Brooklyn Startup Brings Smart Access to Your Front Door

Kisi - secure access via smartphone app

OT hears from Kisi, a newly-funded startup that’s developing 3D-printed access control for coworking spaces and corporate offices in New York and beyond.

What were the buzzwords of 2015? Based on the trends we’ve seen in flexible workspace this year, three buzzwords that spring to mind are ‘startups’, ‘funding’ and ‘disruptive’.

One company that’s ticking all three boxes is Kisi, a Brooklyn-based startup that’s putting its first round of funding to good use by expanding its range of building access systems. Disruptive they certainly are, as not only is Kisi using smart technology to breathe new life into conventional access systems, it’s throwing 3D-printed hardware into the mix too.

“We raised our first round of funding in March, and Kisi has already been installed in hundreds of spaces in NYC alone,” says Alex Shamy, marketing manager for Kisi. “We plan to use new tech to expand to a broader market.”

Kisi offers key-less entry through a smartphone-enabled access system, enabling workspace operators and clients to open doors simply by swiping a command on their mobile phone.

This isn’t the first supplier to harness a smart entry system, yet their cloud-based development has already been recognised as an innovative advancement in smart building technology, and word is getting around. According to Alex, Kisi’s smart access device is currently in-use by New York coworking space AlleyNYC and CoLab in Chicago, among others, while corporates like Cushman & Wakefield are getting in on the act too.

Secure access

For workspace operators handling dozens of clients and visitors at all times of the day and night, and sometimes weekends too, a Wi-Fi enabled access system allows operators to issue ‘smart keys’ to clients or visitors in addition to remote entry access. Keys can be shared securely, and can also be time restricted for clients with limited daily or weekly workspace usage.

The system also enables operators to monitor activity through access logs, allowing them to see who is at using their space at any one time.

Asked about client feedback, Alex added: “Workspace operators like the convenience of unlocking the door remotely during off hours and monitoring access logs. That gives managers the transparency to know who is accessing the space at all times.

“Additionally, since coworking spaces generally have high tenant turnover, they can make sure that no one keeps a key after they leave or uses the space more times than they pay for it.”

The concept – that of turning something inanimate, like an office door, into a ‘smart’ object that can receive commands via an Internet connection – forms part of a revolutionary vision known as Internet of Things (IoT). Revolutionary it may be, yet the hardware can’t always keep up with the visionary ideas and the software behind it.

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Locked out by low-grade Wi-Fi

For instance, what happens when your smartphone runs out of battery?

This, it seems, is an IoT challenge that’s certainly not limited to opening doors. Kisi has found a way round this by offering to help customers select a universal phone charging point that can be fixed alongside the office door (they also recommend charging your phone at a nearby cafe). Inconvenience aside, compare this to the traditional act of opening doors – and running out of smartphone battery is akin to losing the key or forgetting the access pin-code.

In other words, it’s up to the user to remember to charge their phone.

The same goes for power outages or lack of Internet connection. This, however, is outside the realms of the user’s control.

Like other smart systems, Kisi relies on active Internet connectivity; without it, users can’t gain access via their smartphone. While this may seem like a significant problem, in 2015, this shouldn’t be under question. A reliable Internet connection is now a top priority for workspace users so if your workspace connectivity isn’t strong enough to accommodate a smartphone app, it’s high time to invest in a more robust system.

In any case, some access systems – including Kisi – work in-synch with existing systems, giving clients a back-up option in the case of a dead battery or Internet downtime (also handy for traditional clients who prefer opening doors the old-fashioned way).

“We integrate with existing security or access systems,” explained Alex. “That way keys and fobs still work and tenants unwilling to make the change don’t have to. In the future KISI will offer those analogue options as well.”

By 2020, Gartner predicts that there will be close to 30 billion connected things worldwide – which includes office doors controlled by smartphones. It’s not just a fascinating possibility, it’s happening now – and the market for ‘smart’ capabilities is growing bigger with each passing day. With it comes new opportunities to help operators improve and simplify the way they manage their workspace clients – from monitoring workspace usage and access security, to how clients open the front door.

As the ‘smart’ market grows so too does the number of suppliers, who are constantly introducing new ideas, enhanced operating systems and of course, choice. So it pays to keep tabs on this expanding field of development to help manage your space more efficiently and to give your business the leading competitive edge.

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