Physical Access Control technology has begun moving into the cloud over the last 2-3 years, which has revolutionized backend facility management operations and maintenance. Now it’s time to adapt the front end to this reality, where Mobility is taking over – replacing access cards and employee badges with your smart phone.
The Physical/Facility Access Control market has been evolving over the last few years – with accelerating adoption of cloud-based platforms for managing access credentials, adding new users or employees and removing employee access privileges when they leave an organization. In industry sectors where employee turnover is high and where facilities need to be accessed by temporary workers and contractors, cloud-based access control systems have substantially simplified the jobs of facility managers who have labored to keep access cards and associated credentials updated, locks changed and keys tightly managed. Cloud-based Physical Access Control (PAC) has reduced these operations down to a few clicks in a browser or on a mobile device, from anywhere at any time.
Now, Mobile apps are being developed to replace access cards and manage credentials much more securely than what was possible with physical cards. Mobile devices provide extra security layers – biometric authentication on your mobile phone or PIN keys required to unlock the device in conjunction with built-in encryption capabilities provides for multi-factor authentication and the same level of security that is provided for banking and other critical applications – all without sacrificing convenience.
At Cloudastructure, we have developed a Mobile based Physical Access Control platform and are in the process of rolling it out to our existing customer base. We are also enrolling new beta customers who want to participate in this program called SmartKey. If interested – please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, we are also inviting prospective partners, system integrators and installers to join this beta program and learn how to quickly deploy mobile access credentials for your customers.
Why Mobile based Physical Access Control?
So, let’s examine why this trend will have legs and how it will drive value for users and facility managers?
Smartphone is becoming ubiquitous
Today, everyone has a smartphone, especially in developed countries. Increasingly it is the device that has emerged as the “convergence factor” – our lives revolve around it. It is therefore only logical that your access credential be as unique as your phone # or directly tied to it. No need to carry bulky access cards in your wallet, badges around your neck or laminated cards dangling on your belt.
Mobile phones are less likely to be misused or lost
Mobile phones are relatively expensive and therefore guarded relatively closely and less likely to be lost or misplaced. In fact, a smartphone user averages less than 5 minutes between interacting with their phones or at least taking a look at all the alerts, WhatsApp pings, emails, calendar reminders and other ongoing buzz in their virtual life. I personally miss my phone almost immediately – if I am not touching it or not able to see it. The practice of sharing access cards is also a risk factor for unauthorized access to facilities but this goes away when you start using mobile devices as access credential, since most people will hesitate to lend out their phones.
Smartphones are more secure than cards
Cards typically carry a key embedded in the magnetic stripe, which in most cases is not encrypted. Experienced IT hackers can watch these ‘digital keys’ stream through the network, when someone scans this to open any door in the building – it is all one needs to replicate the access card. Like in case of credit cards the new chip based cards are getting introduced but these are still not deployed for physical access control, instead the Smartphones seem to be the ‘leap’ that might solve the security problem. Smartphones allow multi-layered authentication – with its biometric, code and MAC ID combinations offers a very potent mechanism to secure physical access in the future.
Smartphones are easier to manage and operate
Cards had the unique advantage of centrally managed access credentials. With the mobile phone based credentials administration and management becomes easier since the updates instead of requiring physical cards to be swiped with new or changed credentials can be be sent wirelessly without any latency over the phone network – authorizing or revoking access credentials adding new doors and buildings in the campus or at other locations in near real time
Smartphones are location-aware
Cards typically carry a static key which has to be physically matched with the data stored in the door controller database – till then one does not know whether the card-holder has access to the building or not. The access rights are only determined once the red or green led starts blinking on the card reader by the door. With the GPS integration, the logical doors in the system database can be mapped to their physical coordinates and using proximity algorithms, it can update this directly on your Smartphone giving you a list of doors or buildings that you can access within a certain range. No more red blinking lights!
Physical access control integration with other systems literally opens doors to several other scenarios – automated temperature control, automatic music playlist sync, and integration with mobile payment systems enabling pay to open a conference room in shared office buildings or open a Airbnb accommodation – no need to risk hiding the key under the doormat or behind the flower pot.