Exclusive: Access and control in the palm of your hand


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ICT’s Director of Sales for EMEA, Jon Jorundsson explains why the security industry has increasingly turned its attention towards smartphones.

Modern mobile solutions complement your existing access control system by enabling secure access and control from your smartphone. Mobile credentials allow convenient, card-free access to unlock your door from your mobile device, while apps let you monitor and control properties on the go. It’s now possible to have an access control, intrusion detection and building automation system in your pocket.

A smart, mobile world

There has been a big uptake in mobile credentials recently. At ICT, we have seen over 225% growth in the last year alone, and according to recent reports by IPVM, they are now the preferred credential type by almost 10% of integrators (up from 0% in 2018). Locations as diverse as universities and office buildings are moving towards mobile access, driven in part by a new generation of users that demand the convenience their smartphone delivers. They’re used to paying for things with Google or Apple Pay and some already have the option of using a mobile driver’s license. People don’t see the need to carry an extra card or fob when they always have their phone on them.

As daily tasks increasingly move into the digital world and onto smartphones, there has never been a better time to take advantage of this by taking your access control system mobile.

Control and access via app

The first part of a mobile solution is the functionality provided by an access control app like ICT’s Protege Mobile App. The main purpose is to enable a remote connection from your smartphone to your security system. This means you can connect to any of your sites and check the status, arm or disarm, control lights, locks, signage, heating and cameras – from anywhere, at any time.

This is particularly useful for smaller businesses where they don’t have dedicated security staff as managers no longer have to be physically on site to let people into the building and they can respond to potential issues while on the road, or late at night from the comfort of their own home.

Mobile credential technology

Most smartphones have NFC (Near-Field Communication) and Bluetooth Low Energy capabilities embedded in them. This has enabled the development of mobile credentials for access control. While this technology isn’t new, widespread adoption in smartphones is still relatively recent.

At their most basic level, NFC and Bluetooth are wireless data transfer methods that work in a similar fashion to legacy keycard technologies like Wiegand, or the current 13.56MHz industry standard. Beyond this, NFC and Bluetooth are quite different, despite being grouped together thanks to their common uses for mobile access control.

Credentials are stored securely on the mobile device and our offering sees access authenticated using a secure cloud-based server and 256-bit encryption. They are also usually protected with a passcode or biometric security on the phone itself, adding an extra layer of protection.

Artificial barriers to adoptions

Some common reasons given for being reluctant to implement mobile credentials include an ongoing fee or subscription that some manufacturers (not ICT!) charge, or the purchase cost of mobile credentials. Most of these complaints aren’t about the actual technology, but more to do with limitations set by access control manufacturers, or even workplaces (particularly federal institutions in the US) that don’t allow the use of mobile phones.

However, in many cases mobile credentials can be cheaper than cards or fobs and because people are familiar with using technology such as contactless payments, very little education is needed to ensure correct usage. And by using a device that people always have on them, the solution is even less obtrusive than having to remember an access card and there are no more issues with lost or forgotten cards and tags.

APIs extend opportunities

By providing access to mobile APIs and services, it is possible for developers to integrate with third-party apps to access and transmit mobile credentials for use with certain readers and access control systems.

Many different places could benefit from including elements of access control into their own apps. This could be gyms and co-working spaces offering an all-in-one solution for booking and accessing facilities. Or increasing security by removing the ability to clone cards in multi-family dwellings or apartments, while also simplifying the credential issuance process for landlords and building managers.

From offices to universities, or contractor management systems, there are endless opportunities to deploy access control into an integrated third-party mobile solution. Just imagine giving pizza delivery drivers access to custom-built heated lockers to speed up the delivery process.

How to transition easily

Sometimes seeing technology working first-hand can be the best way to get used to it. Hardware such as ICT’s multi-technology tSec readers make it easy for businesses to transition to mobile credentials by reading traditional 125kHz or 13.56MHz credentials, as well as offering NFC or Bluetooth capability for mobile credentials. This means that those unfamiliar or uncomfortable with using their phone to gain access can still use keycards while they get up to speed with using a credential in an app.

By pairing mobile credentials with Bluetooth/NFC enabled readers for smartphone access, taking advantage of APIs to integrate access control into a third-party app, or using a platform like ICT’s Protege Mobile App to monitor and control businesses on the go, mobile solutions offer a smart, convenient and secure way to modernise your access control. With the uptake only likely to increase, now is the time to think about how a mobile solution for access control could benefit your business.

ICT is expanding our operations in Europe and is looking for new security installers and distribution partners to support this growth. Contact Jon via https://info.ict.co/info-request to request more information.

The age of the smartphone

The latest figures show an increasing number of smartphone users year after year. In 2021, the number of global smartphone users is estimated at 6.4 billion, marking a 5.3% annual increase. 

It is also 73.9% more than the number of smartphone users there were in 2016, just half a decade ago.

In fact, from 2016 to 2021, the total number of global smartphone users grew at an average of 11.84% annually, with the biggest growth coming in 2017. That year, the number of smartphone users grew by 20.91%.

Smartphones are also the most popular type of mobile handsets. The latest smartphone users statistics show of all the mobile handsets being used today, more than 75% are smartphones.

Reports estimate that the number of global smartphone users will continue to increase and hit 4.3 billion by 2023.

Given an expected global population of eight billion by then, that means that the smartphone penetration rate in 2023 will be at 53.8%. In other words, more than half of all people in the world will be equipped with a smartphone.

For more information, visit: www.ict.co

This article was originally published in the December 2021 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital edition here

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