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Securing Public Spaces



Dion Hofste

When it comes to kiosks or other self-service solutions, security is a much-discussed topic with manufacturers, integrators and kiosk deployers. 

A clear distinction needs to be made between kiosks that are part of a security system and kiosks that are subject to security breaches. When discussing kiosk security breaches, one can think of issues on the manufacturing side such as network security, peripheral security or vulnerabilities of applications and devices leading to physically tampering. However the focus in this article is on how kiosks are being deployed to enhance security systems, as this could explicitly add new impulses for the kiosk industry. 

Self-service kiosks are currently deployed as access control systems in different shapes and sizes. They are used to prevent self-service losses in the retail sector, provide exit checks at for example parking lots or as visitor management kiosks to facilitate the check-in process at hotels or businesses. This industry is rapidly increasing and has been disrupted lately by some new applications. 


The spectrum of security solutions in the kiosk industry has lately been broadened by the recent introduction of the Covid-19 pandemic. Health security has been around for some time, but it might well be the next big thing when it comes to kiosk deployment for security purposes. These new kiosk applications all contribute to a more secure and safe environment when it comes to health and hygiene. One can think of temperature or fever checks, mouth mask verification or visitor management kiosks. However visitor management kiosks, that regulate the number of people in a store, will become a common sight on modern streetscapes.


As lock-down and regulations are ending, the leisure, entertainment and food sector is facing many challenges when it comes to visitor management. Everyone has been eager to get out there again after being locked down for a long time, potentially resulting in crowded bars, restaurants and shops, making obeying and enforcing social distancing rules impossible. With legislation stating that the shops, restaurants, cinemas and suchlike will have to manage the number of visitors in their venues, they are all looking for a solution. That’s where visitor management kiosks could come into play. 

These kiosks can be placed at the entrance of each public place to count incoming and outgoing visitors. Via for example LED communication, the user is informed whether or not it is allowed to enter the site. This not only protects the visitor, but your company and employees as well.

When managing the amount of visitors in your store, one could quickly get immersed into the world of access control. There are numerous parties involved in this business and things could get a bit overwhelming. It’s important to take your time to get to know the basics of access and entrance control to be well prepared to find the right solution for your needs.


Access control can be described as a means of controlling who enters a certain location at a given time. This location can either be physical or virtual. Physical access can be provided to a building, a public space, or other physical area, while virtual access can be provided to digital resources or computer networks. For the moment, we’ll focus on physical access control, because this suits the visitor management challenge best.

ACCESS CONTROL:  identification and authentication

Access control is the term to describe systems that identify users by means of authentication of their credentials. These credentials distinguish a user from others and is used in different ways: 

  1. Something the user has
  2. Something the user knows
  3. Something the user is

Something the user has could be a transponder such as barcode cards, NFC cards, key fobs or smartphones. Something the user knows might be a password or personal identification number (PIN) or something the user is can include biometric properties. Biometric properties are a unique characteristic of the human body like fingerprints, iris scanning or face recognition.

Whenever a user is identified, an authentication check should be fulfilled. Does the user have the required access rights to enter this restricted area on this moment? In order to get to know the user’s access rights, the access control system should consult a database to verify whether or not someone is allowed into that area. This database could either be stored locally or on cloud locations. 

ENTRANCE CONTROL:  providing access

If access control is the system that decides whether or not someone is allowed to enter a restricted area, entrance control is the system that actually carries out that decision. Entrance control can be seen as the feedback to the users identification action. An entrance control system either opens or closes an entryway. It does so by making use of either a physical barrier or a virtual barrier.

  • Physical barriers: passgates, turnstiles, guard
  • Virtual barriers: traffic light, optical beam (e.g.infrared, laser), LCD communication

The physical barriers actually block users from crossing a threshold with motorised gates for example, while virtual or invisible barriers could trigger an alarm when an unauthorised person crosses the threshold.


In order to find the best visitor management kiosk for your needs, it is important to formulate your wishes with regard to access control systems. A visitor management kiosk does not have to tick all the boxes of an access control system as it’s not necessarily required to truly identify each visitor. Counting the number of visitors in store is sufficient for this application. However, when you decide you do want to identify each visitor, it could result in valuable visitor analytics information for the long term. The current coronavirus induced challenges may help you identify how these systems can benefit you in the future.

A minimum viable product to secure a healthy environment could consist of a customer counter as the access control part working together with a virtual barrier for the entrance control part. An MVP like this can be expanded with multiple modules over time:

  • Physical barriers
  • LCD screens
  • Digital signage
  • Disinfectant dispensers
  • Health screening applications
  • Visitor analytics

When these modules are integrated into the MVP solution, it creates a comprehensive multi-functional product that not only fits the current coronavirus related challenges, but also acts as a future-proof solution. The system can therefore serve different purposes in a post-coronavirus era.

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