Most of the buzz around near field communication has to do with payments with a bit reserved for marketing and loyalty possibilities. What’s going unnoticed is that the same technology can be used for physical access control to open doors at the office, at a hotel or even at home.
Daniel Berg, vice president and general manager at ASSA ABLOY Mobile Keys, says use of the mobile device as a key is going to increase exponentially as more devices are equipped with NFC. “We’ve been happy to see all the news from different phone manufacturers that they are finally rolling out compatible phones,” he says.
NFC uses the same technology as contactless smart cards, the ISO 14443 standard. So in theory any physical access control solution using that standard could port the application to a mobile device equipped with NFC.
The switch won’t happen over night, Berg says. It will take a couple of years before enough NFC devices are in circulation to warrant companies offering NFC as an option for employee physical access control.
There are also issues to address such as how a company deploys the application to the SIM or secure element of the device. “The business models and roles are still being defined, so there’s still a debate between who should do what and what should be there,” he says.
Companies could do away with printed badges when NFC reaches critical mass, Berg says. “Basically, you have a card, but it’s online as opposed to the kind of the dead card that we carry around now,” he says. “You can issue and you can revoke access rights instantly and remotely, which is of course a huge benefit.”
Other security benefits include the ability to block and revoke credentials over the air. “If somebody steals your phone, you can remove the credentials, and you can also have credentials inactivate unless the user is identified with a PIN,” Berg explains. “Compared to a physical card, you can have the same security or higher security.”
Rachel Sa of ASSA Abloy Future Labs concurs. She says that the major advantage of the mobile contactless credential lies in its ability to be sent instantly to the end user’s handset, providing a greater level of convenience and security.
The commercial sector will see the most benefit from mobile contactless credentials, says Sa. Security managers could remotely provide access credentials to all users, from visitors to high-level execs, via a central access control system, she explains. Aside from saving time and money, this would provide real-time traceability, letting managers to see precisely when a credential was used.
Hotels could build loyalty by offering check in and room access via NFC. Instead of waiting in line a hotel guest could check in online, have the room key downloaded to the handset and go right to the room.
The same app could be used to notify the guest of offers and events. “If you use your mobile to open a door, we know where the door is located, so you can add localized services,” Berg says. “You can add some simple services like checking in on Four Square or you can use it for advertisements and localized information. You can put up messages for employees when they enter the building and things like that.”
“The technology is there,” adds Berg. “Now it is up to innovative companies to put all the pieces together.”