The case for ditching keys and using smart access

by Eric Trabold

Coworking spaces, and office spaces in general, are in need of a tune-up when it comes to their access control. The common methods of accessing workspaces—physical keys, keycards and FOBs—all share some of the same downsides: they are expensive to create, maintain and replace, they provide limited cross-door accessibility and present massive security concerns. To dig deeper, we commissioned a survey of over 1,000 U.S. respondents who work in office buildings and found that traditional methods of accessing spaces are costly and vulnerable.

Current office access control solutions are generally outdated and do not reflect the technology available. While adopting new technologies has been a slow process thus far, shifts in industry trends are finally picking up speed. According to SDM Magazine’s annual access control report, this year security integrators and manufacturers are changing the way they think about legacy access control systems and are looking for new solutions to solve their pain points. We found that nearly 60% of those surveyed would prefer to use their smartphone to access spaces over other traditional methods.

While physical keys and key cards may have been the most secure solution at the time of their mass adoption, these platforms carry significant security concerns that can now be avoided. In fact, 17% of all respondents said an ex-coworker or employee has stolen from their workplace using their old key and over a quarter have had to replace their locks within the last year because an employee lost their key or failed to return it. In fact, of respondents who have had to replace their locks, 25% have had to do so 4-6 times in the last year.

Not only is current access control technology evolving, the traditional workspace environment is shifting towards a coworking atmosphere. Even though coworking spaces are constantly adding and removing members, 44% of coworking tenants still use traditional keys to access their space. Unsurprisingly, we found this group is nearly four times as likely to experience theft from an ex-coworker or employee as non-coworking tenants (32% versus 8%, respectively). Two-thirds of coworking tenants are interested in accessing their space with their smartphones. This data highlights the clear need and desire to integrate new, safer technologies into the coworking space.

Millennials are the largest generation in the labor force, per Pew Research Center. When looking toward potential industry trends, it is important to pay close attention to millennials’ work habits, complaints and interests. The data suggests that coworking spaces will only become more popular—68% of coworking tenants are millennials—and that new access control technology is crucial for the next-gen workforce. Two-thirds of millennial respondents are interested in unlocking doors with their phone instead of traditional methods.

Clearly, it’s time for a shift. Younger generations who will mold the modern workplace are highly interested in using phones as keys. The technology exists. The demand exists. The next step is implementation.

Other interesting facts from our survey include:

  • Almost 40% of millennials have duplicated a do-not-duplicate key
  • Three-fourths of respondents have lost or misplaced their keys
  • Roughly 33% of those surveyed have needed to grant someone access to their office building from a remote location

Check out our infographic below which displays some of the findings that specifically relate to coworking spaces.


Image credit: Cover photo courtesy of George Becker. Infographic courtesy of Nexkey.