Changing Credentials

“Are You Ready?” This early wireless message by Marconi in 1897 signalled the beginning of a wireless era which continues to change and grow. During that same time period mechanical key systems evolved from skeleton type keys to the type of pin tumbler keys we use today. Until a few short decades ago very little thought was given to how wireless technology may be used to replace the mechanical key as the credential of choice. The first electronic locking systems required some physical interaction such as pressing a keypad or swiping a magnetic stripe card.

Mobile phones first appeared In the 1970s. Early models were large, heavy, and cumbersome to use. During the past 20 years, cellular networks have emerged as the connection between mobile (cell) phones and the public phone network. During this time period cell phones have become smaller and now include many added features such as cameras, internet access, text messaging and wireless communication (bluetooth, infrared, etc.). Cell phones with these added features came to be known as ‘Smart Phones.’

The emergence of ‘smart’ cell phone features in a relatively inexpensive and small cell phone package has resulted in an explosion of sales. It is estimated that 50 percent of the U.S. population currently owns a smart phone and predictions are that by the end of 2013, approximately 70 percent of cell phone users will be using smart phones. The most interesting feature from a security industry standpoint is the ability to wirelessly communicate with specially equipped locksets.

Cell phones containing Near Field Communication (NFC) or bluetooth technology may someday supplant the venerable metal key. Locksmith Ledger will be reporting from the 2013 International Security Conference (ISC) scheduled for April 10 -April 12. Ingersoll Rand (IR) will be presenting a forum on Near Field Communication (NFC) and HID will update the industry on the latest access control trends. Phone usage as a credential has been announced as part of the HID presentation. A presentation at the 2012 ISC last year by Assa Abloy outlined many future developments in wireless NFC communication. Now those developments are ready and available.

While Ingersoll Rand, Assa Abloy and others are aiming for wireless cell phone usage in commercial building applications, residential applications have not been overlooked. A few of the currently available lock products which allow smart phone operation in residences include Kwikset Smartcode Lever locks, Schlage Touchscreen deadbolts, Yale Touchscreen deadbolts, RemoteLock deadbolt and handlesets and a Locitron product which fits over most deadbolt thumbturns and contains a motor which operates the existing thumbturn.

Building security will continue to be based on using some physical connection between the door and frame but the system which is used to operate the latch or bolt will continue to evolve. It appears that in a short time cell phone-operated locksets will have a much larger marketshare.