London’s CityPoint Modernizes Building Security

By Jill Gambon

An NFC solution automates access control for contractors, facilitates guard patrol and gives property managers insight into operations.

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At CityPoint, an iconic 34-story glass and steel tower in London’s financial district, providing state-of-the-art amenities and secure, well-managed services is crucial for business. The building’s tenants, many of them international law firms, demand nothing less.

To meet the expectations of its high-end clients, CityPoint’s property-management team is always looking for ways to up the ante when it comes to amenities and services, says Lee Murray, CityPoint’s building manager. Last year, Murray and his team identified three areas within building operations for improvement: management of keys, record-keeping related to onsite contractors and security-patrol operations. The goal was to replace outdated processes with a highly secure, automated system.

CityPoint chose an NFC platform because it addressed the three areas targeted for improvement and leveraged the building’s existing Wi-Fi infrastructure. (Photo: CityPoint)

Every day, property managers relied on a paper-based process to issue hundreds of keys to contractors, including mechanical and maintenance crews, IT workers and window washers. The process was time-consuming and riddled with inefficiencies. Once keys were signed out, it was impossible to keep track of them, and many were lost or stolen. In addition, manually tracking attendance and billable hours for all those workers resulted in inaccurate records.

CityPoint’s security officers patrol the interior and the grounds of the 706,000-square-foot building, which includes an underground parking garage and retail shops and restaurants on the ground floor, 24 hours a day. The guards’ duties include making sure doors are locked and checking for water leaks. The patrol routes are lengthy, each equivalent to several miles, and officers couldn’t report incidents in real time—they used a handheld wand to collect a digital time stamp at each of the 300 checkpoints, and the time-stamped data was downloaded to a computer at the end of their rounds. Incident reports were handwritten.

“We were looking for a product that would allow us to work smarter,” Murray says. In January, CityPoint implemented a Near Field Communication (NFC) solution that combined security- management software from MyTag.io, HID Global‘s Trusted Tag Services platform for authentication and proof of presence, and hundreds of NFC tags, including key fobs, inlays and transponders, from HID Global.

The NFC solution has fulfilled all of CityPoint’s goals, according to Murray. “My team is really impressed with this,” he says.

A Smart Solution
As CityPoint’s managers explored their options, they identified two priorities: a common platform that could address the three areas targeted for improvement and technology that would leverage the building’s existing Wi-Fi infrastructure. The building’s security manager suggested the cloud-based NFC solution because it would work with CityPoint’s infrastructure and with standard NFC-enabled smartphones, tablets and USB readers. The “tap and go” solution also promised to be easy to introduce, because most people in the United Kingdom had experience using contactless smart cards for payments.

An implementation team, which included representatives from facilities, security and information technology, evaluated the solution. In December 2015, the team launched a small, month-long pilot project. The pilot went smoothly and the project was green-lighted. Rollout took two weeks, including installation of tags at all security checkpoints and attachment of the tags to hundreds of keys.

Security guards tap their phones to NFC tags at checkpoints, which gives management a real-time view of their locations. (Photos: CityPoint)

All building keys were identified with an HID Global Epoxy Tag Keyfob transponder, a thin, durable tag with a unique chip that optimizes security when deployed with HID Trusted Tag Services, a cloud-based authentication platform that adds a nonreplicable identity to each interaction. When an individual requests a key, a CityPoint employee taps the key on an NFC tablet, which launches a check-out interface. Information about the identity of the person checking out the key is recorded on the tablet. When the individual returns the key, a tap on the tablet checks it back in.

Contractor record-keeping was simplified by giving preprinted NFC cards to the contractors when they enter the building. The contractors check in by tapping their cards on an NFC tablet; they tap their cards on the tablet to check out. This creates an auditable record of the hours they worked at the building. After checkout, contractors hand in the cards to property-management staff so the cards can be reused.

The checkpoints were also identified with NFC tags—HID Global labels custom-printed with the CityPoint logo for the inside checkpoints and HID Global Poly Tags, which are designed to withstand exposure to the elements, for the outside checkpoints. When guards tap their phones to NFC tags, the phones receive a URL with an encrypted code attached. The tag generates the code at the point of contact. All of the guards’ interactions between their phones and the NFC tags are collected and reported through the MyTag.io platform.

A simple web service call integrates HID Trusted Tag Services with MyTag.io’s cloud security-management application. The MyTag.io interface is customized with the necessary data about the property, employees and contractors. The MyTag.io software validates that a URL was accessed by someone physically tapping an NFC tag, identifies each checkpoint and uploads time-stamp information. HID Global’s Trusted Tag Services validates the proof of presence, which prevents the URL from being used multiple times without a physical tap. It also prevents cloning of the URL.

The NFC tags are provisioned to the MyTag.io database so CityPoint staff can input and manage the tags. The platform’s web-based interface allows the facilities staff to access it onsite or remotely with a browser.

Training, Murray says, was minimal and included a hands-on demonstration of the new system and an instructional video. The building’s facilities staff embraced it, he says. “My team is quite used to using new technology,” he adds.

One of the few problems that cropped up early on was poor performance of the initial Android phones that were being used to interact with the NFC tags. CityPoint resolved the issue by switching to a different manufacturer’s phones.

Working Smarter
Now, with the system in place, the data from key management, contractor record-keeping and security patrols can be viewed from a single interface, providing insight into operations to enable informed decisions. Management of building keys has been streamlined, since the facilities staff no longer has to comb through paper lists. The MyTag.io software generates a dashboard displaying all keys that are checked out at any given time, who checked them out and when they are due back. This leads to a better understanding of which keys are in highest demand, when they are used and who is using them—information that was never before readily available, Murray says.

The automated contractor record-keeping has reduced billing errors, Murray says. Invoices can be itemized based on the information gathered from the check-in, check-out process.

The data from the tags provides a real-time view of the security guards’ locations, which is also information property managers never could access previously. MyTag.io can track the time it takes a guard to travel from one checkpoint to the next and, if there is an unexplained delay, can send an alert to the guard’s phone or a message to the facilities staff to follow up. If guards discover a problem, they can use their smartphones to generate a report on the spot and take a photo or shoot video to document it, instead of waiting until completing their patrol to report it.

While analytics are still being gathered to calculate the precise return on investment for the project, Murray says the impact became quickly evident. “It’s made life easier for our security officers,” he says. Overall, there is “an ease of accounting.”

CityPoint is considering expanding the NFC solution to asset management, including heating, lights and other equipment, and linking it to the building’s access-control system. The technology has the potential to lower costs while improving services, Murray says. “We must provide the best possible facilities to our clients,” he adds.