By Paul Terschuren
|Visitor management systems manage the visitor access through a computerized process. (Photo by STOPware, Inc.)|
To meet the need for added security and visitor control, products have been designed to manage the visitor access through a computerized process, notifying employees of their guest¡¯s arrival, issuing identification badges, or denying access to unwanted visitors.
Much more than a visitor enrollment system, visitor management system solutions deliver powerful performance and reporting functions with unprecedented levels of security control. In addition to being compatible with most IT infrastructures and databases (including SQL and Oracle-based systems), today¡¯s sophisticated visitor management systems also allow integration with other security technologies such as access control and video surveillance for a totally integrated security solution.
NO MORE ¡±PAPER AND PEN¡±
One of the premiere publishers of visitor management software solutions, STOPware, Inc. first introduced this level of visitor management system in 1997 when a need was identified in the marketplace to improve the efficiency of the ¡°paper and pen¡± visitor log-in method. This basic approach usually only required visitors to sign a logbook and often did not even call for identification. From a confidentiality standpoint, the log book was usually openly displayed and available for anyone to peruse. STOPware PassagePoint visitor management solution computerized the process and stored the information in a database for later polling to generate specific, user-defined visitor reports. In addition, it provided printed visitor badges for a more secure and professional method of registration.
ANYBODY CAN USE IT
Aside from the processing and data management functions offered by visitor management systems, one of the most critical features to consider when evaluating a system is its ease of use. Depending on the application and system deployment, the visitor management system may be used by security personnel or in a ¡°walk-up¡± configuration where guests interact directly with the system. At ABC Radio Networks headquarters in Dallas, TX, the U.S., for example, STOPware PassagePoint visitor management solution is deployed in the lobby at the receptionist¡¯s station which can be staffed by one of fifteen different employees on any given day. The procedure for signing in visitors is simple and easy to remember for the rotating staff, as well as out of town employees who frequently visit the head office. Using a Web browser to log on to the PassagePoint Intranet module, employees can even pre-register visitors so the receptionist has visitor registration on screen when the guest arrives. For the numerous group visits or extended employee visits to the facility, pre-registration capabilities simplify and streamline the sign-in process, while providing a comprehensive record of all entries and exit activities in a single system.
DIY VISITOR MANAGEMENT
Self-registration kiosks that visitors can use to sign themselves in are quickly gaining in popularity in various lobby management applications. One innovative kiosk solution is from Friendly Way, Inc. and consists of a touch-screen monitor, rugged keyboard, printer and PassagePoint housed in sleek, scratch-proof enclosures that can be installed in virtually any environment. In an unattended lobby or access controlled entrance, the kiosk enable visitors to scan their identification, enter the appropriate data and print a badge. The system notifies the host via e-mail of the visitor¡¯s arrival and records all data in an easy to use format. Advanced visitor management solutions such as PassagePoint offer unique features like the ability to configure multi-tenant buildings for specific tenants with customized entry requirement data and unique, self-expiring badges. It¡¯s convenient, it¡¯s fast and it provides building security and management personnel with an increased level of efficiency and cost effectiveness.
FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE
Visitor management systems can also play a critical role in ¡°first alert¡± security applications. One of the new features in the latest version of PassagePoint is a watch-list feature called SecureViewTM. The Secure View can display photos of people on the lookout list. The lookout list can include lists developed in-house as well as auto-import of the Homeland Security watch list. Should an unauthorized visitor attempt to enter the facility, the system will flag the guest and the appropriate action can be taken. Other first line of defense tactics available include screening visitors against historical directories, tracking citizenship and passport information and multiple authorization levels to allow security to approve or reject visitor requests prior to arrival. Display non-disclosure or safety agreements and capture signatures if needed. PassagePoint can even be used to track packages delivered to a facility and capture signatures using a handheld delivery tracking system.
BEYOND TRADITIONAL VENUES
Use of visitor management systems is not restricted to permanent installations and can be deployed for special events. A good example occurred during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. Politicians, convention delegates and special VIP guests attending the ¡°Blarney Bash II¡±, held on an historic tall ship berthed at the South Street Seaport, were screened for admission by PassagePoint software. Ryan Kaltenbaugh, director of service management for Integrated System Resources (ISR) of Chantilly, Virginia, and designers of the project were able to easily customize the PassagePoint software for deployment in a non-traditional venue while integrating it with other security products for the VIP event.
According to Kaltenbaugh, a guest list was preloaded into the PassagePoint software and served as the control list. Upon verification of guests¡¯ identities, badges for the VIP¡¯s and registered guests matching the control list were issued. Ticketed guests not on the control list were subject to on-site verification by security personnel and event coordinators prior to being admitted. The process was efficient and friendly and provided the organizers with a higher level of security management.
Another growing market for lobby management systems is in the healthcare industry. PassagePoint software is particularly useful in hospitals and managed care facilities because of the strict requirements necessary to adhere to government HIPPA regulations. The comprehensive solution offered by PassagePoint permits healthcare administrators to know who is in the facility and whom they are visiting; restricts the maximum number of visitors per host or patient; associates visitors with bed numbers to protect confidentiality; and tracks patients as they are moved throughout the facility so visitors can be accurately directed. Unique badges can be designed for each ward or department to help ensure the overall safety and security of patients and staff.
Visitor management technology has evolved significantly since its inception with highly advanced features and integration capabilities affording new levels of security. It¡¯s time to put the pen and paper badges on the shelf and close that log book for the last time. There¡¯s a new technology in town and it looks like it¡¯sl be sticking around for more than just a brief visit.
Santa Clara Youth Activity Center
There is nothing more important to a parent than the safety and well-being of their child, and across the country schools, churches, local communities and state and federal agencies are implementing policies and practices to help improve child safety measures. While many of these procedures involve old-fashioned common sense, there is a growing reliance on technology to provide a safe environment -- like using security cameras on the streets, metal detectors in the schools or capturing and storing visitor information at public or private facilities. And these security precautions become even more valuable when integrated into an overall first alert plan.
CITY FACILITY BUILDS ON EXISTING TECHNOLOGY
Such is the case with the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Santa Clara in California¡¯s Silicon Valley, U.S.A., which coordinates the leisure services for more than 107,000 local residents. PassagePoint visitor management software from STOPware was installed at the city¡¯s Youth Activity Center (YAC) campus, including a 20,000 square foot facility, the skateboard park and Teen Center. A photo ID system was already in place and the new software, integrated with the ID system, gave the department the capability to immediately verify, capture and store all entry and exit information from the facilities into a single, unified system.
¡°Tracking our participants is important -- especially when they are minors,¡± said Rose Partolan, office manager for the Santa Clara Youth Activity Center. ¡°Parents want to know where their children are and with the visitor management system we are able to tell them immediately if the child is on site and which program he or she is checked into.¡± It¡¯s been a series of continual upgrades at the YAC, as attendance grew and security became more essential. Originally, photo ID cards were produced manually (instant camera photo with information typed onto a card and then laminated) and when participants entered the facility, they surrendered their cards which were then filed alphabetically in a box and returned when the participant exited. ¡°The process was very labor intensive and not very efficient,¡± said Partolan. As the volume of participants grew to over 1500 in the database, with approximately 250 participants a day at the three facilities, the YAC took their next step by implementing a computer check-in ID system.
IMPROVED CONTROL AND ACCESS
With the new computerized system, registered participants were issued a card that included a barcode with a unique ID number. To gain entry to one of the three sites, one needed to simply swipe the card through the reader at one of the check-in points. Exiting was the reverse procedure of swiping the card at an exit point or by clicking on a participant¡¯s name and then clicking on the ¡°Sign Out¡± button. In the event of a lost or forgotten card, Partolan added participants could also be checked in manually by typing in a participant¡¯s name or unique ID number. Programs offered by the YAC include classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers; after-school programs for elementary, middle and high school students; special events such as dances and live concerts for middle school and high school age participants; and summer camps.
NEW SOFTWARE TIES IT ALL TOGETHER
The computerized check-in system resolved the problems with entry and exit verification and sped up the process, but it still did not allow for a recorded or historical audit of who was coming and going, when they were coming and going, and why they were coming and going. ¡°If a child was late in arriving home and a parent called and wanted to know what time their teenage daughter had left the Teen Center, we couldn¡¯t tell them because we didn¡¯t know.¡± A phone call to Image Sales of Walnut Creek, California, and an authorized reseller of PassagePoint systems, provided Partolan with the remedy to this dilemma and even included a few extra benefits she and the administrative staff of Parks and Recreation were not expecting.
KEEPING TRACK OF VITAL INFORMATION
As a community-funded facility, analysis and reporting is a mandatory function of the administration and management of the Santa Clara recreation site and the visitor management software helps make this task easier and more comprehensive. Partolan notes attendance information on programs, events and individuals is reported monthly and from this audit they are able to assess the success of programs and to more quickly respond to the needs of the community.
Paul Terschuren is VP of Sales, Temtec/ STOPware (www.stopware.com).
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