Mobile Credential Primer

Aug. 2, 2019

Smartphones are incredible when you think about what they can do. You can use them to book a flight, make a movie and even pay for your morning coffee. And, moreover, nearly everyone has one on them at all times, making them a great way to roll out new ways of doing things.

One such thing is using them for access control. Some of the most common methods involve the generation of a QR code, which is sent to the smartphone with an email or a message. By scanning the code with the right credentials on a controller, access can be automatically granted.

Three reasons mobile keys are on the rise

From magnetic cards to biometrics, today opening a door can involve much more than a key and a lock; smartphones are just one of the latest trends in access control. Studying the phenomena, we have identified three factors that have contributed to its rise.

1.  Mobile technology is already widely used for identification

New functions of mobile software allow users to save different kinds of authentication, like a plane ticket or a credit card. Combined with QR codes and Bluetooth, our smartphones can grant us access to the concert of our favorite band, a cinema and even public transport, sparing us the hassle of printing and bringing along a paper ticket. As well as convenience, this functionality is also environmentally friendly.

2.  Using mobile devices as keys aligns with the mobile-first preferences of today’s workforces

According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of American adults owned a smartphone in March 2018, and 1 in 5 access the internet only through their phones. This means most American workers have their devices with them at all times and the using them for access control requires little to know training since it is a familiar process. This means the easy and intuitive end user experience enables mobile devices for access control to be swiftly introduced as a part of the employees’ daily routine.

3.  It’s cost-effective

Smartphone access control is a simpler way for companies to manage identification credentials, as it eliminates numerous manual tasks related to handling, printing, distributing and disposing of physical identity badges.

Now let’s take a look at how this solution is commonly used and, therefore, in which situations you should consider adopting it.

As each code is unique and has a defined place (and sometimes time) where it can be used to access an area, mobile credentials are very convenient for use in commercial buildings. They can handle access for full-time staff members, but also be used to grant access to the occasional visitor, who can easily have one-off access credentials sent to their mobile phone.

Mobile credentials are also useful from an administrative point of view, as it makes it much easier to give access to external people. Instead of meeting each visitor at the entrance, it is possible to simply send out an invitation via email, and voilà, they have access, taking the fuss of making new cards away.

Being able to create single-use keys that are read at the door, also means that security personnel can see who is on-site at all times. Further, the fact that the access control will not work after the allocated visit time improves security by ensuring keys are not duplicated or lost, which could pose a security risk.

Small companies with less than 200 employees are the most common adopters of this technology to date, installing smartphone access control on the busiest doors, depending on the type of company.

For example, a shop might select the supply and staff room entrances, while an office might install mobile access control on its main entrance. Often the overall access control system is much larger – about 20 to 30 points of access – but using mobile credentials for the busiest entrances makes for a better user experience.

Instead of frantically searching in their bag or pockets for an elusive card, people can simply use their phones; this is more convenient as well as less stressful, especially if they are carrying a lot in their hands, like a box of supplies. Due to the personal expense of replacing a mobile device, people also typically take better care of their phones than a key or pass-card, which can be easily forgotten or misplaced.

Installation Tips & Tricks

Adding a new piece of security – from scratch or to an existing system – is a delicate process, so here’s some suggestions to make sure everything is ready to make mobile credentials work at their best.

Configure the system hardware before you install it

By doing so, you can install the necessary pieces faster and verify your installation when you are at the site.

Use edge controllers

Having a centralized system is not always the best choice. By installing the controller on the edge of its corresponding entrance, you can verify the installation and check that it works more easily than with traditional systems, where the master is located centrally.

Make sure you have configured a test credential

Testing is crucial. Before you buy a car, you usually take it out for a drive, in the same way you should be ready with some test credentials on your phone, making sure the installation was successful and is ready to be used.

To conclude, smartphone access control is becoming a popular solution for small companied, as it enables mobile devices — including wearables — to function as credentials in providing access to secured buildings, rooms and areas.

This not only increases operational convenience and efficiency for today’s mobile-enabled workforces, while also providing a more cost effective and simpler way for companies to manage identification credentials for both employees and visitors.

Mobile access control can be used to either compliment or traditional physical cards and, as the penetration of smartphones grows in counties all over the world, we can only expect to see its adoption becoming more and more frequent.

Pia Hantoft is the guiding force in access control product development at Axis Communications. Pia has experience gained from several companies active within the access control industry and is based in the company’s Lund (Sweden) headquarters. She also travels often to support client projects. In her free time, Pia enjoys country life, riding horses and has competed in more than 10 obstacle course races throughout Europe. Pia has degrees both in engineer and business economics from Växjö University (Sweden).