NFC enabled smartphones might replace traditional keys and cards

Ian Lowe

Ian Lowe

Could today's mobile phones signal the end of a pocketful of keys and cards? The answer is yes, according to Ian Lowe, senior product marketing manager at HID Global. He argues that modern personal wireless technology such as NFC and Bluetooth already now is revolutionising the access control market.

It is often said that innovation comes from the confluence of several existing technologies. Today, we have such an event occurring in smartphones, with the de facto inclusion of accelerometers, the addition of personal wireless technology (NFC and Bluetooth), and a powerful computing platform that is (almost) always connected. Voila!

This is a perfect recipe for disruptive innovation in the access control market. Mobile access control, or using one's NFC-enabled smartphone to access buildings, makes it possible to use a smartphone in the same way one uses a mechanical key or smartcard to open a door. Thanks to NFC a smartphone can now securely house "digital keys" with a user's identity data. These smartphones with digital keys can be incorporated into the business infrastructure not only to open doors, but also to login into computer networks and to perform many other traditional smart card applications.

This shift – that is, the corporate identity badge and access card moving onto NFC-enabled smartphones – ushers in an entirely new level of user convenience. It will also enable new forms and additional factors of authentication for increased security of a user's identity in a world where security threats continue to grow and privacy assurances are increasingly critical. Mobile access control allows users to add GPS (where you are) as well as biometrics to traditional authentication methods (something you know, such as a password and something you have, such as a phone). The addition of gesture-based access control to this model will take authentication a step beyond by enabling a user to define a series of hand-motion sequences or gestures to be used to control the operation of an RFID-based device.

This means that when gesture-based access control is incorporated into an NFC smartphone, users will be able to define gesture-based passwords that can work in a two-dimensional mode similar to a combination lock. Users will also be able to utilise 3D motions such as moving their phone to the left, right, forward and backward to trigger a door to open. So in the future when you see someone waving their phone at a secure door and it opens, don't be surprised. "Open Sesame" has arrived.

By Ian Lowe, senior product marketing manager, Identity Assurance, HID Global.

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