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Goodbye keys? The future of workplace access

Hady Abdelnour, co-founder of Smarke, explains why bunches of keys are destined to become historic artefacts

Hady Abdelnour, Co-founder, Smarke
Hady Abdelnour, Co-founder, Smarke

However smart your office or home may be right now, in the future it will contain many more connected products to enhance both convenience and security.

In a recent article, Business Insider predicted that by 2020 the number of smart home/office devices shipped will be in the region of 200 million per annum, up from approximately 80 million in 2015. Products will include smart appliances, smart energy equipment and smart home/office safety and security systems.

What are the implications for the future of workplace and home access?

Clearly, over time, heavy bunches of keys will become interesting historic artefacts!

It’s likely that our voice-activated virtual assistant will control almost everything in our property, including opening the front door. This will be achieved via a merger of Face Recognition or other biometric data with Artificial Intelligence and fixed hardware.

Achieving this will require a standardisation in the way locks and doors are delivered to market. Millennials and the digitally affluent will drive the consolidation of a variety of approaches into one universal standard with a secure digital touch point.

Already, innovative companies are introducing products that will replace antiquated keyholes, peepholes and doorbells, including smart locks, sensors, monitors, cameras and alarm systems. August Smart Locks, for example, sells digital keyless door locks and doorbell cameras that enable the property owner to provide third party remote access to their office or home.

Safety & convenience
A key challenge is the connection of these front- and back-end technologies with other devices. They need to be able to exchange data, while maintaining a high level of cyber security.

Security and convenience are the two most important issues. Homes and offices have to be secure to prevent unwanted access, while at the same time allowing us to enter without an overly complicated process.

The property Access and Safety market will end up being dominated by those devices that can connect and integrate seamlessly with other home and office technologies, offering maximum security, alongside simplicity and convenience. This is important because all home devices will ultimately run in an invisible background mode, controlled by an overall intelligent system such as Amazon Echo or Google Home.

Goodbye keys?
Goodbye keys?

We’re already getting closer to this perfect synergy, with products like Smarke’s smart access solution, which can be used as a standalone product or integrated with other smart home hubs. Smarke focuses on allowing people to access their buildings and properties using their mobile phones – and to share this access with others.

Smart locks will be part of a broad property safety and access module incorporating locks, external cameras and possibly even drones that detect people who are nearby.

Future smart homes and offices will incorporate doors with built-in smart locking mechanisms and smart doors, possibly working on magnetic fields between the frames. Access to your building, home, car and/or office will be controlled by a central hub that runs face, eye or other biometric detection.

Smart locks are a step on the journey to a future of connected locks that communicate with other connected devices via one truly smart hub. Such hubs will be controlled by autonomous intelligent software and monitored by users via their mobile app or wearable devices.

Building access and safety technology will be one function of an end-to-end multi-functional smart home system controlling multiple sub-devices via software and protected by strong cyber security controls.

It is too early to predict accurately which type of connectivity these access and safety products will use to communicate between themselves and other external devices, but the race is already on between Wifi, Bluetooth, Mesh network standards such as Zigbee and W-wave, and other newcomers. Look out for mobile operators trying to make a comeback on connectivity.

When it comes to access, a controlled lock will run in a back-end mode. Alongside this, front-end external cameras and drones will run multiple step processes, continuously monitoring activity. Once the system detects and finds a face trying to enter the property, it will run a facial recognition and identification test. If the person is identified, the system will decide autonomously whether to grant access or not based on its data, or it will ask the tenant for instructions. The tenant will be able to monitor these activities instantly and interfere at will.

Right now, the technology isn’t fully ready for homes and small offices. However, it is already used in high security facilities such as banks, military restricted zones, corporations and government institutions. The challenge is to make it commercially available for office/home use and with the same level of security in place. It is just a question of time. In due course, we will enter our offices feeling as if we’re actors in a sci-fi movie.

Hady Abdelnour is co-founder of Smarke. Smarke’s smart lock solution allows property managers, hosts and guests on platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway to share secure, scheduled access to their rental property with their guests – instantly and remotely, through the mobile app. No key required.

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