Shifting Focus

Cloud-based mobile access shifts beyond security to trust and identity-aware intelligence

Organizations are changing how they look at security as users employ mobile devices for everything from opening doors to accessing information and services. The availability of wireless connections, mobile communication networks and cloud-based architectures is transforming what once was a narrowly-focused mission aimed at barring unauthorized access. Instead, the focus increasingly is on the broader challenges of adding trust to systems, services and physical environments while making them “identity-aware,” so organizations can optimize processes and efficiency while delivering the best possible user experience.

This evolution beyond a focus exclusively on security to the broader concept of trust is manifesting itself in several ways. First, the use of trusted IDs on mobile devices does, indeed, improve security as compared to using only physical ID cards. Second, these mobile IDs are creating new ways to bridge the gap between and among workers, smarter buildings and an Internet of Trusted Things (IoTT). Third, mobile IDs that leverage cloudbased architectures open the door to deep learning and other technologies that will enable intention detection while improving predictive analytics.

Relationship Between Trust and Security

Today’s technologies allow physical access control providers to move from on premise to cloud-based access control. An increasing number of traditional PACS headend system providers have started moving their solutions into the cloud with mobile ID capabilities, as a complement to their traditional access control offerings. These solutions offer the most secure way to add trust to identities in today’s increasingly digital world. All transactions related to issuing, managing and presenting mobile IDs using smartphones are conducted in a closed-circuit environment protected by end-to-end encryption. Trust is further reinforced because mobile IDs can be issued, updated and revoked anytime and anywhere that there is an internet or telecommunications networks.

Beyond applications in physical access control, mobile phones are also being used as handheld validation devices or “authenticators” for verifying online access — a mobile app is combined with public key-based cryptography and push technology to create a new experience for corporate VPN access. These solutions provide added security that is far more intuitive and user-friendly compared to traditional methods of authentication. Ultimately, these authentication solutions can be more broadly used to help increase cybersecurity for healthcare providers and digital business and enterprises while improving employee satisfaction.

Meanwhile, cloud hosting allows for continuous threat monitoring and vulnerability scanning, and provides various other privacy- preserving features. Cloud-based access control also presents the very real opportunity to create trusted, identity-aware and truly seamless access environments and experiences for end users, where cloud-based platforms for access control become the backbone to incorporate a range of existing, new and emerging technologies.

Connecting Workers, Spaces and Things

Trusted mobile IDs bridge the gap between smart buildings, the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected workers. They integrate disparate systems at lower cost and with better ROI than other approaches while enhancing monitoring and delivering a better experience as people enter, navigate and interact with buildings and their services.

Among the most popular new applications to take advantage of mobile ID capabilities is energy management, combining access control and the IoT to help facility managers more efficiently control HVAC systems. As people use their smart cards or smartphones to enter or exit a suite or common area, their trusted identities are used to automatically adjust environmental settings.

Today, trusted identities are used with proximity and real-time location services so organizations can confirm when personnel are near a given area for use cases like automatically logging employee check-ins and check-outs and for managing room occupancy to comply with health and safety regulations. In the future, people will be able to use a smart card or phone to book rooms, auto-configure audio-visual equipment and share their locations in real time for emergency mustering and safety alarms.

Cloud maintenance management software (CMMS) applications leverage the combination of mobile devices, cloud authentication services and trusted tags that are affixed to company assets to streamline and improve efficiency.

Technicians tap the tags with their mobile devices to authenticate to and access the CMMS application, acquire information and perform all tasks in a trusted authentication environment. This model is also ideal for “proof of presence” applications guard tour management, combining trusted IDs with cloudbased authentication so that users can simply tap a phone to a trusted tag to prove they were there and completed assigned tasks.

Many organizations start their path to these applications by deploying mobile-ready Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) readers that support a combination of physical ID cards and mobile IDs on smartphones, as well as older card technology during the transition. Some organizations are moving directly to a mobile-only ID model to open doors, connect to networks, and interact with smart buildings and services, while others are laying the foundation for adding these capabilities in the future. The initial impetus for upgrades is typically a desire to replace earlier lower-security ID cards. However, organizations quickly embrace the robust capabilities of advanced smart card technology and mobile IDs on smartphones as they begin equally focusing on adding multiple applications to a single credential for a more efficient, connected and enjoyable workplace.

Many other capabilities will emerge as trusted identities are used in ways that are contextually aware, continuous and truly seamless, while also delivering actionable intelligence.

Leveraging Identity Intelligence

Mobile devices used for physical access control will be increasingly connected to the cloud, and a variety of data will be consolidated to drive deep learning and improve analytics. Data will come from sources ranging from virtual/digital identities, mobile access systems, video streaming and biometrics to IoT applications, BLE sensors and location services. This data will be coupled with advanced analytics to provide services such as intention detection for a more seamless, secure and connected user experience. Within this trusted environment it will be possible to anticipate, respond to and interact with users based on their unique identity and behaviors.

Consider today’s end-to-end ecosystems that combine the power of BLE beacons, BLE-to-WiFi gateways and a cloud service portal to collect, aggregate and manage real-time data about the location of the workforce throughout a facility. This same data can also enable organizations to leverage actionable identity analytics. With a combination of trusted identities and real-time location services, organizations can monitor room usage in real time and benefit from deeper analytics around personnel movements for better insights about how to optimize usage of facilities, common areas and individual rooms. These insights help ensure safety, compliance and security in a much more holistic manner than was previously possible.

Another example is CMMS, cloud-based equipment monitoring services and other asset-management applications. The ability to understand the real-time location and the past and present condition of critical equipment, assets and other items helps organizations shift from a reactive or prescriptive approach to maintenance to a more predictive and streamlined approach to optimizing operations.

Trusted mobile IDs facilitate this, delivering increased visibility into equipment performance using multiple data points so organizations can monitor and react quickly to critical events, and leverage predictive and actionable analytics in a meaningful format for optimal asset performance. They also help determine the health and predict failure of these assets while also leveraging powerful policy engines to quickly identify potential issues and provide alerts so that organizations can take action to reduce downtime.

Predictive analytics has already been proven in access control applications. Today’s physical identity and access management (PIAM) software solutions allow organizations to prevent possible threats based on contextual data analysis. Logged data from multiple security devices and systems is transformed into critical knowledge and actionable “indicators of compromise” that not only help organizations save on their operational expenditures but also trigger automated, preventive actions for a possible threat. The same concept will be applied to mobile access and enhance the user experience as identity data is used to authenticate people and their credentials, analyze their intent, and grant access based on risk profiles and other real-time permission parameters.

Combining mobile IDs with IoT applications and other technologies using trusted identities promises to simplify systems and applications. It offers the opportunity to improve all aspects of operations – from opening doors and accessing data, networks and cloud applications, to how organizations manage assets and streamline processes while creating a better user experience. Moving forward, security will continue to be embedded more seamlessly and imperceptibly into trusted, hyper-connected IoT ecosystems that leverage identity data to deliver valuable new capabilities.

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Security Today.

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