Coworking Physical Security

If you’re thinking about opening a coworking space, one of the first things to consider is how to properly secure your space. With so many people going in and out, security breaches or slip ups can easily occur, so you’ll want to take every precaution to minimize the risk of those. The first line of security of any space is the front door, so deciding how to secure that access point is crucial. In this article, we’ll cover the two most popular modern options for physical security, comparing and contrasting them and offering recommendations for which may be right for your space.

Overview: Access Control Systems vs. Smart Locks for Coworking Spaces

The two most future-proof and secure options, for access control for a modern office, are door readers and smart locks. Door readers are usually installed right next to doors and are wired to the electric locks in your doors, whereas smart locks are electric locks with something like Bluetooth communication technology built in.

Access Control VS Smart Locks for Coworking Spaces

You could, of course, opt for a classic legacy lock-and-key system and hand out physical keys to your employees, but where’s the fun in that? Where’s the intuitive UX and clean UI? Where’s the hassle-free on-boarding and off-boarding? What you gain in not having to switch over to a new system you will lose with lost keys, unintuitive unlocks and damage to your brand. We cannot recommend opting for a more modern access control solution for your space enough.

In the first section we’ll go over modern access control reader solutions, presenting their advantages and when they work best, and in the second section we’ll cover smart locks, contrasting them and offering reasons you’d want to choose them over readers.


Access Control Readers for Coworking Spaces

Leveraging Bluetooth and NFC technology, and popularized by big multinational brands like HID, access control readers offer some of the most versatile solutions for securing your space. In this article, though, we’ll be mainly discussing the real cutting-edge aspect of specific readers—access control providers who not only offer smart cards but also future-proof mobile solutions.

A Fully Mobile System

The best modern access control systems, like Kisi, offer a 100 percent mobile solution, meaning that you can unlock any door in your space simply with your mobile phone.

Mobile Access for Coworking Spaces Kisi

Different Options for Unlocking Doors

The better companies offer a combination of two unlock methods: In-app unlock methods, and using your phone itself as a smart card (pictured above). Both of these methods rely on a combination of Bluetooth and NFC functionality, to ensure that even if you’re not connected to the internet, you can still unlock the reader when you’re within range.

For in-app unlocks, you’ll have a mobile app for the solution, with (ideally) an intuitive UI (user interface) from which you can browse all the locks that you have access to and easily navigate to and unlock the relevant door. The latter “tap-to-unlock” solution is even more intuitive: It uses the Bluetooth or NFC chip in your phone to interact with the reader at very close distances, and all the identification information is communicated automatically.

Minimizing the Risk of Lost Keys and Unauthorized Access

These mobile solutions are ideally suited to coworking spaces, as well as to small and medium-sized businesses. First of all, the risk of lost or shared keys is minimized, if not eliminated. With so many people entering and exiting your space, if your access token is nothing but a key or a keycard, and renters are guaranteed a new one if they should ever lose theirs, you’re very likely to see a whole lot of “oops I lost my key” messages.

Not only is this a hassle for any IT admin or coworking space owner but it also presents a security risk. Even if you’re keeping records of who has which keycard, and can easily deactivate it, it requires the culprit letting you know in a timely manner that they lost their key, which doesn’t always happen.

With a totally mobile solution, though, you can be assured that people will be much less careless about misplacing or losing their phone, and will let you know immediately if they do.

Flexible On-boarding and Member Management

Having a completely mobile solution means that on-boarding new members is as easy as having them download an app. No need to chase them down to pass out cards, no need to hound them at the end of their contract to retrieve the card, and no need to keep a log of which card or fob is assigned to whom.

As a coworking space, you will naturally have an enormous amount of members, visitors and employees coming in and out of your space, renting on short term, medium and long term bases. It’s crucial that you’re able to easily on-board and off-board these members, and manage their door access as easily as you manage their membership status.

Web Interface for Easy Access Management

Modern access control companies will have, on top of an intuitive mobile app, a powerful web-based app where an admin can control membership status and group all users of the coworking space.

Kisi Access Management Dashboard

Whether the person has a full membership, that grants access to all spaces including conference rooms at all hours of the day, or whether they just have a hot desk from 9 to 5, modern mobile access control solutions make it smooth and intuitive to organize them into relevant groups and not have to manually sort out access to each member.

Integrations with Coworking CRMs

The best systems can be recognized by the fact that they have software integrations with coworking member management solutions (CRMs). Rather than reinventing the wheel, companies like Kisi created partnerships with CRMs that you already use, like Office R&D, Optix, Cobot, or Nexudus—to name a few.

Coworking CRM integrations

These integrations allow you to import all your members into Kisi, within the organized lists that you’ve already created, and the relevant Kisi access groups will be automatically created. That way you only need to manage your members on one interface, the coworking CRM, and the updates will be automatically reflected on your Kisi account—ensuring that the right members have access to appropriate spaces at certain times of the day.

The specific details of the integration will naturally vary based on the functionality of the software you’re using. The field of API software integrations is booming, allowing related companies to foster deep partnerships, and reduces the headache for the end user.

Smart Door Locks for Coworking Spaces

Maybe you don’t like the idea of an access control reader, or you think that your space is small enough to not warrant such an extensive solution. Or maybe you just like the idea of cool, futuristic-looking locks in your office. In this section we’ll explore the advantages that they present as opposed to access control.

Smart Lock for Coworking

Less Infrastructure Required

First of all, wireless locks require a bit less infrastructure and are generally simpler to install than access control. Access control hardware will generally be a controller, door readers and locks, whereas all you need for wireless locks is the locks themselves.

For example, the Allegion NDE series wireless locks, pictured above, are no different from any old cylindrical lock (in terms of installation) and any installer who can work with normal locks will be able to handle them (you can likely even do it yourself!). The only way they differ from normal cylindrical locks is the added bit on the outside with the Bluetooth reader.

They’re also more modular and customizable: You generally have more options to choose from with a single installer, and the options themselves have different metal sheens and finishes to match the aesthetic of your space. Allegion sells the NDE lock, which is a cylindrical lock, but Allegion also carry mortise locks, like the LE lock, which might be better suited for your door.

Totally Wireless Technology

As the name suggests, wireless locks are totally wireless; that doesn’t only apply to visible wires (which access control companies do away with as well)—butthe locks are generally battery powered, meaning that you don’t have to break down your walls to run wires through them.

If you have the controller hub in an IT closet, you can easily deploy these locks around your facility without having to route wires through the walls. They can communicate with each other wirelessly and communicate with access cards or smartphones via their built in Bluetooth or NFC chip.

With normal electric locks, and smart access control, what you gain in power you will somewhat lose with the fact that you need to run wires through the walls and physically connect them to the smart hub.

Management, Monitoring, and Analytics

Much like their cousins the access control readers, many modern smart locks will come with a web or mobile interface that allows you to monitor usage, manage your members and, depending on the service, perform some sort of data analytics.  

The difference with smart locks, though, is that for most of these the main method of access is a smart card. While these solutions are certainly more modern and sophisticated than traditional keys, they do fall short of wholly mobile solutions, for reasons described above (lost/shared cards, more difficult on-boarding/off-boarding).

However, smart locks are certainly a step up from traditional keys!

Limitations of Smart Lock Systems

While smart locks are a good option for residential use and for low-traffic facilities, a big downside of smart locks is that they don’t allow for centralized management and they don’t integrate with CRM systems. With a large number of members and visitors accessing their spaces every day, coworking managers must be able to grant and revoke accesses easily (often remotely) and have an in-depth overview of the health status of their facility. If not connected to an access control software, smart locks on their own will fall short when it comes to security compliance, software integration and access management.

Main Takeaways

If you still use a traditional lock and key system for your coworking security, it’s time to upgrade. However, there are two main categories of options when deciding what to upgrade to: Access control readers, and smart locks. With readers, you get a completely mobile system, flexible onboarding and member management, and good software integrations. With smart locks, you need less infrastructure, and you get a more modular and easily-deployable system.

Before closing, though, there is one option that we actually haven’t discussed yet: A software and hardware integration between the two, allowing you to get the best of both worlds.

The Best of Both Worlds: Software and Hardware Integration

Kisi has recently rolled out a hardware and software integration with the Allegion NDE smart lock. The integration allows you to install smart locks in your office, as well as access control readers, and control all of them from one unified Kisi interface.

Kisi App Unlocking a Door

Thanks to the power of modern software integrations, you no longer have to pick and choose between the advantages and disadvantages of different systems, but can actually take the best elements of both and deploy them however you want. For instance, a front door might lend itself better to an access control reader, but you might want a smart lock on your meeting room door—now you can have both, and control it all from the same app.

Kisi offers special pricing for shared workspaces, you can find more information here.
The Yard Coworking

Save your community manager 41 hours each week—learn how The Yard did it with cloud-based access control.

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