Expert Q&A: Rob Goff’s 2021 Access Control Forecast

What will 2021 bring for smart locks, remote work, and universal access control? We thought it best to hear the answers straight from RemoteLock’s Vice President of Product and Hardware, Rob Goff. 

What’s on the horizon for access control in 2021? 

After an interesting 2020, I think we’re onto a big year in 2021. The adoption of cloud-based access control (as opposed to on-premise solutions) has been a trend for the last few years, and we expect to see that continue along with intuitive management apps and mobile credentials. But as intelligent access control is spilling into a broader market (in part propelled by COVID), I see the industry accelerating its transition from one that was, for decades, just about keeping bad people out to one that’s perfecting the experience of how we let people in. That will mean having complete ecosystems with the needed software, integrations, hardware, and credentials in order to satisfy all the needs within specific markets. Layering in more intuitive and tailored access experiences, such as enabling access to certain spaces for certain guests, is becoming a must as the industry expands into a broader base — one with not just security, but also convenience at the forefront of their purchase decision.

You mentioned COVID-19. How has the pandemic affected the access control industry?

In a word: acceleration. It’s pushing us and the entire industry to get a lot smarter, faster.  The trend towards cloud-based intelligent access control systems was already in play. But COVID brought the need for remote access control and smart locking solutions into view much more quickly for a broader market. Across every vertical, more is happening remotely: onboarding employees who occasionally need to go into the office, property managers working remotely that still need to onboard a tenant, maintenance staff that still need occasional access with no one locally available to admit entrance. Remotely managed access control is pushing into new verticals and deepening its reach within existing verticals. These new use cases are expanding and driving the industry to deliver a suitable experience and ecosystem, and that experience will continue to be valuable even after we’re past the repercussions of COVID-19.

In addition to remote access management, are there any other sustainable trends that you see lasting beyond the pandemic?

I can see a lasting need for access policies that incorporate health considerations, like occupancy and density sensing. For example, perhaps during cold and flu season, an office gym could automatically limit access to a certain occupancy level and once reached, assist with “one out”, “one in” behavior. This may trigger a trend towards improved software functionality with intelligent learning as well. Imagine software that could notify a user of an area within a building that’s less congested and provide a suggested route.

Speaking of remote access control, do you see access control becoming more important or less important with the growth of remote and hybrid working models? 

It may sound backwards initially, but I believe access control will become a much more important component of remote and hybrid work. COVID has changed the perception of remote work, with more companies realizing that employees can still be very effective at home. I’ve seen some studies that have shown that work productivity can even be higher at home. But we will always need office space because we are human and need to connect, build relationships, and collaborate. I can see hybrid models and shared spaces becoming quite common, realizing the benefit of enabling employees to do the right kind of work in the right environment (personal work vs. collaboration). Access control will be an important component of coordinating access to these spaces. Offices and meeting rooms with integrated smart locks can be booked and managed remotely. If more companies move to hybrid work models, the use of shared spaces for in-person collaboration could increase. Enabling scheduled access and remote management for these environments will enable a smooth experience.

What about smart locks specifically? Any big goals for access hardware?  

Absolutely. If I was to draw up the perfect lock, flexibility in credentials, radio optionality, and local control are all features I’d put at the top of the list. For credential flexibility, if you consider all the various use cases in multi-family, for example, different credential types are better-suited for different users and use cases (experiences), even within the same install. Locks that provide multiple credential options are going to be better-equipped to accommodate these different experiences that are growing in popularity. While a tenant may prefer a quick and lower touch option like mobile and card for their unit door, a PIN code is far more practical for dog-walkers and deliveries. More multi-family property managers are also integrating short-term rentals and vacation rentals to increase occupancy. As is the case with other short-term guests, these users’ experiences are usually best-suited to PIN codes or possibly mobile. Needs may also change over time. A customer may initially only want to provide card access at purchase, but their residents may request a mobile experience after the fact. No need to replace all your locks, just enable mobile credentials on your system.

Also big on my wishlist is radio optionality to accommodate future flexibility. Wi-Fi, BLE, Z-Wave, Zigbee, and cellular are all options to connect hardware to the cloud for remote management. Some installs may want a direct Wi-Fi connection. Others may want to integrate into an existing Z-Wave or Zigbee ecosystem. An install may start in one ecosystem but then want to to transition to another for additional functionality that wasn’t available when they made their initial purchase decision. Providing that flexibility to accommodate these changes without having to rip and replace will give those locks a big advantage.

One more hardware-related goal I’ll throw in is for better local control. We are seeing an increasing need to accommodate smart lock installs where it’s not practical to provide a building-wide network or internet connection. The need for remote access control hasn’t changed, just the ability to provide lock connectivity to the cloud. So, providing the ability to easily manage an access experience at-scale with remote options layered in, like mobile credentials, phone as a gateway, and algorithmic pins will be paving the way for the industry in the coming years.

Ready to explore the transformative capabilities of a universal access control platform? Contact RemoteLock today to see how our solution can work for your business. 

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Chrissy Priest

Senior Writer

Chrissy Priest is RemoteLock's Senior Writer and Editor and specializes in bringing complex topics in tech to life. Prior to her roles in SaaS, Chrissy worked in account management and branding at a digital agency supporting brands like ADT Security, Mr. Coffee, and Sports Authority. Inspired by the power of human potential, Chrissy’s writing helps enterprise innovators identify cutting-edge technologies capable of driving meaningful business impact.