November 2013

The physical security and access control market is undergoing a major transition to IP-based solutions that deliver ease of operation, simplified expansion and customization, and the ability to integrate a physical access control system (PACS) with many other solutions sharing the same network. 

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of IP-based access control is the ability to move intelligence to the door for streamlined system monitoring, management and reporting via standard web browsers.  The move to true open architecture IP-based intelligent controllers will also enable users to invest in hardware platforms that are not linked to proprietary software, simplifying future infrastructure enhancements and modifications. 

As more and more organizations embrace the advantages of IP connectivity for access control, we will also see the concept move to wireless connections, including locksets as well as NFC-enabled handsets that, initially, will simply emulate cards.  Ultimately, these NFC-enabled mobile solutions will leverage the phone’s own network connection and the cloud to move access control intelligence and decision-making all the way to the palm of one’s hand.  We will see traditional cards and digital credentials on NFC devices co-existing in the PACS, working with other applications within the IP network.

Despite the benefits of IP-based access control, security concerns have, until recently, blunted its adoption.  These concerns are rapidly waning as the industry realizes that IP-based access control actually improves security.  Integrating video surveillance with access control, for instance, offers a more comprehensive view.  When the security system enables all of the various subsystems – from video management and access control to video analytics, intrusion devices and all associated IP-based edge devices – are managed through a single user interface, situational awareness is significantly enhanced because all information can be immediately combined and correlated.

Wireless intelligent locksets are the first step to untethered connectivity in this networked access control environment.  These devices will become more prevalent as new lower-cost, energy-efficient models are introduced to the market.  Meanwhile, mobile access control with NFC-enabled handsets is also on its way, and will enable users to carry credentials on phones that fit nicely into the network environment.  The most basic approach is to replicate existing card-based access control principles:  the phone communicates identity information to a reader, which passes it to the existing access control system.  Based on a pre-defined set of access rights, the access control system makes the decision to unlock the door. This model provides a safer and more convenient way to provision, monitor and modify credential security parameters, temporarily issue credentials as needed and cancel credentials when they are lost or stolen. 

Moving beyond the initial card emulation model, the next generation of mobile access control solutions will leverage the smartphone’s on-board intelligence to complete most of the tasks now performed by the access control system. Instead of having a physically connected physical access control system, a mobile device could leverage its wireless connection to be both the key and the processor, and become the rules engine to make the access control decision.  As a result, it will be possible to build and deploy readers (and locks) without any significant intelligence or connectivity capabilities.  And, because of the interoperability benefits of open-architecture IP-based intelligent controllers, users will have a broad range of controller and reader platforms to choose from, including basic readers and wireless intelligent readers that provide access to multiple credential technologies.

IP-based access control is here and growing in adoption.  It delivers valuable benefits including simplifying operation, expansion and customization, while enabling a PACS to be integrated with many other solutions on the same network.  By moving intelligence to the door, it also streamlines system monitoring, management and reporting.  Ultimately, the concept of networked access control will be extended even further, moving access control intelligence and decision-making into NFC-enabled smartphones, and enabling us to secure far more doors electronically than ever before.

thulusi's picture

Change in the access control industry, together with innovation, is occurring at a rapid pace.   The virtualization of contactless smart cards, and their residency on smartphones, allows a whole host of new innovative thinking, along with the ability to combine many access control applications into a single, very convenient solution.

Recent new developments include using hand gestures for access control, which in the future could enhance the next generation of mobile device-based access control credentials.  Just as mouse technology was a disruptive innovation that revolutionized the computer interface, gesture-based technology will change how users interact with access control systems. 

The industry is already seeing the impact of gesture technology in gaming. Further developments are underway in the interactive TV market, where users are able to swipe through on-screen TV and game console menus by gesturing in the air from their seat on the couch.  Other developing applications for gesture technology include robots that help care for the elderly, and digital signage that can see who the customer is and display content that is relevant to them.  Now, perhaps, the access control industry is poised to experience a similar transformation.

With a simple user-defined wave of the hand or other gesture, individuals will be able to control a variety of RFID devices.  This will improve the user experience while increasing security by providing new authentication factors that go beyond something the cardholder “has” (the card) to include a gesture-based version of something the cardholder “knows” (like a password or personal identification number).

Gesture-based access control works with smartphones in a mobile access control environment, where it will be possible to use both two- and three-dimensional gestures by leveraging a smartphone’s built-in accelerometer feature.  Because the phone’s accelerometer senses movement and gravity, it can tell which way the screen is being held. This allows for a novel way of adding another authentication factor to the existing authentication scheme.  A user could present the phone to a reader, rotate it 90 degrees to the right, and then return it to the original position in order for the credential inside the phone to be read, and for access to be granted.  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.