Exclusive: How the smartphone powers the smart office


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State-of-the-art mobile technology means that the age of the smart office is now upon us, according to ELATEC.

The world has been moving towards the smart office for years, but 2020 and 2021 have accelerated these trends. Today’s workers demand convenience, mobility and the ability to work from anywhere. At the same time, both physical and data security for the company are more important than ever. The smartphone is the perfect passport to tomorrow’s smart office—whether work is in person or virtual.

What makes the smart office “smart”? In large part, it’s about giving everyone easy, convenient access to all the devices, locations and systems they need—while keeping unauthorised users out. With mobile authentication solutions, the smartphone unlocks access to everything employees require on the job, from printers and workstations to parking and vending machines. The right user authentication technology drives improvements in productivity and employee satisfaction while enhancing data and physical security.

Now, employees are free to move and work anywhere, with authorisation simplified by smartphone authentication. They can access business systems securely using single sign-on in a dedicated office, at home, or from a workstation at a sister office across the globe. They can move easily between office locations using the same virtual credentials. And they can take advantage of all the productivity tools, amenities and conveniences provided by the company, from EV charging in the parking garage to secure printing at shared printers—all without sacrificing security. Here’s what it looks like.

A day in the smart office

A smart office environment protects data, assets and people, while giving employees access to everything they need at every point in the day.

  • When employees arrive, they can use their phones to gain entry to the company parking garage and plug electric vehicles into EV charging stations provided by the company for their convenience. The mobile access solution on their smartphone authorises them for these activities.
  • The elevator system automatically recognises each employee and takes them to their correct floor. As they arrive at their departments, a time-and-attendance system notes the time each person clocked in.
  • The company uses “hot desking” instead of assigned cubicles. Employees choose a workstation and authenticate themselves using a reader attached to the computer. A single sign-on system provides instant access to the business systems, networks and individual files employees are authorised to use, while protecting sensitive company data and systems from unauthorised users.
  • Employees can send print jobs from their desks and pick them up from any networked printer, simply waving the phone over the reader to start the job. The print security system ensures that sensitive printed documents can’t be picked up by the wrong person.  
  • Meeting rooms are booked via a centralised system. When employees arrive at a scheduled meeting, a reader in the meeting room display panel checks them in using their phones to verify attendance. When the presenter checks in, she is automatically logged into the A/V system, where she can access all her presentation materials.  
  • Before heading home, authorised employees can take advantage of the company fitness centre to sneak in a quick workout. The phone unlocks access to the centre and lockers to store personal belongings securely.
  • Employees working from home can use a reader provided by the company to sign into the company VPN on their personal computers and get single sign-on access to all their individual files and systems. Sensitive business and personal data are protected, no matter where employees are working.

Throughout the day, employees have not had to enter a single password or PIN. They have not needed to carry an extra card or a physical key. There is nothing they need to remember. Access to everything is convenient, secure and practically invisible. All they need is something they all carry anyway—a smartphone.  

All this may sound like a dream, but the technology to power and secure the smart office of tomorrow is already here. Universal radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers are now available that accommodate both traditional card technologies and smartphone-based authentication systems using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or Near-field Communication (NFC). These readers give companies the power to decide whether they want to use ID badges, smartphones or both.

In the smart office, an ID card or phone can unlock access to virtually anything and everything—improving convenience for workers while protecting sensitive personal and company data. It’s simple for employees to use. And easy for IT to manage. A mobile authentication system can replace all the passwords, PINs and keys currently in use across the entire business ecosystem.

Welcome to Tomorrowland

Many companies are making the switch from ID badges to mobile credentials on a smartphone. With mobile authentication systems, there are no cards to issue. Employees can simply download an app and self-register. Once their access levels have been set by IT, the phone is the key to unlocking productivity.

Users love mobile authentication because they don’t need to carry an extra card (or cards) with them. And smartphone use is nearly universal among office workers of all ages. Cards can still be issued for employees who do not have an Apple or Android device or who work in environments where smartphone use is prohibited for safety or security reasons.

So, what does the smart office look like in practice? Here are two practical examples.

Best practice: Desk and resource booking

A large US-based corporation required an authenticated workspace booking solution to manage and optimise the use of 2,400 desks and 200 meeting rooms in the US with additional meeting rooms in European offices. The readers needed to accommodate authentication technologies in use in both regions and interface with the third-party booking software they used for resource management. They also needed to support contactless check-in for employees at the desks or meeting rooms. They chose a compact universal RFID reader from ELATEC that could be integrated into point-of-use desk booking devices.

Now, employees can check into a meeting room or instantly book a desk or meeting space using the same technologies they use for building access. A green light on the desk booking device allows everyone to quickly see which workstations are free. Touchless authentication is fast, hygienic and secure, so employees can get down to work immediately.

Best practice: Meeting room check-in

A leading provider of meeting room displays needed an authentication solution that enabled easy, contactless check-in for meeting attendees. The reader had to support a variety of card and smartphone authentication technologies in use by their global customers. It also needed to integrate seamlessly into their slim displays. A compact reader from ELATEC met all of their requirements.

Meeting attendees simply wave a card or phone over the panel to book a conference room or check into the meeting. The system is easy to deploy and supports remote upgrades if their customers require new functionality or add new authentication technologies. That makes the system simple to maintain and future-proof.

A smarter office with RFID and mobile authentication

The heart of the smart office is secure, individualised access to locations, systems, equipment and services. A reader that supports RFID, BLE and NFC makes it easy for everyone.

For employees: Authentication with an ID card or smartphone reduces “password fatigue” and other headaches for end users. Access is fast, simple and secure, so they can get on with their day and stay more productive.

For IT: It’s easy to manage access levels by group or individual with a centralised system. RFID and mobile authentication systems eliminate endless password resets and improve security with encrypted credentials that can be easily turned off if access privileges change.

For solution providers and system integrators: RFID readers are easy to integrate into all kinds of “smart office” devices, from multi-function printers to elevator panels. System integrators can provide a unified solution that incorporates all devices and systems into a cohesive security ecosystem, vastly improving user satisfaction.

The perfect RFID reader needs to be powerful enough to handle all of today’s security and functionality requirements and flexible enough to adapt to tomorrow. Businesses and solution providers planning to implement smartphone authentication should look for a universal, multi-technology reader that can accommodate both HF and LF RFID along with BLE and NFC. In addition, the reader should have a robust API that enables custom functionality to support a variety of applications.

With the right authentication solution, data and assets stay protected and employees can get down to business without missing a beat. Focused. Productive. Secure.

For more information, visit: www.elatec-rfid.com

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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