Tags: ICT

Exclusive: Why mobile credentials are the future of access control

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The world is awash with smartphones, with over 6.5 billion people now using them, writes Jon Jorundsson, ICT’s Director of Sales, EMEA.

The access control market continues to see an increase in demand for mobile credentials. Their flexibility and ease of use means that, while some sectors have been early adopters, others are only beginning to see the possibilities as they think about how they can futureproof their security investment.

Explosive growth

In a previous article, we quoted research from our friends at IPVM showing a steady increase in mobile credential usage. In 2022, this upward trend just grows. We’ve seen numbers explode at ICT, with an almost 10x increase in purchases of mobile credentials in the last two years. Damian Butters, Chief Technology Officer, ICT has claimed they will play a “big part in the future of access control.”

There is plenty of industry research that backs up the trends we are seeing. Research suggests that in the last year, almost one in five card/fob users lost their credential.

So, it’s no surprise that businesses are turning to mobile solutions due to the time and cost of replacing physical credentials. And, with findings that around 80% of American universities and colleges are already using mobile credentials or are planning to implement them over the next few years, it’s clear that the next generation of workers will continue to drive this mobile trend.

A secure mobile technology

Mobile credentials use NFC (Near-Field Communication) and Bluetooth Low Energy capabilities which are embedded in most smartphones. Radio frequencies communicate with the reader in the same way as a regular access credential card or tag.

Credentials are securely stored on the mobile device and protected with access authenticated using a secure cloud-base server and AES-256 encryption, one of the most secure methods available.

Integration brings innovation

We work with integration partners who use mobile APIs and services to develop third party apps that utilise mobile credentials. These include uses as varied as universities, offices, gyms, co-working spaces and property management for multi-family residential – with testing underway in other industries such as healthcare.

Common themes in all these examples are the ease with which mobile credentials can be deployed, and the additional benefits they can bring. No longer do co-working spaces need someone physically present to give them a key card when they signup; landlords don’t have to chase tenants for physical keys back at the end of tenancies.

Mobile credentials can be used at universities to enable integrated food payments or in offices to provide simple access to lockers or other facilities. It also virtually eliminates credential sharing, as people are very unlikely to share their phone with someone else.

Modern technology minimises downsides

With lost credentials, if a traditional key card or fob goes unnoticed or unreported it doesn’t matter how smart the card is – it can still be used to gain access if it were to fall into the wrong hands.

With a company logo on the card/lanyard, someone will know exactly where to go. In contrast, a lost phone will often be reported right away and has an extra layer of protection thanks to built-in biometric security or passcodes that are included on smartphones.

It’s also incredibly easy to issue credentials via email, removing costs of printing and delivering physical cards while also bringing environmental benefits from old plastic cards not ending up in landfill. Moreover, mobile credentials solve instances of card-cloning which is commonplace with many low-frequency card technologies.

Easing concerns for increased adoption

Even though adoption is becoming more widespread as part of modern access control solutions, there can still be hurdles to clear with some customers. One common complaint is subscription fees, which are seen as costly and unnecessary by many end users and installers. At ICT, we choose not to charge an ongoing fee, which means the one-off payment for the mobile credential is often cheaper than our other high-frequency credential options.

Early, constructive conversations can ease concerns that may exist around mobile credentials and, by removing barriers to entry, we often find it possible to get a transition or smaller scale trial over the line.

This could involve hardware such as ICT’s multi-technology tSec readers which read traditional 125kHz or 13.56MHz credentials as well as offering NFC or Bluetooth capability for mobile credentials. Once businesses dip their toes into mobile credentials and get hands-on experience, the advantages soon become clear.

We believe mobile credentials will play a vital role as the world increasingly turns to smart, mobile solutions to future proof their security investments. Mobile credentials complement existing systems by enabling secure access from smartphones. With a mobile app, you can now also monitor and control properties on the go, so it’s possible to have an access control, intrusion detection and building automation system in your pocket.

It’s our job to help educate people on the potential advantages of mobile credentials, while continuing to look at ways we can improve the technology to deliver a better experience for all parties.

This article was originally published in the July edition of International Security Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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