Re-Imagining the Tenant Experience While Bolstering Physical Security

Facial scan of women walking

Corporate real estate is not yet dead. And neither is working at the office. Simply put, both may be coming back with a vengeance – and people need to get hip to this reality, so says Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman.

Mr. Gorman insisted recently that employees start returning to the office regularly if they care about career development. Never mind skyrocketing crime throughout New York City streets and public transport. And in spite of Bank of America warning its employees to dress down on their way to work to attract less attention, while Citibank is offering private shuttles after dark for some staffers working late to better ensure their safety, some Wall Street leaders have been vocal about staffers saying goodbye to remote working.

If David Solomon, Goldman Sachs’ CEO, has his way, employees will be back to the office five days a week at their 44-story headquarter building in lower Manhattan in no time and remote work will be a thing of the past. Remote work “is not ideal for us, and it’s not a new normal,” Solomon stated in February 2021, and he claimed it inhibits relationship building and collaboration, which are “part of the secret sauce” behind the firm’s success.

Goldman’s Wall Street rivals, including Citigroup and UBS, are allowing staffers to work from home regularly in hopes that this will give their firms a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining excellent employees.

But what if companies could gain a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining excellent employees, via other methods – while making the experience of returning to work more enjoyable and carefree?

Landlords using facial recognition solutions to improve the employee experience

Once employees actually get to work, landlords are ensuring staffers can feel good about leaving their tasers in their bags and having a more pleasant experience once on-premise. According to a recent report, one in seven people doesn’t feel safe at their workplace. That’s an alarming number of people who spend 40+ hours a week feeling uneasy or unsafe while contributing to the success and growth of the company.

Not only does workplace violence affect individual employees, but about $130 billion is lost to workplace violence every year.

Having experienced a sea change since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, landlords have weathered many economic storms and multiple disruptions over the decades, ultimately demonstrating great resilience in the face of workplace changes.

Property owners and managers like CBRE (NYSE: CBRE ) the largest global commercial real estate services and investment firm in revenues – have evolved with the times and wisely used times of crises to re-evaluate, pivot, and re-invigorate their offerings in the process.

Proof in point: Google recently purchased a London office building for $1B, as many of the company’s employees hope to work both onsite at least partially to enjoy the benefits of collaboration and meaningful employee connections, but also while continuing to WFH. Tech giants are still committed to office spaces in certain markets and in many cases are even expanding their footprints. Meta Platforms, Facebook’s parent company, leased in a historic deal 100% of what will soon be Austin’s highest office tower while payment tech company Stripe just signed a lease for approx. 45,000 square feet in Chicago’s River North area after increasing headcount.

And as commercial building owners and landlords shift to become service providers in order to retain tenants, they are turning to technology as a vital tool to help sign lease renewals while creating customer-centric and tech-enabled workplaces. CIOs and CTOs are increasingly finding that in order to better align their operations with those of buildings occupants and end-users, adding facial recognition technology to their physical security stack offers immediate benefits.

Landlords are increasingly recognizing facial recognition technology’s benefits specifically as it relates to physical access control, on-premise security, perimeter security, and tenant safety. Many proptech (“property tech”) technologies such as biometric-driven access control solutions are a key feature in the industry’s drive to implement innovations and technologies that help make the workday more efficient and simple for tenants as they return to physical buildings post-pandemic.

When used in commercial office buildings, facial recognition technology helps improve day-to-day operations, reduce costs, and enhance customer service and satisfaction, with 93% of IT decision-makers recently surveyed admitting that the pace of digital transformation dramatically increased at their organizations in 2021, during which time, “IT leaders’ focus shifted from operational continuity to leading growth initiatives, such as improving customer experience.”

Biometric access control technology also helps reduce the risk of safety-related litigation. Companies concerned with employee safety and workplace hazards insurance can benefit from implementing biometric access control-driven solutions that help reduce property and insurance liabilities, and payouts, should security management fail to safeguard people and assets properly in the event of a threat. Biometric access control can also provide a touchless and friction-free experience for employees nervous about contracting COVID from frequently-touched surfaces.

Technology adoption in real estate is said to be about 10 years behind other industries. However, as markets and tenants become increasingly tech-forward, this is an advantage to landlords now seeking to benefit from the best practices gleaned over the past decade and proceed with implementing FRT on their premises more quickly and efficiently.

According to Forbes, the fast-track of property technology in the real estate industry has grown by 1072% from 2015 to 2019, and in 2018, venture capital firms invested $8.3 billion in Proptech companies around the world. And to keep up with shifting demands, Deloitte has found that “92% of CRE executives plan to maintain or increase their investments in tenant experience technology over the coming years” – a good sign for all stakeholders involved.

Proptech can add value to the tenant experience in numerous ways. In the Security Industry Association’s recent Security Megatrends of 2022 report, artificial intelligence-powered security was listed as the number one megatrend, with “Security as Proptech” listed as number eight on the top ten list.

And while a number of biometric modalities are increasingly being adopted in CRE, facial recognition technology continues to see strong growth as this specific solution offers benefits over other biometric modalities such as greater flexibility, improved accuracy, and a truly friction-free experience.

Pre-2020, Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE: VNO) announced that it planned to install facial recognition technology across its $725M office portfolio. After the company’s vice chairman David Greenbaum noticed that tenants were carrying two different key cards – one to access the building, and another to access their office space – the company made the decision to “adopt new, cutting-edge technologies that [would] make [their] buildings more efficient and life more convenient.” Once they started to implement facial biometrics in the first four buildings of their rollout plan, Vornado noted 40 percent of tenants opted in, which represented approximately 6,000 of the 15,000 office employees at those buildings.

In a 2020 white paper published by global commercial real estate firm, Brookfield Property Partners (NASDAQ: BPYPP), asset managers were asked, “Which changes to your company’s office environment would make you feel comfortable returning to the office?” and 33% of respondents noted that “touchless…fixtures/doors” would be preferred – indicating a possible increased demand for office space in coming years.

Brookfield also predicted that there will be an increase in the use of “space-utilization analytics” by landlords, facility managers, and occupiers who will use technology to process real-time data on both perimeter security as well as throughout the interiors of a building. This could be anything from “determining the availability of specific meeting rooms for instant bookings to helping with anonymous people-counting and space density requirements amid COVID-19 or a future pandemic.”

In terms of the macro environment, CBRE predicted a positive outlook for 2022 with “the return of downtowns” and a robust second half of the year. And in the REIT’s recent “Top 10 Recommendations for Landlords Considering Flexible Space Solutions,” research on tenant preferences revealed that touchless technologies will be one of the “most in-demand building attributes in the future.”

The tenant experience can be improved substantially through seamless employee access control using face-based biometric technology

CBRE noted that landlords who implement a “hospitality-first approach,” emphasizing a hospitality services ethos in terms of enhancing user experience and state-of-the-art amenities, will succeed in attracting and retaining key commercial tenants for the long haul. In fact, as “front-of-house offering evolves, facilities management teams are taking on more back-of-house functions and running control centers. Many roles such as building access and routine monitoring traditionally performed by security are increasingly being handled by technologies such as drones, facial recognition, and CCTV,” stated CBRE, all of which can promote a larger awareness and understanding of occupant behavior for ultimately a higher level of employee experience through technology.

In the end, according to Pricewaterhouse Coopers, “The goal is for companies to combine people and the right technologies, apply an innovative mindset to help drive the right business outcomes and use data, automation, and analytics to design space better and ensure greater safety. Some already use it to improve day-to-day operations, reduce risk and better manage renewable resources. We expect companies that master proptech and its tremendous potential to gain a huge competitive advantage not just in attracting tenants but in making smarter portfolio investments.”

Re-imagining the way people enter secure spaces

A biometric-based approach to access control offers many benefits to multiple stakeholders.

Holistically, AI can analyze data output, humidity, temperature, and other important statistics in commercial buildings to find a way to improve efficiency, drive down costs, and reduce total power consumption.

Moreover, smart, touchless access control can overcome the shortcomings of badges, fobs, and passwords which can be shared, lost, or stolen. This helps reduce replacement costs and contributes to a more green environment while encouraging more throughput by way of authorized employees seamlessly unlocking doors and accessing vaults or sensitive spaces without needing to touch a device or pad. Tailgating – one of the top three security concerns of Fortune 1000 companies – is also dramatically reduced as a risk while smart cameras are able to identify in real-time persons-of-interest and their contact history while protecting the identity of bystanders.

In the context of video surveillance, perimeter security is better protected from multiple entry points, while tiered access to secure areas on interior spaces offers additional flexibility for managing foot traffic and more throughout. Perimeter security is also strengthened through facial recognition-based security systems by enforcing a greater level of protection that extends simply beyond the front door of a building’s entrance.

This includes four layers of perimeter security to consider: the perimeter or outside area, the entrance, the building or facility itself, and special cabinets or server rooms. A layered approach to a facility’s security operations allows for greater levels of safeguarding employees from watchlisted individuals or unauthorized individuals who attempt to access floors, rooms, or corporate suites requiring restricted access rights.

Bottom line: The quality of workplaces will be paramount in a post-pandemic era of returning to physical office environments and, as stated by CBRE, “Office buildings that offer the most desirable technology, amenities, and flexible space [will capture] a growing share of demand.”

Contact us to learn more about physical security and biometric-driven technology solutions for commercial buildings, and how they can be integrated into an existing technology infrastructure to produce a positive ROI.

To learn more about how to create seamless, frictionless access control experiences for commercial real estate tenants by using Vision AI, read our How-To Guide here and/or listen to our Webinar OnDemand on taking a layered approach to Physical Security.

Avatar photo

About the Author

Lena Stinsa

Lena Stinsa serves as Content Manager for Oosto, where she is responsible for delivering world-class content to help inform, inspire and educate a variety of stakeholders in reimagining physical security through the power of visual AI. Previously, she served in a variety of global marketing communications roles for the pharmaceutical manufacturing, renewable energy, and commercial real estate industries.