Access Control & Identity: Got NFC?

Integrators look to add to their solutions set with this technology

Once phone manufacturing technology catches up, Near Field Communications (NFC) on cell phones promises to be a secure, effective solution for access control.

With NFC, users simply wave their cellphone, instead of an access badge, at a reader, as a credential for access to labs, office suites or other secured areas.

“NFC is an exciting and promising technology for the electronic security industry but for the most part it’s still in the pilot program phase in the U.S. market,” said Ron Oetjen, president of Intelligent Access Systems (IAS) in Garner, N.C. IAS has offices in Atlanta, Raleigh and Pittsburgh. Today, IAS is consulting its clients on the technology and helping them with the considerations for adding NFC to their technology roadmap.

“NFC is becoming an important check-box in vendor selection for many of our customers,” added Ayman S. Ashour, CEO of Identive Group Inc., Santa Ana, Calif. “We are beginning to see NFC create new markets for our integrators in residential, hospitality and other environments wishing to make access more convenient for people while lowering the overall credential costs.”

Sarah Ledwith, marketing manager, colleges and universities with the CBORD Group Inc., Ithaca, N.Y., said the learning curve with NFC is not steep for integrators who work with access control technology. “The NFC-enabled phone works exactly as a card would,” she explained. “The phone emulates the card. The reader processes the transaction exactly as it would if the card were presented.”

Demand on the upswing

“We are seeing a strong demand for a wide range of mobile one-card solutions ranging from apps to NFC to web services,” said Ledwith. In addition to access control, she noted NFC is well received for spending at dining locations, and even for laundry payments at colleges.

Identive Group said NFC is a “soon to be a ubiquitous technology” since it allows users to extend their digital lifestyles into the physical world.

”We are absolutely seeing demand for NFC at the door, coming from small pockets within both corporate and government customers who wish to simplify physical and logical access with ‘tap to enter’ and ‘tap to log in.’ Residential and hospitality are among the larger near-term market opportunities,” said Jason Hart, Identive’s executive vice president, Identity Management and Cloud Solutions.

NFC is similar to Bluetooth but different in outlook. “Bluetooth continues to be popular in residential applications because of its ubiquity, but ultimately, because NFC uses the same contactless technology that is already present in many modern building and payment systems (i.e. RFID readers and terminals that either can read NFC or easily be upgraded to read NFC) we believe it is more likely that NFC will be the predominant technology used,” Hart said.

Typically, NFC is not a standalone or forklift upgrade. “NFC can certainly be combined with traditional access,” Ledwith said.

There are two models for delivering NFC credentials in the phone—using a cloud-based, SaaS service which is a recurring service and a per credential model to suit the customers budget and requirements.

Based on his experience during customer conversations, Oetjen said he expects there will be an interest in NFC technology for both access control and for logical security applications such as network or PC log-in. Colleges will be interested in phone-based NFC due to the large number of users and the opportunities campus wide to use NFC in revenue collection applications such as parking, cafeteria or bookstore.

For integrators, the sell may be different in business or government settings where phone-based NFC could be mandated and the tools provided by the enterprise. At a college campus, it is difficult to demand every student carry a smartphone to get access to dorms—although most students do. That said, there are many anticipated advantages to NFC.


Major pluses

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