HID says future of door access might not be cards

Fresh from a pilot project at Arizona State University, HID Global takes a look at the phone-as-credential model

#4: Who owns the client? This is a big question. If the phone is the connection to access your building, then it's Verizon, AT&T and rest of the telephony firms that have the direct connection with your customers. The thing about all those cell phone companies is that they all have a systems integration business on the side, and you can bet they want to take on more business. Some of the integrators in attendance said this was number one concern for them.

#5: If the integrator isn't selling the phones, and isn't making profit on cards and card printers any more (if it replaces the card, which is the threat), then what do they do for the project? Until Verizon and the others learn how to manage physical access control systems, they can do the integration for the databases and they can certainly hang readers on doors. But if Verizon takes over the database work and the authentication of the phones as credentials, the integrator could becomes little more than a high-tech locksmith, mounting electronic access equipment at doors. As one integrator asked during the Q&A, “We make a good living selling cards and printers, so what's going to happen when companies don't want to buy cards and printers?”

#6: What does it cost to have near-field communications on the phone? Verizon's Humphrey Chen answered this one for us. Apparently the cost is around $10-15 per device. That's cost at the manufacturer's levels. What does it cost the consumer? That's harder to answer. They might pass it along at the base price, but it's not implausible to think the cell phone firms might also just hit the customers with a monthly specialty service fee, just as today's cellular customers pay for services like text message, data access, and tethering in addition to their voice calls base fee.

#7: What happens when you want to change phones or if you forget to pay your bill? There's something to be said for a card. It's an elegant little piece of plastic. You don't have to charge it. You can fit it in your wallet. You can take it into the workout room with you (try taking that iPhone with its megapixel camera into a men's gym room and see what happens to you...), you can abuse it quite a bit before it stops working. Yes, I know people love their phones. I love my Motorola Droid, but if my phone is dead or if I left it at home, I still want to get into my office.

#8: Would this work for residential? Yes, clearly so. In fact, HID is already testing out a residential locking system that uses the phone to grant access.

#9: Is this realistic for access in the commercial world? Again, the answer is yes. HID Global already has the system in place in two of its own facilities and Hebert said he uses it regularly for access at those locations. Thanasis Molokotos, president and CEO of Assa Abloy in the Americas, said there was also a pilot project in a Stockholm hotel that allowed visitors to used phones for room access, even allowing them to by-pass the registration desk.

#10: Does NFC emulation of card technology work beyond the world of physical access? Yet again, the answer is yes. Hebert said the technology had been used in Japan for years for payment cards, so that users could pay for a coffee or buy items in the store by presenting their smart phone as the payment method, allowing readers at the retailers to register the payment information.

#11: What about adoption? The Pew Internet Project announced in June 2011 reports that 35 percent of U.S. adults own a smart phone of some kind. But that means 65 percent don't have a smart phone. The technology presupposes near 100% adoption of smart phones before it could be the de facto way a facility grants door access. And of those 35 percent of U.S. Adults who actually do have some form of smart phone, what percentage of those have NFC-capable phones? ABI Research said in a 2011 report that it expects 85 percent of Point-of-sale terminals will offer NFC capabilities by 2016, but that's just the readers, which don't need to feature nearly as much technology in a small physical form factor as the modern smart phone. Clearly, NFC adoption in smart phones is going to take longer. But there are signs NFC adoption in phones for the North American market could be picking up steam. NFCRumors.com reported earlier this month that T-Mobile is set to launch five new NFC-enabled phones by the end of the year.