- 18 Openpath March 184 Edit e1527264115508 - Meet two startups taking access into the 21st century – Stacey on IoT
The Openpath reader has been installed in - and medium-sized businesses around the country. Image courtesy of the company.

locks are a popular item in the consumer home, allowing residents to use their phones, fingers, or keypads to unlock their doors. But in the enterprise and in apartments, it’s tough to move from cards to keypads or even phone-based access. Two are attacking both of those markets: newly launched Openpath is building an access control product for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and Latch is doing the same for apartment complexes.

After spending two years in stealth mode, Openpath launched this week with $7 million in funding. The Openpath team tackled the problem of access after experiencing continual irritation with keycards and badges at their previous companies. The startup makes hardware in the form of readers stationed at building entranceways, a controller that sits in an IT closet, and software that runs in the cloud and on the controller to manage the overall system.

To trigger access to the building, the reader looks at Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cellular signals to determine who’s at the door; the user then presses the capacitive touch button on the reader to open the door. So there’s no shuffling for a badge or even opening an app. The system works with existing locks and other access products like parking gates and some elevators.

For now the company is selling to companies as opposed to owners of buildings, and says that the system has about 500 individuals at an unspecified number of companies using it. To expand to buildings with more complicated elevator systems, Openpath will need to update its software. However, the SMB market is plenty large enough for a place to start.

As a more modern access service, Openpath also enables companies to issue URLs via text to let guests into the building, so they don’t need to download the app onto their phone. It also integrates with services such as Microsoft’s Active Directory and various HR software programs so the company can grant and revoke access without dealing with physical badges, keys, or cards. For a more adventurous workplace, the systems could even integrate into Slack, so it could be configured to send information about visitors entering the building to a Slack channel, saving a phone call or a receptionist having to make a trip down the hall.

As for security, the system still works when the power is out and the internet is down, which is great. What’s not so great is that the reader recognizes a private token stored on a user’s phone, so if an employee loses their device or doesn’t leverage two-factor authentication, a stranger could pick up their phone and make their way into the building.

Enterprises have been toward various automated systems in an effort to make getting in and out of buildings more convenient. Indeed, anyone who has visited a corporate office as a remote worker has likely experienced the frustration of standing out on the street while waiting for someone to let them inside. This type of product could make such experiences a thing of the past.

A similar shift is happening in the world of apartments and dorms. Instead of key fobs and keys, a company called Latch is putting connected locks on individual apartments and linking them to access readers located in the lobby, elevator, and other public spaces in the apartment. The benefits to residents and landlords are similar to the benefits found in the enterprise.

Landlords will likely appreciate not dealing with physical keys and the ability to let workers into apartments as needed, while also logging who came in and out. Other issues like residents who lose their keys become less of a hassle if a resident can call their landlord, offer an alternate credential, and have the landlord grant them access into their apartment. Both residents and landlords benefit from remote access. Plus, it’s nice not to have to carry your keys with you.

Unlike Openpath, Latch offers physical locks and doesn’t have a large focus on corporate cloud integrations. However, Latch CEO Luke Schoenfelder believes his company could eventually move into the enterprise market. But for now, he’s focused on working with companies like Walmart to give them access to apartments so they can deliver packages and services. These sorts of access programs, similar to Amazon’s Key program, let residents allow delivery people into their homes when they aren’t there. If the resident approves it, Latch gives credentials to delivery drivers who can drop things inside or pick things up. Walmart is using it to deliver and stock fridges with groceries for residents in apartments that use Latch.

Not everyone will allow this, but it’s clear that companies are hoping technology can both make access a bit more convenient as well as open up offices and homes to new services.

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