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INSIGHTS

How to make a building completely touch-free

How to make a building completely touch-free
Smart, touchless buildings have become a major topic of discussion after COVID-19. But are touchless buildings really possible?
COVID-19 forced technology companies worldwide to focus on providing touchless solutions. In the security industry, this means products like facial recognition-based access control systems, mobile credentials, etc. But they just form a small part of a building.
 
How do you make an entire building touchless? Or at least as touchless as possible? This article explores the different technologies available today that can help customers achieve a complete contactless experience.

Increased awareness of touch

Technology to create frictionless or touchless building experiences has existed for some time. But interest in it, as well as the capabilities for deploying it, has dramatically increased over the last year.
 
According to Sheeladitya Karmakar, Global Offering Leader for Enterprise Access at Honeywell Building Technologies, three factors drive this increased interest: An increased awareness of invisible risks, increased expectations from building occupants for wireless and automatic experiences, and increased access to smartphones.
 
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are more aware of their surroundings and how they interact with them,” Karmakar pointed out. “People are becoming more aware of the sheer number of surfaces they typically touch to get in and out of a building. Just to get inside to a workspace, for example, we come into contact with car parks, doors and elevators, to name a few.”
 
As limiting contact points continues to be important to building occupants or interest in a customized automatic experience increases, building owners and managers will need to look at how to create more touchless solutions that improve the occupant experience but don’t hinder security and building operations.

Also read: Open BMS is not just about protocols 

Beginning with the entry and exit points

Let’s consider the most obvious solutions first. A touchless building is one that does not require employees, visitors, or anyone gaining entrance to the grounds to engage with any physical security measure of access control.
 
“This includes not using a key card or personal identification number (PIN) pad – anything that requires an individual to touch a surface,” explains Casey Rawlins, Technical Solutions Consultant at Security and Safety Things. “What can take the place of those more traditional forms of access control are smart cameras equipped with facial recognition for employee or visitor entrance into a workplace – providing both a seamless and touchless entry into a building.”
 
Additionally, taking it outside of a building itself, touchless buildings can also include license plate recognition (LPR) in adjacent parking garages to fully automate parking and offer a barrier and touch-free experience. Computer vision technologies are one solution helping to speed up the digitization of parking lots, including the elimination of paper ticketing systems, parking barriers, and other physical elements of commercial parking. These solutions will undoubtedly increase demand as they promote healthier buildings and a more optimized experience for visitors and staff.
 
“After starting with entry and exit points, building designers and operators can search for ways to automate other potential points of contact in a building as well, through the use of smart cameras,” Rawlins added. “Data gathered can be used to assess potential needs for increased hygiene practices, such as determining how often workspaces and other areas are cleaned and sanitized.” 

From touchless access to touchless buildings

Opening a door, accessing an elevator, turning on the restroom faucet, and even dispensing hand sanitizer can easily be done without the need for physical contact.

But to achieve a fully touchless building means extending technology use even further, allowing for smart hubs, apps to control motorized blinds, environmental temperature, lighting controls, food services, and possibly even the settings on the conference room projector or video screen for a meeting with a remote team based on known or learned user preferences.

Autonomous robots will also be an effective means of automating tasks that can be a part of the reduction in the need for human touch.
“Self-service visitor management systems are also a great solution to reduce contact with outside visitors,” said Jason Ouellette, Director of Technology & Business Innovation for Access Control and Video Solutions at Johnson Controls. “Using a lobby kiosk with a pre-generated, no-contact QR code, a visitor can check themselves in, print a temporary badge, and notify the host of their arrival using the visitor management system.”

Conclusion

Touchless solutions are no longer just about access control. Solutions ranging from smart hubs to autonomous robots can help make a building completely touch-free.

But the practicality of these measures depends on the use of a facility and the individual needs of the occupants. For example, getting workers onto the manufacturing floor in time to start a production shift using a no-contact method would be a valuable time-saver, particularly if mobile phones are not allowed on the production floor.
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