How Smart is Your Phone?
The security experience is changing because today’s electronics are part of the landscape
- By Steve Van Till
- Sep 01, 2016
Smartphones have changed the way we
do business in virtually every industry
that touches the Internet, which is now
virtually every industry on the planet.
Commercial security is no exception,
but until recently the primary impacts have been on
the way that systems are administered, with mobile
platforms taking over the functions previously performed
from the desktop. With the advent of mobile
credentials, smartphones are beginning to change the
security experience for those who come and go from
buildings and public spaces we aim to protect. And as
they are changing the products that make this new age
of electronic security possible, they will also change
the relationships among manufacturers, integrators
and end users.
Mobile credentials are revolutionary not simply
because they provide greater convenience and security
than access cards and fobs—although they do a great
job on both counts. They are revolutionary because who use our buildings—tenants, employees, visitors, support staff, and all others
who walk through a door or a turnstile. This one fact has the potential to dramatically
change the dynamics between the securers and those who are secured.
One of the first visible signs of how this changes security products and integration
is that the reader at the door simply disappears. With cloud-connected mobile
credential platforms there is no longer a reason to have a physical reader at each
door because the cloud becomes the reader. This single change cuts out at least one
wiring run, some power consumption, and the amount of time it takes to equip an
entrance with access control. The productivity increase for integrators is obvious.
The resulting cost reduction makes each entrance more affordable to the purchasing
public, which in turn expands the overall market for security products.
A second change in the mobile-credential-enabled security experience is for security
administrators and everyone involved in the credential production and distribution
process. Instead of requiring a physical handoff between administrators and
authorized staff, credential issuance is now completely digital—handled by email,
text messages and application-based notifications. A side-effect of this new mode
of credentialing is that card manufacturers are cut out of the food chain—unless,
of course, they’ve had the foresight to retool their own businesses and find a way
to replace this cannibalized physical revenue stream with an equivalent digital one.
A more subtle long-term effect of mobile credentials will be all of the interactions
the security industry can imagine with this new generation of security applications.
In this respect, mobile credential applications are a sort benign Trojan
horse. They are enticing users to adopt a new technology for one set of goals—security
and convenience—but will ultimately provide them with a much broader set
of interaction capabilities.
One such capability that will come with the widespread use of mobile credentials
is the enablement of “presence,” or the monitoring of one’s whereabouts by
monitoring Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals emitted from smartphones and similar
wearable devices. While often viewed as invasive of privacy, at least at first blush,
presence monitoring will prove to be vital for the unfortunately too frequent mass
endangerment situations that recently fill the news. Presence overlays will tell first
responders where victims might be located, and help them provide instructions for
Another capability that will ride on the back of mobile credential applications
is collaborative security, or what we might call Security 2.0. Like Web 2.0, which
was defined by a shift from static web content to dynamic services with a large
amount of user-generated content (and value), this new type of security will enable
and encourage secured populations to participate in their own security. Observation,
feedback, response, and data collection are just a few of the ways that these
populations will be able to help improve security outcomes.
If we think about what security systems will look like in, say, 2025, it’s hard to
imagine that they will still be put together with miles of wiring and large, clunky
components that we see today. It’s much easier to imagine that the products that
are now external to our doors, windows, and buildings will eventually be built into
all of these physical objects. We are seeing this already with the rise of IoT devices
and connected devices in general. The electronics disappears into the thing it’s
meant to enable. But none of that would be possible without the ability to have a
convenient way of interacting with and controlling all of them.
The smartphone—or perhaps some future descendant thereof—provides the
necessary human interaction platform to enable this disappearing or building in of
digital behaviors. In that regard the emergence of mobile credentials
on smartphones and their use in security management has a
direct link to enabling this transformation in the security space.
So, next time you use a mobile credential on your phone to
open a door, think about the doors you’re really opening.
This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Security Today.