SJUK catches up with Gonzalo de Gisbert, Head of Product and Business Development, S-KEY, to discuss the launch of the world’s first batteryless biometric access control card to connect entry to a person’s fingerprint.
Can you tell us about the history behind Freevolt Technologies, S-KEY and its biometric smart cards?
Freevolt Technologies (formerly Drayson Technologies) is a UK-based technology company developing next generation biometric smart card products for the access control, cryptocurrency, healthcare and payment sectors.
We have recently launched S-KEY, the world’s first batteryless biometric access control card to connect entry to a person’s fingerprint, eliminating the risk of lost or stolen cards and which works with all existing NFC access control systems.
Freevolt’s mission is to deliver advanced biometric smart cards that feature fraud protection and improved access security without imposing any changes in the existing card reader infrastructure or the user experience.
Originally spun out from research completed at Imperial College London and developed over seven years, Freevolt is an award-winning suite of proprietary, patented and patent-pending technologies that recycle and harvest RF energy from radio transmission networks (NFC, cellular, Wi-Fi, etc.) to power innovative biometric smart cards.
What are the major challenges your company and its products are seeking to address?
The three major challenges we are tackling are:
- Access control: According to IBM, the average total cost of a physical security breach was $3.54 million in 2021. The soaring cost of physical, financial and data loss is driving the market for high security smart cards. The real problem remains the ability to power these cards on which data is stored securely
- Passwords and PINs can be hacked: It is well known that passwords and pins can be hacked or stolen, sometimes simply by having someone look over your shoulder when you’re at an ATM. Biometric cards are over five times more secure than a traditional four-digit pin cards and are able to tie access to an individual’s fingerprint. Gone are the days of ‘that wasn’t me’ or ‘someone stole my card and used it’. The moment that card leaves your possession, it is useless to anyone else.
- Batteryless mentality: With the proliferation of connected devices, society typically has a mentality of ‘throwing a battery at it’. This brings with it the ongoing issue of recharging as well as the cost of maintenance and disposal when thinking about sustainability. Freevolt aims to tackle this by using existing radio frequency energy which surrounds us on a daily basis to recycle that energy into powering very small, low power, devices – in this case a biometric access card. This not only adds convenience and ease of use as it works right out of the box, but it can last the life of the card without ever having to think ‘where have I left that charging dongle?’
How has the access control market changed over the past couple years?
COVID-19 has introduced many challenges into access control strategies; lockdowns and remote working have forced businesses to invest significant amounts of money into cybersecurity. However, the threat of physical intrusion remains very important as lower footfall in offices means that it’s harder to know if someone you see should or shouldn’t be there.
Pre-COVID-19 if you saw an unfamiliar face in the office, you would be inclined to challenge that individual; after two years of remote working, it is much harder to know if that individual is a new hire since the pandemic or a new cleaning/maintenance staff member. This, of course, assumes someone is there and we’re not all remote working that day!
In addition, there is the hygiene component, with many of us now less inclined to touch public or shared surfaces, such as PIN code readers. Granting access through fingerprint verification on your card is a great way for businesses to maintain robust, contactless, two-factor security measures in a post-COVID-19 world.
Can you tell us more about the biometric components incorporated in Freevolt’s S-KEY?
We use biometric components from Fingerprints, a world leader in fingerprint sensors commonly found in laptops, mobile phones, door locks, etc. They have over a 40% market share in the mobile phone market with a rich history in biometrics since the tech first started coming onto the scene.
Traditionally, biometric solutions presented a challenge with data protection, especially for regulations such as the UK and European GDPR. Yet, with S-KEY, this is not an issue as we use the on-device approach, where the biometric data is enrolled, securely stored, matched and authenticated on the card itself; this means no databases of data in the cloud.
This supports S-KEY’s ability to work seamlessly with existing infrastructure without the need for costly retrofits or software updates to handle biometric data. It also reflects our belief in privacy and that individuals should retain full control of their data.
What are the major benefits of the S-KEY for end users?
- Connects access to a person’s fingerprint, eliminating the security risk of lost or stolen cards
- No additional infrastructure costs as it works out of the box with all existing NFC card readers
- All biometric data is stored on the card, removing the need to store personal data and making GDPR and privacy compliance much simpler
- S-Key access cards are a batteryless solution which removes the cost of maintenance and delivers strong sustainability credentials
- Hygienic contactless technology ideally suited to the post-COVID-19 world.
What vertical sectors is Freevolt’s S-KEY specifically looking to target?
Initially, we are targeting the defence, manufacturing (both chemical and food) as well as health sectors where having an additional layer of security is most urgent. We have already seen an appetite for S-KEY for time and attendance systems in other verticals and are continuously working with customers in finding new applications where tying access to a person’s fingerprint provides a key benefit for businesses.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Our vision for S-KEY is to bridge the gap between physical and logical access. You might come to work, using your card to get into the building, log onto your machine, release a secure printing job etc. We really see this unified solution as a key value proposition for widespread adoption.
We also have several other projects in the healthcare and cryptocurrency spaces whereby Freevolt really provides an edge, thanks to its ability to work with just about any RF power source using NFC. Think powering a card with your mobile phone to validate a transaction or clocking in and out of work.
It’s an exciting time for us here at Freevolt as we continue to invest in our core technology to keep it ahead of the market competition and explore new opportunities in the access control space.
This article was originally published in the July 2022 edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.