Welcome to the New World of Building Security Apps

As commecial facilities around the country reopen, expect many to be using building security apps.

After 9/11, office buildings worldwide introduced a variety of new security systems to protect building users. These included cameras, turnstiles, programmable elevators, and other security-related tools. One of the common denominators of these tools was that everyone using or visiting the facility could see them. 

Today, in the wake of the pandemic, additional security systems and tools are once again being introduced. But this time, the common denominator is that you can’t see them. 

That’s because most are building security appsthat can be stored on a person’s phone. Several companies are producing these building security apps. Some are designed to work with other systems; others are not. 

These apps provide a facility with all the traditional security information about building users and visitors that an ID badge once held. Further, the building security apps are designed to eliminate human interaction, such as with a building desk person. For building users, this means the end of the ID badge. For visitors, it means an entirely new check-in process.

To explain a bit more about how they work and what they do, let’s use the following scenario:  

  • A tenant in an office building is expecting a visitor. 
  • Instead of notifying the lobby desk person, the tenant uploads information about the visitor using one of these building apps. 
  • The app provides the person’s name, the company they are with, who they are in the building to visit, on what floor, when they are expected to arrive, when they are expected to leave, and their contact information.
  • Similar information is delivered to the visitor’s phone. A QR code is generated. The visitor scans the code at key entry areas, which allows them to pass the check-in counter and go to their destination.

So far, interesting, but is that all these building security apps do?

No. They are designed to hold all types of information, much of which is the result of the pandemic. 

 For instance, and continuing with our scenario, the app may also provide the following:

  • The vaccination status of the visitor.
  • Health questionnaires filled out by the visitor.
  • Connection to body scanners located in the lobby, allowing for a full-body search of the visitor.
  • Discreet thermometers take the person’s temperature as they enter the facility.
  • Tracking software, allowing building personnel, security officers, and the tenant to know precisely where the individual is in the building at any time.

These systems are being used not only in office buildings but also in universities. Students and faculty at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York now use a Building security mobile app system developed by Carrier, the air conditioner manufacturer. 

In the new World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, the traditional ID badges are now stored in the “wallets” of smartphones. But as discussed earlier, they include a lot more information than the conventional ID badge was ever designed to provide.

The reasons can vary as to why these building app systems are being developed, but they are generating interest among building owners and managers in almost all cases. According to Sandeep Davé, the chief digital technology officer with Global Commercial Real Estate Services, these systems are “largely a response to what tenants want” as they return to the work environment and need their health and safety concerns addressed.  

Adds James Scott, lead researcher at the Real Estate Innovation Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, building apps such as those we described here have been on the drawing board for some time. However, “in light of COVID, the acceptance of [this] new technology and its implementation [has become] extremely important. The adoption rate has accelerated by anywhere from three to five years.”

Adds James Scott, lead researcher at the Real Estate Innovation Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, building apps such as those we described here have been on the drawing board for some time. However, “in light of COVID, the acceptance of [this] new technology and its implementation [has become] extremely important. The adoption rate has accelerated by anywhere from three to five years.”

While the pandemic may have accelerated the introduction and use of these building security apps, we can expect these systems to be used in other ways because of rising crime rates here in the United States. They are a proactive measure helping prevent crime. But it is also a reactive measure, helping authorities identify culprits should a crime occur. In time, expect these apps to become as commonplace as the ID badges of yesteryear.

However, building owners and managers must perform due diligence.  Selecting one of these building security apps can be confusing and cumbersome.

If your building or organization is considering deploying building security apps, we can help sort through the maze and find the best fit for you, your needs, and your company culture.

Integrity, Reliability, Confidentiality

 Johnathan Tal is Chief Executive Officer of TAL Global Corporation, an international investigative and risk-consulting firm. He served as a military field intelligence officer for the Israeli armed forces during the 1970s. Tal has also served as an antiterrorism security specialist. He is a licensed investigator, Certified Private Investigator (CPI), and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), and he holds a Bachelor of Science degree. He can be reached through his company website at www.talglobal.com.

© TAL Global, 2019