Promising Potential for New Access Control Technology

A group of students at Arizona State University recently participated in a pilot program that tested the use of cellular devices as a method of access control credentials. The study occurred as interest in advances in credential presentation and technology on college campuses was on the rise. A separate study by Rand Security Technology revealed that over half of America’s college students desired a way to combine their oft-used cellular phones and their access control credentials used to gain access to residence areas on campus.

The technology is called Near Field Communication, and it allows a student to access his or her residence hall using an application on a mobile phone. Traditionally, this access has been granted by presentation of a keycard. Most schools have their own names for such cards, and although they are a tried and true method of access control, near field communication is perceived to have several benefits.

Benefits

  • Students use phones constantly and desire to have everything all in one place
  • Using a downloadable mobile application for access control would save costs to the school by eliminating the need to print access control cards
  • Eliminating physical cards would, in addition to saving costs on the cards themselves, save administrative costs to the school
The Arizona State University pilot program was coordinated by HID with help from Kratos|HBE and the ASU staff. A small sampling of students were given new mobile phones, with service, for the duration of the trial. Students were asked to use the technology and report back about their usage.

As with any trial of a new technology, the trial at ASU highlighted several potential problems with the technology.

Potential Obstacles

  • Battery Life: if a phone dies, how does a student gain access to his or her residence hall?
  • Stolen Property: if a phone is lost or stolen, is a security breach a possibility?
  • Multitasking: If a student is on the phone, he or she needs to stop what he or she is doing in order to gain access to the building.
With regard to battery life, a potential solution that was entertained by HID was installation of a hot button. This technology is essentially a battery booster which would give a phone enough energy to turn on so that the reader could recognize the app. Therefore, students with a dead phone could still get into their dormitories without issue.

Proposed solutions for the security issues associated with a phone being lost are in line with security issues on all phones. Pin numbers in order to access the phone - an access control point unto themselves - could be used in order to protect one’s ability to get into the phone. With the recent release of the iPhone 5s, which has fingerprint recognition technology, built-in security solutions within a mobile device could certainly be seen as a contributor to the overall safety of a mobile access control credentials system on a college campus.
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