Access Control & Identity: Climb Aboard the NFC Credentials ‘Train’

Integrators need to learn about this system solution


Since November 2011, Villanova University and the University of San Francisco (USF) students and staff have been using the aptiQmobile Web-based service from Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies along with NFC (Near Field Communications) and their own personal smartphones as their credential to access dormitories, academic buildings and administration offices. The NFC credential seamlessly integrates with Villanova’s CS Gold campus card system from CBORD. To enter buildings, students simply open the aptiQmobile app and tap their phone to the smart reader on the wall in the same way that they would present their Wildcard campus identification (ID) badge.

What is behind this most comprehensive access control NFC trial in the North American marketplace to date and is it a harbinger of things to come?

Today, the great majority of colleges still deploy picture ID cards, magnetic stripe cards, mechanical keys and bar codes for access control on campus versus newer, more secure technologies such as proximity and, especially, biometrics and smart cards.

What do students want? Convenience is the ultimate student goal. Students want safety and security on campus to be as unobtrusive and transparent as possible. They do not want campus safety measures to interfere in normal activity. Tools that support this goal must enable without intruding. Technology should make their lives more convenient. If technology only “connects” them with the school, they don’t find it very valuable.

Their One Card systems are perceived as convenient and an enabling connection to accomplish their goals. Access to buildings, identification, cafeteria/food courts, library, bookstore purchases, printing and vending, in that order, are the leading applications American college students use their school-issued cards for.

How about leveraging, as a credential, something students already have? Nearly half of all students identify their cell phones as their favorite personal electronic device. It, too, is their “everything.” Some 91 percent of all mobile users keep their phone within arm’s length day and night. Already, nearly half of all students are using cell phone apps provided by their universities.

And, when it comes to credentials, two-thirds are interested in using their phone in place of an ID card. Why? They feel that they are less likely to lose their phone than an ID card.

That day is not that far off as students’ desires for using a cell phone as a credential ties in nicely with the budding discussion of NFC which will inevitably end up on cell phones. No Visa card; no MasterCard card…only their cell phone will be needed for cashless payments or to show their identity.

The smart card, as used in today’s One Card system, would be in the cell phone, allowing students—or anyone else—to carry out, in a more convenient way, all the benefits of a consolidated access card system.

 

Smart credentials: every organization’s future

With the price of smart credentials being comparable to proximity today, there is no reason not to deploy smart credentials immediately, even if the only application will be physical access control. A smart credential, for the same price, provides a higher level of security, more convenience and far greater functionality than a proximity card. One credential has the ability to manage access, payments and many other functions.

As well as their increased security capabilities, smart credentials can be used to host multiple applications, letting organizations consolidate many services on one card, producing cost savings and increased efficiencies. Additionally, smart credentials also have clear advantages over other types of cards as a public key infrastructure (PKI) solution. Storing a private key on a smart credential makes it far less vulnerable than on a PC desktop, plus the card is portable for its users. That means only the holder can make the key available. It’s not accessible until the holder makes it accessible. In addition, smart card solutions typically involve less systems integration than a full PKI.

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