their information is already in the database and a simple verification process is all that is required, using their ID book and driver’s licence. This will drastically reduce on-site visitor registration times.

Powell says that in instances where a visitor regularly visits the estate or will be spending an extended period of time, they can be enrolled as a long stay visitor on the access control to further speed up the entry process as in this way they will not be required to register as a visitor every time they arrive on site. As per the physical registration process with identity documents, the data will be captured on to the estate’s database.

Biometric enrolment has in fact grown in leaps and bounds as an access control tool on residential estates. However, it is advisable to offer two cautionary notes here. Firstly, a valid identity document should always be used to verify the biometric element. Secondly, estates do need to factor in the initial time required to biometrically enrol a visitor. Paynter points out that the EVIM system supplied by the company records fingerprint as a digital signature and therefore can provide live identity authentication, coupled with other forms of identification.

Contacts:

Ideco: www.ideco.co.za

Impro: www.impro.net

Powell Tronics: www.p-tron.com


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