When opening a coworking space, one of the first things to consider is how to properly secure the space. Coworking spaces are generally high traffic businesses, with a constant flow of people who pay for varying levels of access as well as new visitors who should be monitored or escorted to a specific area. This makes the security needs of a space slightly more complex than an average business. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast the two most popular options for physical security and offer recommendations for which may be right for your coworking space.
The two most future-proof and secure access control options 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 built-in communication technology that replace the traditional locks of the facility.
Traditional locks and keys, while simple to install, come with a lot of liability for a business as a whole. Metal keys (and even fobs and keycards) are easily lost or stolen, and mechanical locks are extremely easy to break given the right opportunity. As a business that relies on monetizing and protecting every square inch of space, coworking businesses need advanced technology to replace antiquated locks and keys which are easily manipulated. Access control technologies like door readers and smart locks are both innovative solutions that address this problem, with the added value of being easier to maintain and monitor for administrators. The platforms that power these solutions can also provide a better experience for coworking members (meaning easier and faster entry into a space) and valuable data and integrations with other business management tools for coworking space owners and operators.
We've researched several modern access control reader solutions and smart locks and have a few insights on how they compare. We also weigh their advantages and when they work best, and which scenarios may be more suited to smart locks or door readers.
Using 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. The cutting-edge aspect of the specific readers discussed in this article are sure to future-proof your coworking space with powerful web-based platforms as well as mobile solutions.
There are a few access control systems that offer a fully mobile solution, meaning once the door readers and controllers are installed, members can unlock the appropriate doors in your space simply with their mobile phone, no extra keys or special passes needed.
Many access control companies offer a combination of two unlock methods: In-app unlock methods, and the "tap-to-unlock" method (using the entire phone as a smart card - pictured above). Both of these methods rely on a combination of Bluetooth and NFC functionality, to ensure that even if there is no data signal or internet connection, the person can still unlock the reader when within range.
For in-app unlocks, the user downloads a mobile app on their phone from which they can browse all the locks that they have been granted access to and easily navigate to and unlock the relevant door. The latter “tap-to-unlock” solution is even easier from the user's end: it activates the Bluetooth or NFC chip in the phone to interact with the reader at very close distances, all the identification information is communicated automatically to the reader and the door is unlocked.
These mobile solutions are ideally suited to coworking spaces, as well as to small and medium-sized businesses. The risk of lost or shared keys is minimized, if not eliminated. With so many people entering and exiting a coworking space, it's common for the community manager to get a lot of "Oops I lost my key" messages when the access token is a traditional key or a keycard, especially when renters are guaranteed a new one if they should ever lose theirs.
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, coworking managers can be assured that members will be much less careless about misplacing or losing their phone, and will alert someone in the space immediately if they do.
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.
A coworking space will naturally have many members, visitors and employees coming in and out of the space, renting on short term, medium and long term contracts. It’s crucial that the manager is able to easily on-board and off-board these members, and manage their door access as easily as they manage their membership status.
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.
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.
The best systems available have software integrations with coworking member management solutions (CRMs). Rather than reinventing the wheel, companies have partnerships with CRMs that c use, like Office RnD, Optix, Cobot, or Nexudus — to name a few.
These integrations allow the coworking space admin to import all their members into the access control system, within the organized lists that they've already created. This allows them to manage members from one interface, the coworking CRM, ensuring that the right members have access to appropriate spaces at certain times of the day.
While many of the coworking CRMs have some kind of integration with an access control technology, it's recommended to check first before deciding on a management tool. The field of API software integrations is booming, allowing related companies to foster deep partnerships, and reduces the headache for the end user.
If 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, smart locks may be a more cost effective, minimalist alternative.
Wireless locks require a bit less infrastructure and are generally simpler to install than door readers. Access control hardware will generally be a controller, door readers and locks, whereas all that's needed 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. The only way they differ from normal cylindrical locks is the added feature of the Bluetooth reader.
They’re also more modular and customizable to the space, with more design options to choose from with a single installer. Smart locks can have different metal sheens and finishes to match the aesthetic of a space.
As the name suggests, wireless locks are totally wireless; the locks are battery powered, and the simplicity of the hardware means there is no need to break down any walls to run wires through them on installation.
With a controller hub or IT closet, smart locks can easily be deployed 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 the built in Bluetooth or NFC chip.
Similar to access control readers, many modern smart locks will come with a web or mobile interface that allows administrators to monitor usage, manage members and, depending on the service, perform data analytics.
While smart locks 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).
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 coworking space management software. 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.
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. Because of this readers are well-suited to the main entrances of a coworking space, where members are required to sign in or show some form of ID. With smart locks, less infrastructure is needed, and they have a more modular and easily-installed system. This is why smart locks are more appropriate for conference rooms, private offices and areas where there may be slightly less traffic in a coworking space.
Coworking owners and operators should also consider the possible software and hardware integrations between the two. If there is still a debate about which solution to go with, rest assured that there are ways to get the best of both worlds.
Whether the final decision is door readers or smart locks, coworking space managers should find solutions that have easy integrations with both software and hardware. Integrations are what allows a coworking space to be the hubs of innovation and efficiency they are meant to be. An access control solution that offers both door readers and smart locks will often have the ability to control both forms of security from one user-friendly platform. For example, Kisi has 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.
Thanks to the power of modern software integrations, you no longer have to pick and choose between the advantages and disadvantages of different systems. For instance, a front door might lend itself better to an access control reader, but you might want a smart lock on a meeting room door — with modern cloud-based access control technology you can have both, and control it all from the same platform.
Kisi offers special pricing for shared workspaces, you can find more information here.