A 2017 Gartner study had forecast a four-fold increase in the number of organizations that will use mobile credentials for physical access control by 2020. Only 5 percent of businesses were using smartphone technology to manage access in 2016 against the expected 20 percent in 2020.
Given the omnipresence of mobile devices in everyday life and how they are changing the way we live and work, is smartphone technology the future of access control?
As the demand for access control solutions based on smartphones continues to grow, here is everything you need to know about the technology.
How does it work?
Access control based on a smartphone works in the same way as a standard RFID access card: it presents your phone to the reader, your credentials are compared with those of the access control system and access is granted or denied. Most modern mobile devices are already equipped with the necessary technology for an access control system based on smartphones, which simplifies the transition and integration.
While Bluetooth is a familiar term for many of us, Near Field Communication (NFC) is not. Although there are some similarities, there are also key differences that one must take into account with respect to the impact of NFC in an access control configuration.
Bluetooth is quite standard in all modern smartphones. In addition, most Android and Windows phones are equipped with an NFC chip that allows the phone to read NFC tags; however, the chip in iPhones with NFC capability can currently only be used for payment with Apple Pay. In such cases, NFC tags can be installed externally on phones, as well as on wristbands, key chains and a variety of other applications.
Bluetooth and NFC also differ in their ranges. While Bluetooth works from 10 m to 100 m, NFC works best when the devices are separated by about 4 cm. A higher range is not necessarily a good thing in an access control configuration, as it leaves the connection at greater risk of interference, whether intentional or not.
NFC is superior to Bluetooth in terms of ease of use. Bluetooth requires users to manually configure a connection, while NFC connects automatically.
In addition, NFC obtains better energy consumption scores, which requires minimal power compared to standard Bluetooth technology. However, Bluetooth low energy (BLE) uses less energy than NFC and is suitable for specific uses with limited data transfer within a distance of about 10 m, which makes it very suitable for access control.
What you need to know?
The general manager of Centaman Entrance Control, Michael Bystram, lists the many benefits of using mobile phone credentials for access control.
“The most obvious is the great comfort. Most of us have our smartphones at all times; It is not an extra thing to remember or load.
"It's also fast and easy to set up for new employees. You can send them a link to download the application, provide them with a code and then they will be up and running."
This quick and easy configuration makes the technology ideal for companies that use a large number of contractors. Smart phone-based systems can be provisioned remotely for contractors so that RFID access cards do not have to be issued. It also means that there is no access card to deliver at the end of the job, since access can be revoked remotely.
For both NFC and Bluetooth, the application does not need to open for access, but the phone must be turned on, which can be problematic for those who routinely use their phone's battery until it runs out.
"An access control solution based on smartphones also benefits from an additional layer of security, since most people require some kind of authentication (an access code or biometric data (face recognition or fingerprint)) to unlock their phones, "says Bystram.
Centaman input control He is currently working on several implementations of Bluetooth-based access control systems in both New Zealand and Australia.
Noting that the first Bluetooth and NFC systems were expensive, inconvenient and of varying reliability, Bystram notes that technology has come a long way in a short period of time.
"We are beginning to see not only a greater demand for access control solutions based on smartphones, but also considerable improvements in technology.
"Smart phone-based solutions may be the future for access control, but their use will always depend on security needs and customer configuration."