Productivity

How to Automate Access to a Coworking Space

Helga Moreno

A successful modern coworking business must be extremely flexible and customer-oriented. People expect you to meet their expectations. They want to have access to the workspace any time they need, 24/7.

This is quite understandable as entrepreneurs cooperate with companies all over the globe located in different time zones. They need to participate in remote meetings, discussions, negotiations, etc. Those activities may take place late in the evening, early in the morning, or even at night. Sometimes work schedules are crazy.

Modern technology can help you cater to each and every inquiry. We are talking about a combo of hardware and coworking software that, in addition to other possibilities, allows to automate physical access to the workspace.

Keep your door open for paying customers round the clock.

Benefits of Automated Coworking Space Access

The access control system integrated with your workspace management system brings quite a number of advantages to your coworking business.

  • Security. Make your coworking space a safer place with access control. Limit the access possibility for strangers and make your meeting room even more comfortable for paying customers.
  • Culture. Introduce a specific coworking culture and discipline. No entrance for members without advance booking. No access for members without prepayment and acceptance of community rules.
  • 24/7 access. Provide members with the utmost comfort of all-day access. The manager does not have to be present all the time. Show the coworkers how much you trust them.
  • A new level of comfort and scalability. Cloud systems let your customers enter the workspace without any plastic cards. No need for you to buy them and give to members.

Innovative Coworking Access Control

If you value time and effort, you probably prefer innovative solutions that guarantee flawless experience both for community manager and resident.

Integrated hardware-software solutions such as integrations of access control systems with andcards coworking space app is a good example of a contemporary approach to access control. AC technology integrates with digital smart locks and RFID readers to efficiently manage the check-in/out at your workspace.

Unlocking the doors by means of a mobile app adds to the clients' comfort and saves your resources. You don’t need to configure the software. Just press the “unlock” button on your smartphone and get in. The procedure becomes super simple. It works for both the coworkers and coworking managers.

For a better experience, it’s important to make sure that you are going to use an advanced access control system. The one providing really futuristic features. Keep in mind that old-fashioned access control systems come as a separate software distributed by hardware provider. This software is not smart enough to synchronize with your existing client database, so you have to manage both databases separately. The processes are not automated which causes poor user experience and enormous operational inefficiencies. In the long run, it results in a loss of money.

Types of Modern Access Control Systems

Access control systems vary a lot in types and levels of complexity. Here we listed the ones used in the coworking industry for you to consider their pros and cons.

Cloud-based Access Control Systems

Cloud access control is a system where locks, card readers, and controllers are installed at your workspace, and the server part together with the software — on remote servers or "cloud" that belong to the manufacturer.

Here are some of the key benefits of the cloud-based access control solution:

  • Easy to set up and integrate. Cloud systems are usually made to be easily installed and configured. Typically, they already have pre-built integrations with popular coworking software.
  • Easy to maintain. All software updates and server maintenance are done for you.
  • Scalability. New objects are easy to add as there is no need to purchase and configure servers.
  • Performance. No need to buy a more powerful server if the load increases. Cloud systems automatically increase the computing power as the intensity of use increases.
  • Reliability. Cloud systems are usually hosted on the servers of leading companies, such as AWS or Google Cloud, so the security of your data and uninterrupted use are indisputable.
  • The flexibility of expenses. No need to invest large amounts in "the future". You can only buy a few locks and pay for the resources you actually use.

Disadvantages of cloud-based access control systems include:

  • Potential difficulties with product localization, such as lack of support for your interface language or client support.
  • The possible delay between the interaction with the access key and the actual door unlocking as the signal has to travel to remote servers.
  • Potential lack of flexibility in setting up the necessary workflows in case you have exotic requirements.

On-premise Access Control Systems

Cloud ACS is not a universal solution suitable for every organization. There is an alternative — an access control system that is deployed locally on your own servers installed inside the branches. Local software may be the best choice if you can't import a leading ACS for some reason, if you may have problems using it, or if you just want to have your own servers. When making a decision, entrepreneurs take into account the level of comfort, as well as domestic and exterior policy.

The advantages of on-premise access control systems include:

  • Speed of keys and locks interaction because the signal does not travel far.
  • Potentially better product localization because the supplier is likely to be in your city.
  • Probably lower priority money investments.

Among the disadvantages is the fact that you will have to build your own server infrastructure, maintain and develop it. This will lead to huge expenses that are unlikely to ever pay off, as you will never be able to achieve a high level of efficiency and positive customer experience that cloud systems provide.

Sometimes the best solution is to use a mix of cloud and local security software applications. If this is your case, look for developers who give room for maneuver when needed. You may need to scale the solution quickly, which means that only local vendors may be relevant to you. However, the dexterity of the cloud may soon be needed.

Ultimately, whatever you choose: cloud or local servers, the key is to find a solution that provides the ideal experience for residents, managers and provides access to monitoring results.

Popular Ways to Unlock the Doors

Plastic Cards

This is a typical plastic card that contains a built-in RFID chip or memory, microprocessor. The chip is storing and transmitting data. The data is stored and processed within the card’s chip. The card data is transmitted via a reader, the outward-facing component of the smart card security computing system.

  • Pros: A plastic card fits into a wallet. It's easy to find and purchase compatible hardware. High level of awareness of how to use this method among customers. Cards work without an internet connection.
  • Cons: Easy to forget at home or lose. You need to constantly buy new cards from the manufacturer. A card can be passed to another person.

Plastic cards are an optimal access control solution for a present-day coworking space. Don’t be scared of costs add up as nobody says that you must distribute the cards for free. Sell them to compensate.

Mobile Key

Manufacturers of modern access control systems offer their own software not only for administrators. They also provide mobile applications for users that allow to unlock the door with a smartphone.

Bluetooth Low Energy or NFC

An advanced system provides multiple ways to unlock the door using the smartphone. Once you have downloaded and configured the app, the smartphone is ready to open the door. The system unlocks the door as long as the app is running and your phone is close to the reader.

  • Pros: Using a smartphone as a key seems cool. The system works without an internet connection. In addition, such a system is safer as the users are reluctant to pass their smartphones to other people.
  • Cons: More expensive door lock hardware compared to card readers. The system doesn’t work without Bluetooth, therefore, users of web applications will not be happy with it. Currently, iOS does not provide an option to enable NFC, unlike Android. The user will not enter if their smartphone has a low battery charge. A few seconds delay in opening the door may irritate customers.

Please note that if this access control system does not work perfectly well, the user is likely to blame the coworking manager no matter of the true reason. That’s why we can’t recommend the system👎.

Remote Unlock via Internet

With this type of mobile access control system, the signal from the smartphone to the lock travels over the Internet.

  • Pros: The user can open the door from anywhere by simply taping the button on their smartphone. Residents probably won't give their gadgets to anyone but instead, there is a risk that they will open the door to someone remotely. However, solutions like "geofencing" will help to minimize it.
  • Cons: You need an internet connection to unlock the door. If the smartphone battery is low, you are in trouble. The solution is quite expensive because each door must be connected to the network.

Pincode

Keypads on door locks might be most familiar to everybody. At its simplest, a keypad is a set of buttons complete with all alpha numerals and a couple of symbols. To unlock the door you just need to enter the combination of the right numbers, a pin code.

  • Pros: The locks are usually cheaper. The system is simple, familiar, and understandable. Works without an internet connection.
  • Cons: People don’t like passcodes. Hard to automate because doors aren’t connected to a single system, each lock is independent. The users can easily share the pin code with friends.

QR or Barcode

QR codes are blocky black and white squares of digital information that take the user to an app or webpage on their smartphone. They can be used as virtual credentials instead of traditional plastic cards. QR codes have a very controversial reputation because they require a camera and have an age barrier (can't be used efficiently by all age groups of customers). In some countries such as in China, QR-codes are widely used but in most countries, the general public has very limited experience in using such codes.

  • Pros: Versatility, connecting online to offline, trackability, cost-effectiveness, branding, and visual attractiveness.
  • Cons: Lack of native support of readers' codes across all gadgets. The difficulty of scanning in low light brightness environments. The barrier for users unfamiliar with QR codes.

Seems like QR codes are the worst option of access control implementation. They are not reliable. The technology is supposed to work like this — the software generates a QR code for the door and the users access the room simply by placing their smartphone screens closer to the QR/barcode reader. However, in real life, even low screen brightness can prevent technology from working properly. Everyone has had that frustrative experience at Starbucks trying to scan the loyalty membership barcode multiple times to make it work.

Biometrics — Fingerprints, Face Scanning

At first glance, access with biometric input seems very futuristic. Such tools have become most popular in Asia, including South Korea, China, and Japan. When purchasing a membership plan, the user records their biometric data in your ACS system with the help of special biometrics readers. To unlock the door, you need to touch the fingerprint reader or look into the camera for iris or face recognition.

  • Pros: High security, because unlocking the door requires a physical presence. You don't need anything to open the door except your own body. The coolness factor impresses guests. Works without the internet.
  • Cons: The cost of such a system will be quite high. It is impossible to integrate it with online commerce as you can't obtain biometric data of a new customer without a physical presence. Face or iris scanning is unreliable. Legislative restrictions on biometrics processing under the GDPR.

Where to Install an Access Control System

When you offer workspaces to companies or freelancers, one of the most important aspects is security. No one wants strangers to approach their workplace. Therefore, you should pay special attention to which doors you secure with the access control system.

  • The location entrance door is a basic and obligatory point of ACS installation. Having a control system at the front door ensures the basic security of all residents of the space no matter where they work — in the open space or a private office.
  • Office spaces. It depends on the terms of your business, your positioning, and the party you want to put responsibility for office security on. If the ability to open the door with a smartphone is not so important for your customers, then the traditional locks are suitable. But in this case, the responsibility for the security of the office lies on the customer. If you offer an advanced ACS for the office door and essentially control who can enter, then all the responsibility for the security of the office lies on you.
  • ACSs for meeting rooms are probably the least popular and effective use of your resources. Our experience proves that access control for rooms harms customer experience. For example, if the customer who booked the meeting room left it around the time of booking completion but forgot something, they can't enter again to pick up the belongings because time has run out. Another example is that guests of your coworking space will be forced to constantly ask to open the door for them. The best way to control access to meeting rooms is to ensure that they are organically loaded. Then residents will not use your resources without authorization, as the next reservation will force them to follow the rules. Finally, if your meeting rooms stay empty so often that members come inside freely, perhaps it's worth to turn one of them into an office.

Whether to Integrate ACS into the Main App or Use Two Apps

Sometimes in the process of planning the future of your business, you may have a dream about one application for everything. At first glance, this approach looks quite attractive because it gives your customers access to your space from the same application they consume all your services through. In addition, it supposedly integrates your value proposition under the umbrella of your brand. But if you look closely, this is one of those things that you'd better keep separately for many reasons.

  • As mobile applications from the ACS manufacturer are more closely integrated with their hardware, this means the best quality and customer experience. Obviously, a truncated ACS module built into your own application will have fewer features than a full-fledged manufacturer's program that supports all possible features and widgets. What do you think works better on a MacBook: Apple's macOS or Microsoft's Windows inside the Parallels Desktop virtualization environment?

  • Individual applications can be updated and maintained independently faster. Imagine that the ACS module accidentally broke. This means that your entire application also doesn't work. Everything is down, from bookings to services and communications. To fix the problem, you will have to wait for your application to update. As a standalone product, your mobile key will live its life, be updated when needed, and work only with relevant capabilities of the operating system. For example, access to Bluetooth and NFC, geolocation of customers, is not required for meeting room booking or communication, so it makes no sense to build them into basic applications.

  • Not all customers need a mobile key or your application. Two separate applications give your customers the flexibility to choose what they need and what are they comfortable with. People are already used to downloading mobile applications to smartphones. Recent studies suggest that the average user has 60 to 90 applications on a smartphone. Do you still think that downloading your useful applications will be a barrier for customers?

  • If something works slowly (or goes out of operation), then errors will be associated with your brand. Would you like your customers to think that your coworking app is of poor quality and that your brand is unable to provide high-level services? Whose name will customers remember if they can't enter your workspace at 12 at night?

  • What if you decide to use another ACS at a new location or buy another coworking business? Replacing an access control system is a rather expensive pleasure. Sometimes we don't even have the right to decide which access control system is installed in the business center. There are many different ACSs in the market, and your future location may use an incompatible access control solution. Embedding all possible ACS modules in your core applications will result in your programs having a large download size, complicated algorithms, and lower quality.

If you still doubt whether to integrate the ACS module with your application or choose an application from the manufacturer, consider the experience of Regus. Currently, this well-known corporation, with all its resources and influence, has opted for a solution with two separate applications: Regus as a program for consuming services and Access Control Application to open the door.

How to Choose the Best Access Control Solution for Your Coworking Space Needs

The right answer here is — put your specific requirements first when you choose among different access control systems available in the market.

Many organizations prefer moving their business applications and processes to the cloud. This is a current trend for a good number of reasons. You need to think carefully about what makes more sense for your development strategy. To do this, try to answer the following questions:

  • Would you like to unlock the door with a smartphone? If so, only a cloud system will fit.
  • How important is it for you to have user data on locally installed servers? If it's critical, you should prefer a local ACS.
  • Do you plan to integrate coworking access with on-site workstations sales or meeting room bookings? If so, then you should look for systems that allow remote access.
  • How do you see your coworking space in 2 years? In 5 years?

Most Popular Access Control System Providers for Coworking Spaces

It’s easy to get lost searching for a decent access control system provider if you are new to the matter. We will try to help you out.

  • You may want to consider Kisi, which is best if you don’t want servers and just a cloud solution. They offer the most popular keyless access control system. It's simple and easy to use for businesses. You can give your coworkers the flexibility to unlock doors with their smartphones or issue traditional keycards. It all comes with the benefit of cloud management for administrators.
  • Take a look at Salto KS, which is a cloud-based access control solution for any type and size of a workspace. This smart lock platform allows coworking space managers to centrally control and automate access to offer an upscale and convenient experience to members while also reducing overhead costs. SaltoKS integrates with andcards apps, saving administrators time, and giving instant access to your workspace to customers.
  • Tapkey offers another affordable solution that turns any lock into a smart lock. It can be used if you already have locks installed. Tapkey access technology allows to register new smart locks and run firmware updates directly from their own app, issue digital keys, grant and restrict mobile access by adding the email addresses of new recipients, read NFC transponders, program NFC transponders such as tags, cards, or wristbands directly via their app, open smart locks with Android phones and iPhones, see every access activity that’s ever transpired.
  • RemoteLOCK is one of the leading providers of cloud-based access control and smart lock management software. You can integrate their automated door access solutions with your main workspace membership management system. RemoteLOCK allows you to control who has access to what areas of the space, and when. It enables you to monitor usage and access through all entry points such as garage doors, gates, roof entrances, elevators, glass doors, and more.
  • Sofia enables you to add an innovative touch to your coworking space design with an access control system supporting badges and smartphones. The software provides a complete management interface that includes control over users and permissions. The system is tailored to coworking centers’ needs that include building subscriptions and renting models for access and workstations. Sofia ACS provides high security keeping a comprehensive log of access events and allowing managers to change permissions in real-time.
  • HID delivers award-winning access control systems. Here's what the service can do for your coworking space: trusted access, for the right people at the right times; safer environments for members, visitors, and contractors; member convenience and workflow optimization through integrated, mobile solutions; increased visibility, with real-time monitoring and cost-control functions; investment protection via scalable, forward-looking solutions; personalized concept-to-implementation support.
  • Enterprise Systems offers advanced access control solutions. Here's what you get with your package: access for the right people at the right time; enhanced security for your resources, assets, members, and managers; safer business environment, maximum member convenience, and workflow optimization in an affordable way.
  • Inner Range provides flexible and scalable access control solutions to fit any size of your coworking space. Here's what you can do with the service: manage your system from one or many locations; manage your manager's and member's access across all your locations; easily assign or suspend access cards or fobs for your managers/members; temporarily elevate or reduce access privileges and times; manage access for doors, elevators, car parks, and vehicles; assign high-security dual user access or anti-passback policies; receive and escalate alarms for access security violations; use the event log to verify and report on all access events and violations.

Local Vendors

If you prefer to deal with local vendors, beware that oftentimes they have no API or offer some exotic integrations. Even if their solutions can be integrated with your own custom software in the long term you will feel disappointed with their “sell and forget” behavior. Plus, continuous maintenance may turn out to be expensive. In a couple of years, you will have to pay even more because your system will become outdated.

So, how to avoid pitfalls while automating your coworking access? Before making a final choice, consult your coworking software vendor. Review a list of the equipment they support. Developers often partner with ACS equipment, so they can introduce you to a local representative or recommend how to organize the system more effectively.

To Conclude

Now, at the mature age of coworking when the industry becomes more competitive, only the smart and innovative keep the leadership. Here the last generation automated access control system makes a difference. It makes your coworking space smart. It paves the way to business development while cutting costs and ensuring security in the long run.

Boiling it down, the purpose of automating access to a coworking space is to provide quick, convenient access for authorized people, while at the same time, restrict access for unauthorized ones. And now you know what options are available and how to implement them in the particular coworking space.

Questions? Get in touch with our team, and we’ll be happy to speak!

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andcards is the first coworking software focused on member experience. andcards easy-to-use mobile apps help thousands of tenants get the most out of their workspace.