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How Existing Technology Can Support a Safe Return to Work



As Chicagoans return to the workplace, keeping employees safe won’t be solved by handing out keycards — it will involve keeping an endless number of surfaces sanitized, limiting the number of people in a single space, screening occupant health status, keeping the infected out of the office, and tracking close contacts should occupant be diagnosed as infected.

Seems daunting, but property owners and operators shouldn’t feel too overwhelmed. Though they may not know it, many already have the tools and systems necessary to protect tenants, or help tenants protect themselves, as buildings reopen.

“It’s not so much about reinventing security systems as it is about enhancing and reframing them, integrating technology and new protocols to create a more secure environment,” said Todd Burner, chief product officer at managed security provider Kastle Systems, a leading national security operator based that has a large Chicago presence.

Kastle has recently launched KastleSafeSpaces, an integrated plan to safeguard the health of office workers at tenant-level or property-wide. Though the system can leverage new hardware like thermal scanners, it largely relies on existing access control devices and smartphones, making it convenient to implement across commercial properties, Burner said.

Because their technology is already installed in 3,600 buildings and 41,000 businesses across 47 states, the members of the Kastle team are hoping KastleSafeSpaces will promote a universal standard of coronavirus preparedness for the built environment.

“It can't be every building owner, tenant and occupant for themselves,” says Kastle’s General Manager of Chicago operations, Andrea Kuhn. “We are all in the business of public health now to protect each other’s lives and help Chicago get back to work.”

Download the full KastleSafeSpaces plan to show tenants how to safely return to the workplace using access control at

The KastleSafeSpaces security solution outlines four major transformations to keep office workers safe:

1. Touchless Everything

To make sure that building occupants keep their hands as clean as possible, touchless controls will become standard throughout buildings. For years, Kastle customers nationwide have used their KastlePresence mobile app to scan in, handsfree, past turnstiles in their buildings. Now, Burner said, Kastle is extending that same technology to enable wireless, touchless door opening, elevators, security card readers, visitor kiosks and parking ticket vending machines.

2. Screen In, Screen Out

The heart of building security is the ability to test and identify occupants and visitors who are safe to enter and screen out those who are not. Kuhn said that building lobbies will start to resemble airports, with testing stations, screening queues, speed lanes, designated check-in times and self-check kiosks. Making these processes run efficiently is critical for avoiding lobby crowding, so Kastle has already launched a pre-screening app in KastlePresence that enables the process to occur on a smartphone before entering the building. All these tests integrate with existing access control systems to only activate the access credentials of those who are virus-free and deactivate those individuals presenting with symptoms or known to be infected.

But there will be other types of testing that evolve depending on the sort of space and emerging medical guidance, Burner said. While an organization might begin with app-enabled screening like KastlePresence, they might soon add temperature checks, wide-range thermal imaging or even direct viral or antibody testing once it becomes available. Access control will simply need to adapt and integrate accordingly with these varying screening methods.

3. Contact Tracing

Public health officials agree that one of the best ways to combat the spread of the coronavirus is through contact tracing — tracking who came into contact with people who later learn they were infected. By running access control systems continuously for buildings, floors, office suites or common areas, Kastle can monitor traffic and determine which building occupants were in close contact with one another over any relevant time period. By adding intelligent video surveillance, Burner said, the process can be refined even further.

“If someone subsequently tests positive for COVID-19, people who had been in the same spaces as the infected employee simultaneously can easily and quickly be informed through the Kastle app,” Kuhn said.

4. Social Distancing

New signage and floor markings can only do so much — KastleSafeSpaces will use data and technology to supplement physical reminders to reinforce social distancing. Building owners can alert occupants of staggered arrival times to keep lobbies clear of crowds and enforce visitor restrictions. Using Kastle data, owners will also be able to see real-time occupancy density, and warn tenants if crowds are gathering. These digital capabilities will complement physical changes like checkpoints and safety stations outside of elevators, office suites and other common areas.

"As much thought needs to go into planning for how people get back to work in offices as to when they should start doing so,” Kastle CEO Haniel Lynn said. “A comprehensive, tech-smart approach to security, safety and public health can provide the right on-ramp for businesses and the economy to take off.”

Download the full KastleSafeSpaces plan to show tenants how to safely return to the workplace using access control at

For more information, contact Andrea Kuhn, Kastle Systems General Manager of Chicago Operations, at or (312) 296-6631.