crowded face scanning

 

Mobile phone access control: the future or the past?


 

Sean Singer VP Engineering at Princeton Identity

Published on March 28, 2020

Nowadays, there’s an app for everything. All these apps are changing the way we live. For example, mobile phone apps are replacing old-fashioned keys and keycards since just about every adult carries a phone. We’re already seeing conversion from keys to phones on college campuses, at our front doors, in our cars, at hotels and most dramatically, at the cash register. Seems like a smart move, right?

But despite their convenience, phones crammed with apps run out of batteries faster than they used to! In contrast, car keyless entry fobs typically last two to three years before you need to change the battery. Keys and plastic cards never run out of power. Nor do hotel RFID and magnetic cards that allow you access at 11PM when you return from dinner. In the past, the venerable Nokia 3310 feature phone lasted up to 30 days on standby. Compare that to a hefty iPhone 11 or Pixel 3 with all the latest apps that barely make it through a day on standby without being charged. So where does that leave us standing outside our front door at 1AM with a dead phone? And if you think you and your dead phone are a problem, consider the plight of the facilities manager at a college campus.

A college campus has thousands of students accessing dorm rooms, labs and other facilities. Just a few students locked out of their dorm at 1AM with a dead or lost phone will add to an operational nightmare that already includes:

  • Provisioning smart card or keys to those students with phone problems,
  • Providing immediate help for those struggling with the access app (e.g., Bluetooth turned off, permissions changed, phone or app updated, etc.),
  • Supporting an endless variety of phone manufacturers and operating system versions.

While we love to trust our phones with everything, contact-less biometric readers just make things simpler. Current biometric systems already have all the advantages of mobile phones such as convenience and, in these days of virus transmission, no touching common surfaces.

In addition, biometrics have a clear advantage over phones in the following areas.

  • Security — no sharing
  • Nothing to carry — can’t leave home without them
  • Quick, convenient and simple to use — no devices to manage or buttons to push
  • Reliable