The Ever-Expanding Role of Mobile in Access Control

Security Industry Association (SIA)

It’s a safe bet to assume that at any given time, your smartphone is within arm’s reach. For many—if not most—of us, these devices keep us connected to our work from anywhere, remind us of appointments, provide occasional entertainment and much more.

Now, mobile technology is also playing a key role in critical security functions, including credentialing, remote operations and alerts about alarms or other events. And given the ubiquitous nature of these devices, the potential range of opportunities is expanding almost daily. In corporate, healthcare, government, financial, education and other applications, mobile apps provide a variety of advantages.

Stronger Security

From the beginning, mobile operating systems have incorporated security in their design to address inherent concerns and issues around privacy. Compared to keys, magnetic stripe cards, proximity and other physical credentials, smart credentials and door management apps offer encryption that makes them more secure and difficult to counterfeit. Additionally, traditional access control devices for the most part do not require secondary authentication that would make them more secure. Instead, the system simply assumes that the person using the credential is the authorized user. Mobile devices, on the other hand, often require multifactor authentication.

Additionally, people typically are highly focused on making sure they have their mobile phones with them at all times. While a lost access card can be an annoyance, in general the individual simply needs to make a trip to the security office to have the old card deprovisioned and a new card issued. On the other hand, losing a cell phone can cause near panic. Because of this, employees tend to be more careful about their phones compared to a simple access card.

Greater Convenience

Because mobile technologies play such a large role in our everyday lives, we tend to expect to be able to do just about anything from anywhere. Given these devices’ ability to immediately provide information to the right individuals, they are well-suited for applications like security that rely heavily on timely information. Among these are apps for managing crises and emergency situations by allowing authorized personnel to activate crisis modes, trigger lockdowns, provide first responders with valuable information and more. Time-sensitivity isn’t limited to emergency situations, though, as remotely locking or unlocking doors, and activating or de-activating access card holders. For these applications, timeliness not only increases efficiency but can also prevent subsequent incidents from developing.

Mobile credentialing brings even more convenience to the picture. Bluetooth-enabled smartphones and other devices become more powerful when used for fast, easy and secure access credentials. New readers with the capability to accept both prox cards and mobile credentials are speeding the security market’s transition to mobile technology.

Increased Integration

Access control technology solutions that are assembled piece by piece leave organizations that choose to expand their systems with a poorly planned security structure that inhibits flexibility and impacts real-time visibility. Mobile technology enables more ideal access control solution where one credential allows access to doors, data and cloud applications, with security and tracking incorporated into every user action. There are also additional capabilities that can activate building intelligence including lighting, HVAC, elevators and more when an individual enters using their mobile ID. This high-level integration between multiple systems can also be used to trigger automated tasks like time and attendance recording.

Reduced Costs

In addition to piecemeal access control systems, organizations that maintain systems with disparate technologies find these processes to be time-consuming and expensive. Time and money costs only increase when new versions of these various systems are implemented and additional integration is required to ensure all systems continue to work together. On the other hand, physical access control system that incorporates mobile credentials can be easily upgraded to include additional functionality, such as logical access control for logging on to networks.

The labor and material costs of conventional card-based credentialing can become significant. For example, the total cost— including labor—of a basic proximity card is in the neighborhood of $12. By comparison, there are no material costs with digital credentials.

When combined, the current trends of heightened security and ever-present mobile devices we see in our everyday lives offer tremendous potential for maintaining the safety and security of people, places and assets. By deploying mobile devices for access control management, organizations benefit from greater convenience, efficiency, effectiveness and most importantly higher levels of security.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts and/or profiles are those of the authors or sources and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Security Industry Association (SIA).