Fact, Fiction or Future Reality?

A gaze into the access control crystal ball reveals we are closer to sci-fi reality than you think

Iris scan is seeing new applications, with readers integrated into turnstiles. The IrisAccess system from Iris ID Systems still requires cooperation of the person to pause and look at the iris camera, but it can capture images of both eyes in two seconds from feet away, rather than inches.

Biometrics are clearly progressing to the goal of authenticating someone in full stride.


Carried Credentials

Much progress has been made in reading and transmitting data from credentials — passive contact and contactless cards as well as active devices. Near Field Communications (NFC) technology is the target of a bundle of development money from companies that include such heavy-hitters as Honeywell, Assa Abloy and HID Global. The goal is to add this technology to our smart phones and turn them into access credentials.

The TSA is piloting a program to test NFC-enabled phones for passenger ID credentials. In addition to access control, NFC-enabled phones can be useful for vending and other purchasing functions where your credit card is accepted.

It is estimated that 46 percent of smart phones will be NFC-enabled by 2016. The only caveat is battery life — there will be backlash if you cannot open your doors with a dead phone.

Another technology whose time has come is the active RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tag. Detectable through triangulation, they can alert or alarm if an individual moves to an unauthorized area. Such devices have been used for infant monitoring in hospitals for years — Vizbee RFID Solutions promotes this technology for access control and infant protection, asset (and people) tracking, warehouse management, chain-of-custody and retail.

The day may be coming where a subcutaneous active tag will help achieve the authentication dream.


Locking Devices

Until recently, locking devices have long been considered low-tech components of access control; however, developments in offline and wireless card and PIN pad locking systems have shown that locks are coming of age.

One of the benefits of these locking systems is their low cost of installation with no cabling required. Battery-powered offline locks will support thousands of activations, while many online wireless locks need to skimp on data transmission to save battery power.

This limitation has been blown away by Assa Abloy, which won one of ASIS’s 2012 Accolade Awards with its Securitron PowerJump inductive coupling power transfer (ICPT) device, which wirelessly transmits up to 6 watts of power (12 or 24 VDC) across the gap (up to ¼ inch wide) between the frame and door. This is the same technology that Apple uses for contactless cell phone charging. Assa Abloy’s next trick? They are researching the possibility of wireless data transmission using the same inductive coupling technology.

The company also won an ASIS accolade for its wireless, battery-powered cabinet lock (from HES) with built-in contactless smart card reader. This provides a cost-effective solution for access to individual racks in data centers and web hosting/IT hotel facilities.


The Future?

Regardless of the state of the economy, innovation is alive and kicking. New technologies will continue to surface; in fact, research is under way in Finland on the measurement and analysis of rapid involuntary eye movements called saccades. Patterns of these movements are as unique as fingerprints but preliminary tests show a requirement of 30 seconds to measure enough saccades to yield a high degree of accuracy.

Moore’s Law says technology will double every two years, so whatever the outcome, we are in for a thrilling ride!


David G Aggleton, CPP, CSC, develops security system design solutions for managers and tenants in more than 150 commercial office buildings. He’s a member of the Intl. Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC.org) and the ASIS Security Architecture & Engineering Council. Email him at: dave.aggleton@aggleton.com.