They both sound good – and they both are – but there’s a big difference between contactless access solutions and frictionless.

‘Contactless’ describes the latest generation of technologies that let authorised users get through a secured entrance without having to physically touch anything. In our newly hygiene-conscious age, these technologies have become more valued, and with good reason.

‘Frictionless’ meanwhile, describes the way the whole process of access control and visitor management is now being streamlined and perfected. Incorporating a huge number of new features and benefits, frictionless systems are taking access control to a whole new level, as we describe below.

Why all the confusion?

A quick glance through what’s currently being written about access control shows that these terms – contactless and frictionless – are at the moment being used rather loosely, and often interchangeably.

We’ve seen new technology and fixes being rushed to market to help users make their premises safer, and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Manufacturers of touchless readers and access control system vendors have upgraded their offerings to include biometric or QR code access. As a result, the two words (yes, frictionless and contactless) have blurred.

By reacting quickly in the way that it has, the security industry has helped businesses replace pin punch, fingerprint, or palm readers. It has accelerated solutions that eliminate the risk of employees sharing ID badges, and removed the need for reception staff to issue badges every time a new contractor or visitor arrives on site, or whenever somebody loses the one they’ve already been issued with.

Over the last few months, the industry has seen a flurry of new biometric readers come to market from established players as well as start-ups. These include those that read QR codes and allow employees easy access by leveraging the ubiquity of smartphones, as well as sophisticated and more secure facial recognition offerings.

And switching out readers for touchless options – combined with installing doors that use motion detection to automatically open without anyone needing to touch a grubby handle, or on a surface where unwashed hands have been –  gives site operators a quick way to upgrade to contactless entry into their facilities.

Genuine frictionless is more impressive and efficient

But genuine frictionless access is something altogether more impressive, providing a new level of control and efficiency by integrating seamlessly with wider site management and corporate systems.

Organisations that go frictionless are as much concerned with the employee and visitor experience as they are with security. They want more flexible operations too, with the ability to adapt to rapidly changing building use requirements, to reallocate staff to new locations, to allow people to work in less rigid ways by enabling rapid access to premises and networks on a case by case, day by day basis, as priorities change.

Not long ago, to do all that would have been a logistical nightmare, and to do it securely would have been impossible. But not any longer.

True frictionless solutions today provide authorised site users (employees, contractors, visitors) with the easiest ways to move into, and around premises using authorisations and pre-arrival instructions emailed to them automatically in advance.

And the same true frictionless solutions give security controllers a new level of oversight and real time control over who is on site, where they are and what facilities their authorisations permit them to use. Integration with video surveillance systems, and best-in-class door-entry infrastructure such as AXIS Camera Station, allows easy visual verification of transactions and events at every door.

Off-the-shelf integration with the widest range of technologies and vendor brands also now means that users can design the most powerful and capable solutions around their specific site (or multiple site) requirements.

If you want a higher level of situational awareness and control, you can integrate a facial recognition solution making use of the latest advances in artificial intelligence.

If you want to improve your site cybersecurity defences, you can tie network access into your physical access infrastructure, so that only authorised users can log on at certain locations, and for predetermined times.

And visitors can be assured a hassle-free experience from the moment they arrive on site. Car park admission can be automated with ANPR/LPR, and a new generation of contactless access kiosks can allow rapid entry to a building without the need to queue or speak to a receptionist. If a member of staff is required to host a visit, they will be automatically notified – in fact, that can have happened the moment the visitor drove into the car park.

Mobile applications using Bluetooth, for example, can allow authorised users to pass through a secured entrance simply by having their phone in their pocket. Near-field communications (NFC) transponders can enable simple tap-and-go access. Or frictionless solutions with multi-factor authentication can be implemented to ensure the necessary higher level of security

Whatever system you put in place, it’s the fact that authorisations can automatically sent in advance, and centrally updated as a result of integration with systems such as Outlook, that make these truly frictionless solutions.

In fact, there’s no limit to what a true frictionless access and visitor management solution will allow you to do – up to, and including, contact tracing and granular site activity audits – it’s up to you.

The point is to understand the difference.