IT Science Case Study: How Brooklyn Navy Yard Now Welcomes Visitors

eWEEK IT SCIENCE USE CASE: The Navy Yard was in search of a visitor management system that could secure its front gates and for its tenants to get customers/visitors in quickly. They found it in Proxyclick.

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Here is the latest article in an eWEEK feature series called IT Science, in which we look at what actually happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.

Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app-maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.

These articles describe new-gen industry solutions. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them are success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.

Today’s Topic: Securing Onsite Premises Before, During the COVID-19 Crisis with Cloud-based Visitor Management Software

Name the problem to be solved: 

With thousands of visitors per day, not to mention employees coming and going in upwards of 10,000, the Brooklyn Navy Yard (BNY) was in search of a visitor management system that could secure its front gates and for its tenants to get customers/visitors in quickly. There was also pressure to create consistent and welcoming experiences for visitors and employees. After all, a big part of the BNY’s mission is in what it describes as “connecting the local community with the economic opportunity and resources of the Yard.” This sense of openness needed to be balanced with control and safety in the sheer numbers of people moving in and around the BNY. 

Naturally, the COVID-19 virus outbreak in March 2020 presented the BNY with additional challenges. 

Describe the strategy that went into finding the solution: 

The BNY had been using an internally hosted web portal to manage its visitor experience for a long time. This came with limitations and concerns about whether or not the platform could handle the projected growth at the BNY and many unexpected costs in maintenance and support. This led Marc Cecere, Director of Applications at Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp., to seek out an alternative—a customizable solution that would meet the BNY’s security needs of today and be able to adapt to subsequent visitor management and security processes tomorrow.

“Our old system was slow and not very user-friendly. So most of our tenants weren’t pre-registering their visitors. This caused long lines and traffic at the security gates,” Cecere said. “Visitor lists weren’t updated in real time because the solution wasn’t hosted on the cloud. Security checks still had to be done manually by checking IDs against a printed watch list, which slowed down the check-in process.” 

List the key components in the solution: 

The BNY chose Proxyclick’s cloud-based visitor management system because:

  • Its intuitive user interface also integrates with BNY’s S2 access control system. 
  • BNY tenants now can pre-register their visitors in Proxyclick’s platform so those visitors can scan the QR code from their invitation email at the BNY’s entrances.
  • Many other security features, such as the use of Proxyclick’s watchlists, work behind the scenes to help security staff flag visitors needing additional screening. The watchlist is automatically updated in Proxyclick, so it’s consistent across all seven of their gates. If someone not on the watchlist tries to enter, Proxyclick automatically notifies the entire BNY security team via text message, in real time. 
  • Proxyclick’s integration with S2 also notifies the BNY’s hosts of their visitor’s arrival, keeping everyone in the loop. 

Describe how the deployment went, perhaps how long it took, and if it came off as planned: 

Now more than a year into deployment, Proxyclick manages visitor access for all the BNY’s shuttle buses, drive-through gates and pedestrian scanners. Those visitors who reach the front desks are also granted access using their QR codes to get through turnstiles, providing a consistent experience for all visitors--regardless of their entry point into the BNY.

During the Covid-19 crisis, while the BNY office was mostly closed, the company saw a reduced number of about 1,000 to 2,000 employees and visitors coming onto the premises each day. Only essential workers and visitors, including security staff and sergeants, property managers and union staff were allowed on the BNY. Cecere indicated that BNY shifted to using Proxyclick almost exclusively for new tenants, which helped reduce risk of virus exposure to security staff.

Describe the result, new efficiencies gained, and what was learned from the project: 

The BNY has now achieved the ultimate balance between a convenient check-in process and a high standard of security. Pre-registration of visitors at the BNY is now up more than 30%, and the tenants are happy with the benefits of Proxyclick at their buildings. The integrated visitor experience is not only a hit with the tenants and staff at the BNY but also with the thousands of visitors the Yard welcomes every day. As far as what the future holds, the BNY is expecting to welcome tens of thousands of visitors on a daily basis in the near future. Proxyclick is poised to continue helping them find ways to improve visitor experience and security in the long term.
“Today we are testing an integration between Proxyclick, the access-control system and an automated license plate scanner to help solve an ongoing issue with deliveries,” Cecere said. “Pre-registering delivery drivers was a problem, as we are often not provided with names. Pre-approving their truck plates would speed this process up.”

Finally, the tenants within the BNY have the option to move toward their own iPad experience at their building. This allows them to use Proxyclick at their buildings with their own specific workflows and visitor experience, all while connecting to the BNY’s access control system to provide the same consistent arrival experience.

Soon the BNY will deploy a wayfinding to make their 300 acres easier to navigate for visitors. With Proxyclick orchestrating access, assisting with directions, loading authorized number plates, notifying security if needed and doing it all in real time, the future looks bright in Brooklyn.

Looking ahead

The BNY has shifted to Proxyclick exclusively for new tenants/new staff/volunteers for tenants. They don't want to put security staff at risk, and this avoids them having to meet them and take their ID and information. This will be the setup at the BNY until further notice. “Proxyclick has been super helpful; I'm not sure what we would have done otherwise if we didn't have a system that was convenient and easy to use,” said Cecere.

Proxyclick also proved to be an immediate advantage in the Yard's on-premises management of the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

“BNY does not currently have many touch points for visitors, which put the company at an advantage right off the bat during COVID-19," Cecere said. "If visitors use local entrance lanes, security officers at guard booths will type into Proxyclick kiosks for guests. This helped a lot during the crisis, as the process has been almost entirely ‘touchless’ for visitors."

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