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Traditionally limited to exterior openings, access control is now being extended to more interior doorways. Photo credit: Adobe Stock

2.14.23 – SSI – Angelo Faenza

From cybersecurity to securing unmanned facilities, here are the solutions and markets that will drive 2023 access.

Security isn’t fleeting. And the solutions that ensure it shouldn’t be either. The best ones come with futureproofing and longevity built in, whether they’re for perimeter protection, access control or another application. It’s what customers expect as they adapt to changing circumstances and look for the greatest return on investment. That’s why it’s so important access solution manufacturers and their integrator partners function as a unified team. 

The fluid world of security is why product offerings must continually evolve right alongside discovering and developing new, exciting solutions. It’s also why smart integrators keep up on the latest innovations and stay attentive to customer needs and pain points, and why successful end users are the ones who keep their teams updated on the proper operation and procedures surrounding door security solutions. 

Because the adoption of existing products and development of new innovations are ongoing, trends in door security innovation for the new year will look a lot like they did in 2022. In other words, they’ll be an extension of the tremendous progress suppliers and integrators have been making — especially in digital access solutions, including the expansion of mobile device credentials, wireless locks, integration with nonsecurity applications, datacenter security enhancements, electronic access-controlled lockers and cabinets, and more. 

Together, providers have also been furthering the development and deployment of specialty doors and delivering more touchless solutions to meet growing demand. More decorative hardware choices continue to be rolled out and products made with safer, more sustainable ingredients to help improve energy efficiency for the built environment and the health of those within it. Like security, sustainability isn’t a passing phase; its advancement is vital for the future of our planet, our lives and our livelihoods. 

1. Helping Healthcare With Healing 

Installations of low-touch and touchless doors — wave-to-open, automatic door operators, ADA-approved paddle trim, arm and foot pulls, etc. — continue to grow in healthcare settings, a trend that started pre-pandemic and has flourished ever since. These products not only help prevent the spread of germs, they make it easier for staff and the public to pass through openings handsfree, which also improves access for those who have mobility issues and disabilities. 

Solutions designed specifically for behavioral health facilities are also expanding, including specialized patient room access doors, intelligent keys, double swing hinges with emergency release stops and anti-ligature hardware. 

Whether for a behavioral health ward or any other area of a hospital, demand for doors with better acoustic and insulation benefits has accelerated due to the extra privacy and comfort that they provide. Decorative doors, frames and hardware have become a higher priority as well in healthcare. The impact of design is integral to how people respond to their surroundings so it’s logical that aesthetic considerations have become much more important in healing environments. Sliding doors that use less space and are easier to open are also going into more healthcare locations. 

With speculation of a recession, though, it’s anticipated that the healthcare industry will scale down on more aggressive upgrades somewhat and shift to easier, lower cost measures. Those would include retrofitting older locks with energy-saving and less labor-intensive wireless digital access options that integrate with available WiFi and other existing facility infrastructure. 

More healthcare facilities are also extending digital access solutions to nondoor openings like cabinets for securing pharmaceuticals, patient and personnel files, servers, and other applications.  

2. Future Promise to Protect Students 

Given the continuing threat of active shooter events, it’s understandable why the focus at K-12 schools today is on doing whatever it takes to ensure classroom doors are secured with proper locksets, retrofitting where better options are required and reinforcing training. 

It’s a simple fact: if you can keep a door to a learning space secured, you can keep intruders out long enough for help to arrive. Unfortunately, there have been issues recently where doubt arose about older classroom door locks that could only be secured from the hall side and where perimeter doors were not completely latched. 

The good news is that the technology barrier to keeping kids and teachers safe is extremely low. There are existing and new solutions that automatically lock when a door is closed and/or allow a teacher to lock a door from either side. Some have the additional assurance of an indicator to verify lock status. And these solutions are readily available, often quite simple to install and use, and cost effective. 

As a result, the primary trend now continues to be about ensuring robust classroom locksets are in place (e.g. Corbin Russwin or SARGENT Classroom Intruder or Storeroom function locks), and that faculty and staff are staying well-versed on proper lock operation and safety procedures. 

Access control is also becoming increasingly critical throughout K-12 schools. Traditionally limited to just a few exterior openings, access control is now being extended to more interior and classroom doors. This allows schools to implement application-specific lockdown strategies, improve key control and reduce rekeying costs, and enhance school security to create a better learning environment. 

While security and safety are job one, nobody thrives well in a fortress-like setting. For that reason, aesthetically pleasing doors, frames, hardware, and wayfinding continue to be an important consideration in K-12 environments. By making classroom and collaborative areas feel more welcoming, creative, comfortable, and safe, these decorative touches help enhance the learning experience instead of distracting from it. 

3. Higher Ed & Mobile Access Control Credentials 

Digital access credentials on mobile devices are becoming more commonplace today and will continue to grow especially across college campuses where students use their smartphones for practically everything. Not only does the technology provide convenience and security for the student body, but it also makes life easier for administrators by giving them the flexibility to issue and modify credentials remotely and more expeditiously. 

Coinciding with mobile credentials is their use in newer digital locker systems (e.g. Luxer One) that are popping up in campus dormitories and elsewhere to receive and secure the ever-expanding deliveries of online purchases. 

Access control

Digital access credentials on mobile devices are becoming more commonplace today and will continue to grow especially across college campuses where students use their smartphones for practically everything. Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Like healthcare, colleges and universities are installing more touchless and automatic door solutions to promote better health and easier access as part of their DEI (diversity-equity-inclusion) commitments. 

More institutions are tapping into digital access data to help manage all of their door openings assets, for authorizing student and school personnel access and for cataloging and smart tagging door security solution assets as part of monitoring the entire lifecycle of a building. Documenting doors and hardware helps with facility management and maintenance, as well as with creating virtual design guides to ensure consistent standards for renovations and new construction.  

Higher education is also one of the primary sectors driving the specification of door security products and other building materials that are designed and manufactured with sustainability top of mind.  

4. Access Data & the Hybrid Workplace 

While some companies are now asking employees to return to the office full-time, many others continue to look for ways to accommodate the continuing trend of the hybrid workforce more effectively. To help them rethink how to best use space, they’re turning to data generated by digital access solutions that captures how many people are coming in at various times during the week. 

With less need for a dedicated desk or cube to check emails and do other computer tasks, and a greater emphasis on designing spaces for more face-to-face interaction, access data is helping architects and end users more accurately assess occupancy patterns for better planning.  

Along with managing and quantifying authorized access, data has become useful for other nonsecurity tasks like reserving workspaces and assigning employee lockers. Real-time occupancy data is also being integrated with building management platforms that control temperature, air flow, and lighting, improving comfort and energy savings. 

5. Access Control for Securing Unmanned Infrastructure 

In our discussion about door security and digital access solutions, we’ve touched on trends for openings in buildings as well as a variety of lockers and cabinets. But openings at unmanned locations are also vitally important to protect. For example, Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS) cabinets that dot every intersection with a stoplight.  

Inside are control and information systems that use integrated technology and data processing to improve the flow and safety of vehicles and pedestrians. Unfortunately, many of these cabinets still depend on a mechanical $30 lock opened by a $5 key for access. Fortunately, the trend now is to replace as many of these once-traditional locks as possible with much more effective solutions.  

Options include higher security mechanical keys with key control that protects against unauthorized duplication, electronic locking systems managed by web-based software, and robust access control systems with real-time monitoring and management that can track when a cabinet has been opened, who last accessed it, and what its door security status is. 

Other locations are also getting more attention. Consider all the remote datacenters, substations, wastewater facilities and other unmanned infrastructure sites. Like traffic control cabinets, many are still locked with generic keys that can be easily duplicated or misplaced and have locks that aren’t able to communicate status or usage. The good news is that progress is being made to retrofit openings in these critical areas.  

6. Opportunities for Door Security 

Evolving access security concerns and the technological advancements that help solve them mean there’s a greater need for expertise and greater potential for motivated integrators to gain the competitive edge as a valuable consultative resource. By staying current on the latest developments and solutions, integrators can help customers better explore new options and benefits so they can make the most informed decisions to further protect their facilities, systems and occupants.  

Like security itself, an integrator’s steps to success should never be fleeting. 

7. Baking in Cybersecurity into Access Control

The expansion of digital access solutions and their integration with other platforms means more devices are interconnected than ever. That’s why, as security requirements evolve and networked connectivity increases, there’s a constant laser focus in our industry on the evolution’s impacts on cybersecurity. 

Many hacks become possible when unauthorized people are able to physically get into a network. Using access control and Intelligent Keys helps dramatically limit the number of people who need access to critical assets, which significantly reduces the risk of network breaches. 

At the same time, it’s important to address the cybersecurity of the physical security products designed to protect these assets. That’s why integrators should ensure to align with responsible and conscientious manufacturers that continually evaluate their products internally for vulnerabilities and take immediate action that meets industry-approved standards to mitigate any weaknesses.  

 Angelo Faenza is Head of Digital Access Solutions at ASSA ABLOY U.S.