The darling of access control is mobile credentials, a convenient, touchless and seamless method. The market continues to trend upward—pushed, in part, by demand for hygienic entry control and a more secure, convenient user experience. Like any technology, systems integrators need to specify what’s right for the owner and building occupants.
Survey results from HID’s “2021 State of Physical Access Control Report” show that over 50% of the companies who responded to the study have already upgraded, are in the process of upgrading mobile credentials or have plans to deploy mobile access in the near future. In 2019, only 31% of companies were at the same stages of deploying mobile solutions.
Survey respondents indicated that less secure credential technologies are still prevalent in the industry: “Thirty-six percent of respondents reported using 125-kHz low-frequency proximity cards, legacy products that offer convenience and reliability but extremely limited security and privacy. Some companies still rely on even older and less secure technology. Twenty three percent reported using magnetic stripe cards and 17% reported using bar code technology. Their continued use exposes organizations to the risk of credential spoofing and cloning, which has been demonstrated widely, and is simple for even the least sophisticated of bad actors.”
Migrating from legacy systems to newer technologies can be difficult and costly. But there’s no question that mobile credentials will continue their march toward more widespread acceptance.
Obstacles to migration
Several companies weighed in on common obstacles faced in specifying mobile access control for customers.
“I believe that we have not yet reached the critical mass for acceptance of mobile access control,” said Eva Mach, president and CEO of Pro-Tec Design Inc., Minnetonka, Minn. Pro-Tec is a systems integrator focused on complete design-build solutions.
“Some of the reasons given by our clients for not adopting mobile access include that they want employees to wear badges, the cost of replacing hardware, continuous issues with actual performance and employees not wanting to carry two phones—so they just aren’t seeing the benefits. Higher education and multitenant residential markets appear to be moving more quickly, driven by user experience, because nearly every student has a phone and basically runs their entire life on it,” Mach said.
What other factors might be holding customers back? Mike Simon, managing partner for Connected Technologies LLC, Monument, Colo., said systems integrators need to educate their customers on technology that meets the needs of their market vertical.
“A perception by end-users is that deploying mobile credentials is perhaps more difficult,” Simon said. “Administrators may not want to deal with employees changing smartphones, or when they are damaged, lost or stolen. There may also be rules in place with regards to phone use. For some vertical markets, mobile credentials make a lot of sense. In other cases, different technologies may be a better choice.”
Another barrier may arise from integration with commonly used credential apps.
“One issue is needing to have a separate app to hold the credential,” Simon said. “It would be preferable to use the Wallet apps of Apple and Android devices so the user doesn’t need to install another app. Unfortunately, Apple has many restrictions which prevent this possibility. A few larger mobile access control players have been granted some access, but not in a way that makes a difference, because you still need to install a secondary app to be able to push the credential into the Apple Wallet app, defeating the purpose of seamless convenience. There should be a standard method for mobile credentials and use within Apple or Android phones, just as there is a standard proximity card.”
The digital transformation is moving quickly, and with it logically comes easier ways to control identity across a facility.
“The adoption of mobile credentials for access control is growing as companies look to digitally transform workplace access in the new normal of hybrid work,” said Willem Ryan, vice president of marketing and communications for AlertEnterprise, Fremont, Calif.
“Supply chain constraints on hardware for mobile-credential-compatible readers create challenges for deployment. However, innovative solutions from companies like Safetrust offer low-cost, simple upgrades to existing readers, allowing organizations to move to touchless mobile access, enterprise-grade security and support for DESFire EV3 credentials from the supplier of their choice,” he said.
Ryan said cloud-based mobile solutions can provide global centralized physical access control system management and data capture to help identify density and resource utilization of spaces. “High-security digital credentials stored in one digital wallet offer a seamless, transparent and robust end-user experience.”