Problem Solver: Mobile Phones Are The Next Access Control Credential

As Near Field Communications (NFC) technology is being added to a growing number of mobile handsets to enable access control as well as many other applications, more and more organizations are considering joining the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend and having their users deploy their own smart phones as their access control credentials. It is projected that over 285 million NFC-enabled smart phones were sold in 2013 and over half the phones sold in 2015 will be NFC-capable.

For those not familiar with the technology, NFC provides simplified transactions, data exchange and wireless connections between two devices that are in close proximity to each other, usually by no more than a few inches. As an example, Allegion’s aptiQmobile™ web-based key management system allows NFC-enabled smart phones to grant access to buildings and dorm rooms as well as partake of other badge ID applications.

To turn NFC-enabled smart phones into an access control credential, allowing people to use their smart phones to enter buildings in the same way they present a badge ID, users simply download the aptiQmobile app to their smart phone. Then, their access control administrator uses the aptiQmobile cloud service to send a secure mobile credential directly to the user’s phone. Once the mobile credential is downloaded, users open the app and tap their smart phone to the reader in the same way they use an ID card.


What to Do Today

It is important that organizations be prepared for smart credential and NFC deployment, even if that facility wants to install proximity, magnetic stripe or keypad readers at present. Locksmiths can help their customers by proposing multi-technology readers that combine the ability to read magnetic stripe, proximity, smart cards and NFC-enabled smart phones in just one reader. That way, when the group switches over to smart credentials, they don’t have to tear out all their old readers to install smart credential readers. During the transition, they can use both their old magnetic stripe and proximity credentials and the new smart credential.

For those customers already using aptiQ multi-technology readers, there is no need to replace readers to migrate to smart cards, smart phones or a combination of the two. These readers can work with magnetic stripe, proximity and smart cards as well as the NFC-enabled mobile phone credential all in one reader, providing an easy migration path to upgrade credentials between any of those versions at their own pace. If non-smart access technology is being used, multi-technology readers can be installed to help ease into the transition by reading both the ID badges and the smart phones. This also makes it easy for customers to operate in a hybrid world of cards and mobile if needed.

In addition, while the major carriers will ultimately offer NFC card emulation/secure element solutions, organizations wanting to utilize NFC-enabled smartphones as their access control credentials can begin the transition now. The recently introduced aptiQmobile secure peer-to-peer (P2P) NFC mode lets organizations provide the convenience of using a mobile device today.

This secure peer-to-peer solution provides several advantages. Importantly, it lets organizations use Android NFC-enabled phones regardless of choice of carriers, creating a universal solution and it even works on unlocked phones. Apple iPhone users would continue using a special case. But, for many, its most important advantage is that it lets customers across multiple market segments deploy now.

Cindy Mitchell is director, creative services for Allegion.