Access control has come a long way from the traditional lock and key systems of the past. As technology advances, the methods we use to secure our buildings and assets have evolved dramatically. Today, we find ourselves at the forefront of a new era in security – one where physical contact is minimized, and convenience is maximized. The ongoing global health crisis has accelerated the demand for touchless solutions in various aspects of our lives. Access control is no exception. In this blog, we’ll delve into the future of security through the lens of touchless access control systems, with a particular focus on mobile-based access.
Understanding Touchless Access Control
What is Touchless Access Control?
Touchless access control represents a paradigm shift in how we manage and secure physical spaces. Traditionally, access control systems relied on physical interaction, such as inserting keys or swiping access cards. However, touchless access control completely redefines this process by eliminating the need for any direct physical contact between the user and the access point.
Key Components of Mobile-Based Touchless Access Control Systems
Mobile-based touchless access control systems leverage the capabilities of smartphones to grant or deny access to secured areas. These systems offer a seamless and convenient way for individuals to interact with access points while maintaining a high level of security. Here are the key components that make up mobile-based touchless access control systems:
Mobile Devices as Credentials
The cornerstone of mobile-based access control is the use of smartphones as access credentials. Users can register their mobile devices, and these devices become their virtual keys. The smartphone serves as a secure token for authentication, replacing traditional access cards or physical keys.
To facilitate mobile-based access control, organizations typically provide users with dedicated mobile apps. These apps are installed on users’ smartphones and act as the interface for interacting with access points. Users can use the app to request access, receive digital keys, and manage their access permissions.
Proximity sensors are installed at access points, such as doors, turnstiles, or gates. These sensors detect the presence of authorized mobile devices as users approach. Proximity sensors use technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), NFC (Near Field Communication), or Wi-Fi to establish a connection with the mobile device.
Mobile-based access control systems employ robust authentication protocols to verify the identity of users. Authentication may involve one or more of the following methods:
Biometrics: Many smartphones are equipped with biometric sensors, such as fingerprint readers, facial recognition cameras, or iris scanners. Users can authenticate themselves by simply using these biometric features.
PIN or Passcode: Users may be required to enter a PIN or passcode on their smartphones as an additional layer of security.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Combining multiple authentication methods, such as biometrics and PINs, enhances security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of verification.
Secure Communication Protocols
To ensure the security of data transmission between mobile devices and access points, mobile-based systems use secure communication protocols like HTTPS or TLS. These protocols encrypt data, protecting it from interception or tampering.
Cloud-based management platforms are often employed to centralize the administration of mobile-based access control systems. This allows administrators to remotely manage user access, update permissions, and monitor access events in real-time.
Access Control Dashboard
Administrators use access control dashboards provided by the system to manage and monitor the access control system. From the dashboard, they can configure access policies, view access logs, and make real-time decisions regarding access requests.
Integration with Existing Infrastructure
Mobile-based access control systems can integrate seamlessly with existing security infrastructure. This includes connecting with security cameras, alarms, and other security devices to enhance overall security and surveillance capabilities.
User Enrollment and Onboarding
User onboarding involves registering users’ mobile devices with the access control system. This process typically includes downloading the mobile app, creating user profiles, and pairing devices with proximity sensors. User training ensures that individuals understand how to use the system effectively.
How Mobile-Based Access Works
Mobile-based access control systems leverage smartphones as virtual keys, offering a contactless and secure method for granting or denying access to secured areas. Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how mobile-based access works:
User Registration and Enrollment
Mobile App Installation: Users start by installing a dedicated mobile app provided by the access control system provider. This app serves as the interface for interacting with the access points.
User Account Creation: Users create accounts within the app, providing their personal information and creating login credentials. During this process, they may also need to verify their identity using email or other methods.
Mobile Device Pairing: To link their mobile device with the access control system, users often pair their smartphones with access points or the cloud-based management system. This is typically done through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or other wireless communication protocols.
Access Request: When users approach an access point, they use the mobile app to request access to a secured area. This can be done by selecting the relevant access point within the app or by simply being in proximity to the access point, which triggers the request automatically.
Authentication: To proceed, the user must authenticate themselves. This authentication can take several forms, including:
Biometrics: Users may need to use their smartphone’s biometric features (e.g., fingerprint, facial recognition) to verify their identity.
PIN or Passcode: Some systems require users to enter a PIN or passcode within the app as an additional layer of security.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): For added security, users may need to combine biometrics with a PIN or other authentication methods.
Communication with Access Point: Once the user’s identity is confirmed, the smartphone communicates with the access point. This communication can be established through various wireless technologies:
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE): Bluetooth is commonly used for communication between smartphones and access points, providing a secure and energy-efficient connection.
Near Field Communication (NFC): NFC allows for short-range communication, typically requiring the user to tap their phone near the access point.
Wi-Fi: In some cases, Wi-Fi may be used for communication, especially for remote access control.
Access Decision: The access point receives the user’s request and verifies it against the permissions stored in the system’s database. If the user has the necessary access rights and authentication is successful, the access point grants entry.
Entry and Access Logging
Access Granted: Upon successful verification, the access point unlocks, allowing the user to enter the secured area. This process is fast and seamless, enhancing user convenience.
Real-Time Logging: The system records the access event in real-time, capturing data such as the user’s identity, timestamp, and location. These access logs are invaluable for security monitoring and auditing purposes.
Remote Management and Monitoring
Administrator Control: Access control administrators can manage the system remotely through a cloud-based management platform. From this platform, they can grant or revoke access permissions, update user profiles, and monitor access events in real-time.
Alerts and Notifications: The system can be configured to send alerts and notifications to administrators in case of unusual access events or security breaches, enabling swift responses to potential threats.
Secure Communication and Data Protection
Encryption: To ensure the security of data transmission between the smartphone and the access point, secure encryption protocols such as HTTPS or TLS are used. These protocols protect data from interception or tampering.
User Data Protection: User data, including biometric information, is securely stored and protected within the mobile app and the system’s database. Stringent security measures are in place to prevent unauthorized access to this sensitive information.
Benefits of Mobile-Based Touchless Access Control
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Mobile-based access control systems often incorporate multi-factor authentication, combining something the user knows (e.g., PIN), something the user has (the mobile device), and something the user is (biometrics like fingerprints or facial recognition). This multi-layered approach significantly enhances security and reduces the risk of unauthorized access.
Real-Time Access Monitoring: Mobile-based systems provide real-time access monitoring and reporting. Administrators can instantly view access logs and receive alerts in case of suspicious or unauthorized access attempts, allowing for quick responses to security incidents.
Remote Locking and Revoking: In case of a lost or stolen mobile device, administrators can remotely lock or revoke access permissions associated with that device, preventing unauthorized entry.
Convenience and Flexibility
Contactless Entry: Users can gain access to secured areas without physical contact, eliminating the need for keys or access cards. This is especially valuable in situations where hygiene and cleanliness are a concern.
User-Friendly Experience: Mobile-based access control systems are designed with user convenience in mind. Users simply need to present their smartphones, and the system takes care of the rest. The intuitive mobile apps make it easy for individuals to request access and manage their permissions.
Customizable Access Permissions: Administrators can easily configure and customize access permissions for different users, areas, and timeframes. This level of granularity ensures that only authorized individuals can access specific locations at designated times.
Reduced Card and Key Expenses: Mobile-based access control eliminates the need for physical access cards or keys. This not only saves on the cost of producing and replacing physical credentials but also reduces the risk of lost or stolen cards.
Lower Maintenance Costs: Mobile-based systems are typically low-maintenance. There are no physical cards to replace, and software updates can be managed remotely, reducing the need for on-site maintenance.
Scalability: Mobile-based systems are easily scalable, making them cost-effective for organizations of all sizes. Adding or removing users and access points can be done without significant infrastructure changes.
Adaptability to Growth: Mobile-based access control systems can adapt to the evolving needs of an organization. Whether you’re expanding your facility, adding more users, or changing access policies, these systems can accommodate changes without major overhauls.
Integration with Existing Infrastructure: Mobile-based systems can seamlessly integrate with existing security infrastructure, including surveillance cameras, alarms, and building management systems, enhancing overall security and operational efficiency.
Security of Mobile-Based Access Control
Security and reliability are paramount when it comes to mobile-based access control systems. Ensuring that access to sensitive areas is both secure and dependable is critical for organizations of all types. Here, we’ll delve into the security and reliability aspects of mobile-based access control systems:
Mobile Device Security Measures
Device Locking and Encryption: To ensure the security of mobile devices, users are encouraged to set up device locks (PIN, passcode, pattern, or biometric locks like fingerprint or facial recognition). These locks prevent unauthorized access to the device itself.
Encryption and Authentication Protocols
Secure Communication: Mobile-based access control systems use robust encryption protocols (e.g., HTTPS, TLS) to secure data transmission between the mobile device and access points. This encryption ensures that data exchanged during the authentication process remains confidential and protected from interception.
Authentication Assurance: Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is often employed to verify the user’s identity securely. Combining something the user knows (e.g. PIN), something the user has (the mobile device), and something the user is (biometrics) adds an additional layer of security.
Secure Storage of Credentials
Biometric Data: When biometric authentication methods like fingerprints or facial recognition are used, the biometric data is stored securely on the mobile device itself and is not accessible to other apps or services.
Access Tokens: Access tokens, which are used to verify the user’s identity, are securely stored within the mobile app and protected from unauthorized access.
Continuous Security Updates
App Updates: Regular updates to the mobile app, including security patches, are essential to address vulnerabilities and maintain the system’s overall security. Users should be encouraged to keep their apps up to date.
Security Monitoring and Alerts
Real-Time Monitoring: Access control administrators and security personnel can monitor access events in real-time. Suspicious or unauthorized access attempts trigger alerts, enabling swift responses to potential security threats.