The technology used in smartphone facial recognition or digital car keys has the potential to revolutionize the way people access and move through buildings. Many common aspects of building access systems today seem outdated in comparison to technological advances in other parts of our lives: PIN pads, security badges, key cards, even physical locks and keys. However, the technology already exists with the potential to make building access simultaneously more seamless and more secure.
81 percent of the US population owns a smartphone and global rates are constantly rising as well. Many people never leave home without their smartphone and generally carry it with them throughout the day. A piece of technology we already have on our person at all times is a logical choice to replace security badges or key cards and fobs for building security. People are generally less likely to forget their phone at home than their access card, meaning they’ll almost always have their credentials with them.
As employees join or leave a company, the office no longer needs to worry about collecting and distributing keys or activating and deactivating badges. Instead, access can be granted or revoked remotely using a secure mobile app. This would also be convenient for giving temporary credentials, such as for maintenance or delivery personnel, where access could even be programmed for specific days or times.
Another application is co-working spaces, which have to handle access changes on a daily basis. Having smartphone identification and access is an easy way to manage their tenants while simultaneously providing them convenient access. Especially for small to mid-sized companies, smartphone identification systems can make access management much easier without the need for any extra resources.
Smartphones' multi-factor authentication capabilities provide opportunities for increased security as well, combining the phone itself with a PIN or even a fingerprint or other biometric data. Also, people are less likely to loan their phone to someone, especially a stranger, when compared to an access badge or card which feels like a lesser personal risk. Smartphone capabilities could also go beyond just building access, becoming a pass for designated parking spaces or a way to make purchases in a vending machine or cafeteria, for example.
Another piece of familiar smartphone tech is facial recognition, an option to make building access even more convenient and secure. Though more difficult to hack, it’s also currently more practical for a private home than a corporate office due to issues like privacy and data security. Facial recognition technology is already being used in airports, as well as retail and banking applications, to increase customer ease, efficiency, and security. Further facial recognition can also be used to check for safety issues, for example only allowing people wearing a hard hat into construction sites, or only those wearing a face mask into a public building, in the context of COVID-19.
One more innovation on the horizon is actually a very old technology being put to use in new ways. Ultra-Wideband technology, or UWB, was first used in 1901 to send Morse code. Today, however, UWB can be utilized for its ability to send and receive information while also measuring the distance between the sender and receiver. The most notable application for this technology is the opportunity for “frictionless access." Instead of stopping to scan your smartphone or your face, UWB technology can be used to automatically unlock doors as you approach just by having your phone or smart watch on you. The difference between UWB and other technologies with this type of capability (e.g. Bluetooth) is its precision, and therefore security. UWB has the capability to measure as closely as centimeters to ensure a person's proximity to a door before unlocking.
Frictionless access is the ideal future for secure buildings. “UWB technologies enable the so-called “frictionless” access without compromising security. It permits access to an area without interfering with the user’s experience,” describes Riet Cadonau, Chairman and CEO of the dormakaba Group. Users would be able to move freely throughout a building without compromising security, making access control a more passive process.
A collaboration is in the works already by BMW and Apple for frictionless car access, but many believe that’s just the beginning for UWB’s potential. For example, Boris Danev, co-founder and CEO of 3db Access, states "[s]ecure car access is only one of the countless applications of UWB technologies. UWB boosts not only personal but also industrial security." 3db Access develops low-power integrated UWB chip technology for secure contactless access control and is an international leader in the field.
It’s worth mentioning that even with these digital methods for providing and denying access, the physical components of the lock remain important. Even the most sophisticated digital system, if made cheaply, can be easily compromised by force. So while the technological advances and possibilities are exciting for the future, it’s important to continue to take all necessary precautions for true security. New technological systems need to be vetted for potential vulnerabilities, avoiding the fallacy that digital automatically equals safe. Once these new access technologies have been tested and advanced to their most-secure potential, however, they truly have the power to change the way we interact with buildings.
Read more about these topics on the dormakaba's blog.