Skip to Content

Going mobile ...

Going mobile ... Mobile access changing the face of physical access control forever

Going mobile

YARMOUTH, Maine—Convenience and flexibility are two important factors that people demand in their everyday lives, especially when using their smartphones. Consumers utilize their mobile devices to perform a myriad of functions, and during these uncertain times, smartphones are relied on more than ever to make access control as seamless as possible, and ultimately, enhance security for peace of mind.

Whether it is being able to open a door to a secure storage cabinet or authenticating oneself in order to enter a facility, end users now have the capability to utilize applications on their mobile devices to provide a connected, digital experience for increased security.

With security companies offering mobile, wireless and cloud technologies that meet consumer needs, end users now have a more personalized and customized access control experience right in the palm of their hands.

Convenience and Security

Steve Spatig, general manager, electronic access solutions for Southco, a global designer and manufacturer of engineered access solutions,told Security Systems News that the key benefit of providing mobile access solutions centers on the “ubiquitous nature of mobile devices today,” especially with close to 70% percent of the world currently possessing a mobile device, and most people are never without their cell phone.

“There’s a lot of technology built into these devices, they’re very secure, and it’s almost a natural progression that these devices become a credential versus other alternatives  like RFID [radio-frequency identification] cards and  other traditional credentials used in access control,” he explained. “A mobile device provides the two things that you’re typically trying to offer with any electronic access solution, security and convenience. Many times, convenience and security are two competing benefits. With a mobile device, not only is it much more convenient, but it’s also more secure. We go to great lengths to ensure that no one else can gain access into our mobile device considering the highly confidential information they contain, and for that reason a high level of security is inherent to those devices.”

Spatig pointed out the importance of mobile credentials and their impact on access control. 

“The real benefit is the ability to, in real time, issue someone a credential, and that credential can be time based,” he added. “I could send you a key from my phone to your phone, and you could immediately have a credential that gives you access for a period of time.”

Mobile credentials especially come into play during the COVID-19 pandemic, Spatig noted, as there are not as many people in facilities to issue physical credentials. “The process of issuing someone an RFID card is very difficult today, but with a mobile device, the issuer of a credential could be anywhere in the world and could send that credential to someone’s mobile phone wirelessly via the cloud,” he said.

Spatig added that touchless access is very important during these challenging times. “The advantage of touchless access is that by using your mobile device, you don’t necessarily have to touch any sort of reader. If it’s an automatically opening or closing door, you can just touch a button on your phone and the door can open or close.

“There’s a tremendous benefit in general, under the current environment, where you really have more of a need to do things remotely, and you may have people coming and going at different frequencies and into different areas within the facility that you’re really trying to track and control. It becomes that much more important to have a mobile-based system that is connected to the cloud and can give you the ability to not only control access, but also track where people are at any point in time.

Emerging Technologies

One technology that has seen the most pickup in the area of wireless access is Bluetooth, according to Spatig, again pointing out the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices, with an estimated five billion Bluetooth devices shipped each year around the world.

“Bluetooth is being imbedded in more devices, and the technology continues to evolve,” he said. “You see this ever-increasing functionality in terms of increased speed and reduced power consumption. The communication architecture is also evolving with mesh capabilities where the signal can be routed from one Bluetooth device to another. There’s been a lot of focus on what can be done with Bluetooth as the communication device between users, credentials, and locks in an access control system. The technology has progressed very much in the right direction, in terms of being very fast, very small, very low cost.”

Energy efficiency is another characteristic that has picked up steam in Bluetooth devices, Spatig said. “Ultimately, what we found is a lot of wireless technology that we deploy is not really wireless because we have to connect power into it,” he explained. “With all of the growth in Internet of Things (IoT), there’s a huge push to drive energy efficiency in all of these devices so they can run on batteries, ultimately for the life of the product.

“Bluetooth is a very low-power technology, and we continue to drive power out of our devices so that we can eliminate the need to run a power wire to the device, as well as the signal wires to enable a truly wireless deployment.”

Another emerging technology in the area of wireless access is the buildout of 5G cellular technology, Spatig noted.

“It is enabling exponentially more connected devices that are able to communicate with one another,” he said. “As 5G gets deployed, it’s enabling IoT systems to become much more prevalent within various facilities. One of the natural extensions of this system is to add in access control. Today, they’re primarily monitoring processes and performing analytics to become a more efficient operation, but a real integral part of that is access, whether it’s the building or the equipment. That has played a big role in new technologies coming out today that can leverage the speed and bandwidth that 5G brings to the table, in terms of allowing us to connect devices and very rapidly communicate from remote locations.”

With these new wireless access technologies emerging in the security industry, Spatig sees an evolution of traditional access control when moving into these mobile wireless systems.

“To me, access control is becoming more part of an IoT solution, versus this sort of physical security access control platform that was the focus in the past,” he explained. “All of the infrastructure that’s being put in place with IoT provides everything you need that the legacy access control systems would provide. Adding a wireless lock into that infrastructure and being able to access it via a wireless device that’s also connected into that infrastructure becomes a much more natural extension of what’s already there, versus having to run parallel systems.

“Mobile wireless technology is opening the door for a lot of other opportunities for electronic access beyond entry and exit doors into the building and more down to the equipment level. The new infrastructure that’s in place lends itself to much more easily adding electronic access to a locker or a security cabinet or something you want to keep secure within the building. Those can be linked back to the existing systems because there’s much less hardware required.”

Cloud-Based vs. Edge

Spatig pointed out the advantages and disadvantages of cloud-based systems versus edge computing, in regard to physical security and access control.

“Each of those has its place in physical security and access control,” he noted. “Cloud-based solutions provide a very cost-effective way to scale, without the risks of these large on-premise deployments. There are several benefits to going to the cloud, including the level of security that can be provided by the major cloud service providers, and the ability to correct  any bugs that are found, or add useful functionality in real time.  With on-premise systems, if a bug is found you might need to load new software or firmware to correct that. With cloud-based systems, you’ve got QA teams looking after those issues, making the updates as needed and pushing those down to the end user, so you get that benefit of constantly being up to date.”

Another benefit that cloud-based systems provide is the ability to manage systems in multiple buildings in remote locations because it is a much easier system to deploy, according to Spatig. “You can leverage the same web access from one building to the cloud as you would from another, all running on the same backend database, which would be in the cloud,” he explained. “It gives you much better real-time and remote credential issuance.”

Edge computing is more applicable when you are doing a lot of data analytics locally. “If you’re pulling a lot of data and you want to analyze that data and get real-time results, that may point more toward an edge-based system because you can do that computing locally and get that information quickly without network dependence,” he said. “With access control, typically if you want to send a credential, that can be done very quickly through the cloud. If you want to get an audit trail report, and you’re looking to combine a lot of data, analyze that data and get real-time results, that’s where an edge-based solution may provide more benefits.”

Pandemic Response

As the pandemic rages on, wireless/mobile access solutions that have surged to the forefront in response to COVID-19 include face, iris, and mask recognition devices. 

“What’s interesting about facial recognition is you think, ‘Well, now with everyone walking around with masks, how does facial recognition work?’" Spatig noted. “With the speed and development of this facial technology, it recognizes an individual whether you’re wearing a mask or not. That’s a technology that seems to be getting a lot of pickup. Costs are coming down, so it’s becoming much more relevant for these types of installations.”

He added that these technologies are “enabling the convergence of multiple sources of critical data within the same platform. For example, if you’ve got either a mobile phone or a tablet, that tablet can take your temperature, it can take your picture, you can present your fingerprint, and then that system could take that data and send it to the cloud or to an on-premise or edge-based system. From there, that data can all be stored and processed to not only provide access control, but also serve as a tracking system for situations like we’re in right now with COVID-19.”

In regard to real-time locating, which Spatig noted has become a “big deal” during the pandemic, he explained that this concept could “certainly be inherent” in the way that the access control system is set up, especially with wireless. “If someone goes to an access point, and that location data gets captured, and at the same time takes their temperature, and that person has a high temperature, that data could  be used in real time to look at where else this person has been and use that for COVID tracking.”

IoT and Access Control

Spatig noted that with the buildout of IoT, access control will definitely be a part of that expansion.

“I think it’s going to create these ecosystems where access control is going to become a part of a larger system, and it’s going to give us a lot of benefits,” he said. “I think it’s also going to change a lot of paradigms, in terms of what access control looks like, the cost and associated complexity, and most importantly, just the level of security and convenience that we’re going to be able to provide with these types of solutions.”


To comment on this post, please log in to your account or set up an account now.