Access control sees continued push towards mobile capabilities

Subject matter experts offer varying opinions on NFC, hosted solutions and interoperability

SIW: It seems as though near field communications have been the biggest focus of access control solutions manufacturers in recent years, but what is the industry doing to enhance current technology offerings?

Jason Ouellette, director of product management, Tyco Security Products: NFC is an enormous buzzword within the industry, but one of the challenges is taking (the credential) from a piece of plastic and moving it to a smart device. There will be some early adopters – I think education will be one of those, but with corporations, it’s going to be a little slower. We’re going to see a lot of (vendors) say we’re NFC-ready, but productization is going to take more time. We see the trend coming, but it’s a slower adoption trend.

Boriskin: Mobile devices present unique security challenges, especially in the BYOD (bring your own device) model, therefore folks are especially looking at the security of an NFC virtual credential. Companies like HID have done a lot of work around adding security above and beyond NFC. NFC might be the transport mechanism, but data being sent across that medium, when secured with technologies like SEOS, is a lot more secure.

NFC can send a picture, playlist or other things phone-to-phone that don’t require security. The minute there is real value behind the transaction it changes the game. NFC is fine going up to a billboard in a mall because you don’t need much security. If this is the key to a manufacturing or critical infrastructure site, to a commercial location, or to a hospital, the data within that NFC credential needs to be much more secure.

Van Till: It’s not at all clear that NFC will catch on, either in access control or in other fields like payments. If you look at what’s being done outside the U.S. with QR codes, and where companies like Apple are going with BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), the clumsiness of NFC becomes quite apparent. I think the exciting changes are all going to be mobile, but not with NFC as everyone is expecting.

Caruthers: As a primary manufacturer of the access control hardware and software, our solutions are reader agnostic to support many forms of readers and credentials. Because of this, we are closely following the growth and development of NFC and stand ready to react as needed as this technology continues to mature.

Pires: More and more manufacturers are working towards developing open solutions that enable their software properties to more easily integrate with systems from other suppliers. One way this is occurring is through the increased availability of Application Program Interfaces (API) that provide the keys to specific software solutions that allow better integration. This new area of emphasis is in addition to developing better means of enabling enterprise level globalization and centralized database management.

SIW: What does the future look like for the proximity cards? If NFC does eventually take off and is deployed on a much wider scale, will it mean the end for proximity cards as we know them or is the existing install base much too large for them to go away completely?

Boriskin: With respect to proximity cards, it will be a long time before they go away completely. That being said, moving the credential to a mobile phone makes it so much easier to manage. Certainly the adoption of the smart credential will accelerate the end of life for prox cards. However, it may come to pass that companies that need visual identification will use a plastic card with no technology, just an ID with a hologram so you know the data printed on it is legitimate. But the technology or the secure ID lives only on the mobile device. It may be that companies that have prox will jump over smart cards and go directly to mobile phones with NFC capability.

Van Till: Prox cards will go away with or without NFC, and be replaced by mobile devices. Everyone has heard of BYOD. I call the trend for access control, BYOC—bring your own credential and that is the future.