Continuing along the lines of future technologies – from autonomous cars in our April issue – Sussex Business Times got into contact with Hady Abdelnour, Co-Founder of smart-lock company, Smarke, who explains his expectations of the future of office access

Smart homes and offices, filled with connected products, are stacked with possibilities and options for making our lives easier, more convenient, and more secure. A recent article provided some interesting statistics; it is predicted that the number of smart home/office devices shipped will grow to around 200 million in 2020, from roughly 80 million in 2015. This includes smart appliances, smart home/office safety and security systems, and smart energy equipment. This suggests we are developing an appetite for these products.

What about office and workplace access? How will we be access our properties a few years from now?

Let’s imagine a decade or so ahead. Will we still be carrying around heavy, cumbersome keyrings and scramble to find the one key we need when need it? What is much more likely is that our voice-activated virtual assistant will control almost everything in our property including opening the front door through a merger of Face Recognition or other biometric data with Artificial Intelligence and fixed hardware.

To arrive at this point there will need to be a standardisation in the way locks and doors are delivered to market. Trends suggest that is the people classed as Millennials and digital affluents who will drive the consolidation of different approaches into one universal standard with a secure digital touch point.

There is no doubt that Property Access and Safety is changing; innovative tech companies are introducing products that will replace old-fashioned keyholes, peepholes, and doorbells, including smart locks, sensors, monitors, cameras, and alarm systems. August Smart Locks, is one example, selling digital keyless door locks and doorbell cameras that allows the property-owner to provide third-party remote access to their office or home.

One of the main challenges with the development of these products is the connection of front- and back-end technologies with other devices. They need to be able to exchange data, while keeping a high level of cyber security.

Security and convenience are the two most important issues; our homes and offices have to be secure and prevent unwanted access, while at the same time allowing us to enter without making the process overly complicated and having too many hoops to jump through.

Ultimately, the Property Access and Safety market will be ruled by the devices that can connect and integrate seamlessly with other home and office technology, offering maximum security, alongside simplicity and convenience. This is important because all home devices will ultimately run in an invisible background mode, controlled by an overall intelligent system such as Amazon Echo or Google Home.

We’re already getting closer to this perfect alignment, with products like Smarke’s smart access solution, which can be used as a standalone product or integrated with other smart home hubs. Smarke focuses on allowing people to access their buildings and properties using their mobile phones – and it also allows them to share this access with others.

Smart locks might still be new to the market, but they will gradually become more prevalent, particularly as the idea relating to smart cities, connected buildings and homes spread. Smart locks will be part of a broad property safety and access module that incorporates locks, external cameras and possibly even drones detecting when people are close by.

Future smart offices and homes will incorporate doors with built-in smart locking mechanisms. Also smart doors, probably working on magnetic fields between the frames. Access to your building, home, car and/or office will be controlled by a central hub that runs detection processes using face, eye or other biometric data.

In the future what we now refer to as a smart lock will become a connected lock. A lock which communicates with other connected devices via one truly smart hub controlled by autonomous intelligent software and monitored by users via their mobile app or wearable devices.

Building access and safety technology will be one function of an end-to-end multi-functional smart home system controlling multiple sub-devices via a software and protected by strong cyber security controls.

It is too early to predict with accurately which type of connectivity these access and safety products will use in order to communicate between themselves and other external devices. What is clear is that the race is on between Wifi, Bluetooth, Mesh network standards such as Zigbee and W-wave or other newcomers on the market. We will see mobile operators trying to make a comeback on connectivity.

When it comes to access a controlled lock will run in a back-end mode. Alongside this front-end external cameras and drones will run multiple step processes, continuously monitoring activity. Once the system detects and finds someone trying to enter the property, it will run facial recognition and identification tests. If it can identify the person, the system will decide autonomously whether it should grant access or not based on its data. Alternatively it will ask the tenant or homeowner for instructions. The tenant will be able to monitor these activities instantly and intervene if this is necessary.

Today, the technology is still not quite ready for homes, residential units and most offices. However it is already used in high security facilities such as banks, military restricted zones, corporations, and government institutions. The challenge is to make this adapt the technology for use in mainstream offices and our homes.

If you watch TV and films it feels as if this technology is already with us. We are beginning to feel familiar with it. Clearly there are important questions for all of us to consider. For example, what will happen to all the data that is collected by the smart devices? Provided we can satisfy ourselves on these types of issues there is a lot to be said for a future where like Agent Gibbs of NCIS we can enter our home or office with the blink of an eye.