SJUK Exclusive: A streamlined access experience

June 13, 2022

Gerald Grattoni, Regional Business Unit Vice President, PACS, HID Global describes how opportunities are emerging as mobile access expands across Europe.

The accelerated adoption of mobile access technologies triggered by the move to a touchless environment during the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of slowing.

This is particularly true across Europe, where nearly 90% of the population will subscribe to a mobile service by 2025. Further evidence of the region’s penchant for mobile access control can be found in HID Global’s 2021 State of Access Control report, with just over half of respondents indicating plans to upgrade their systems to mobile technology in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). 

The reduction – and in many cases elimination – of physical touchpoints and in-person contact that arose from the pandemic-driven digital transformation has brought to light new use cases that benefit from the safety, security, convenience and efficiency of contact-free interactions.

What’s more, the rapidly advancing popularity of trusted ecosystems of cloud-connected access control devices, applications and trusted mobile identities has made mobile access easier to adopt than ever. This has, in turn, enabled myriad new services to be securely accessed through mobile phones and other smart devices.

The state of mobile access

HID Global’s 2021 State of Access Control report found that more than half of respondents have either started or completed their upgrade to mobile or planned to do so soon – an upward trajectory that appears to be holding steady based on preliminary data from HID’s forthcoming report. Identification such as photo badges, logical access to IT resources and visitor management systems are the most common use cases for access control applications.

Early data from the HID survey also shows that, despite being used by fewer organisations, newer technologies including biometrics – fingerprint, facial and/or iris recognition – and mobile IDs are still enjoying a significant uptake in the marketplace. These findings align with expectations that over the next few years a combination of biometrics and cloud-based identity management solutions will fuel more secure and faster interactions with technologies used to access places and experiences.

In terms of what’s driving the move to replace physical access control, most respondents pointed to their organisation’s pandemic response and the need for touchless solutions. Other common responses – many of which are mirrored in the preliminary results of the soon-to-be-released 2022 HID survey – were a desire to take advantage of applications available in new technologies and to make physical access administration easier with digital processes.

Because of their promise of convenience, advanced security and flexibility, mobile access control systems represent the confluence of all these drivers, with the added benefits of enhanced touchless experiences and broader read ranges. An additional benefit comes from convenience, including the ability to provision and revoke credentials over the air, further limiting physical contact and improving access control administration with a digital, cloud-based platform.

Such was the case for Żabka, a convenience store chain with 7,000 locations across Poland and the Czech Republic that wanted to go beyond traditional building access control for its newly constructed headquarters in Poznań, Poland. Specifically, it wanted a modern, intelligent and automated office enabled by one integrated solution that utilised mobile identities and a custom application to simplify use of office functionalities, accelerate and automate administrative processes and optimise the management of access control and building-wide security.

A collaboration with HID Global, Zonifero and Cnergy resulted in the creation of a comprehensive ecosystem that digitised access control processes and integrated surveillance tools on a single security management platform. By eliminating physical access cards, Żabka can easily and quickly add new users and issue mobile IDs permanently or QR code-based, one-time passes for guests. Employees need only a smartphone application to move around the office and use various amenities.

Mobile identities, contactless employee onboarding, touchless visitor management, time and attendance and integration with the security system of the entire building are all facilitated within the custom Żabway app, supported by HID Seos technology and using state-of-the-art readers to authorise credentials using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. Onboarding new employees and deactivating the card in the event of a lost or stolen phone to a user’s new device is now managed remotely, creating a simple and safe process that can be managed anywhere without physical contact.

Importantly, mobile access control systems like Żabka’s take advantage of the ubiquitous nature of personal smart devices that are compatible with mobile-based access control technology. Indeed, the explosive expansion of the infrastructure to support digital transactions over the past two years happened in tandem with a rapid uptake in mobile wallet apps to house digital identities on mobile devices, with FIS PACE research finding that 32% of mobile wallet (such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay) users now have three or more mobile wallets downloaded on their smartphones.

Real-world applications

Like Żabka, the list of companies and organisations benefiting from the transition to mobile access is growing rapidly. Each success story contributes to the growing body of evidence demonstrating why mobile access is the wave of today – and tomorrow.

The prestigious Les Roches Marbella campus in Spain is a real-life training site for elite hospitality professionals. As such, it must offer an authentic, hands-on experience to its students that also reflects the luxurious living and progressive comforts expected from high end hospitality properties and their employees.

To ensure it remained ahead of the curve when it comes to exemplary learning based on cutting-edge technologies, administrators wanted to evolve its mobile ecosystem to include “digital badge” access across its campus to replace students’ plastic access cards with a digital ID on a smartphone to serve as the verification for daily physical access and digital touchpoints. Doing so would also allow the school to steer digital transformation and student efficiencies throughout its security and administrative functions.

HID was able to provide a system that met each of the school’s requirements for its digital transformation. The complete solution is a collection of more than 40 access points featuring mobile identification, app, portal and reader technologies from the robust HID mobile ecosystem, including HID OMNIKEY readers and reader modules, HID Signo access control readers and Seos credentials.

The resulting best-in-class mobile access system aligns with Les Roches Marbella’s wider objective to be an example of innovation and excellence in global hospitality training, both within its own brand family, as well as within the broader realm of higher education. Beyond elevating the student experience through the convenience of mobile IDs and strengthening security, the school now has an extremely efficient, flexible and scalable solution that can grow with them as technologies evolve and digital trends continue to transform.

Among the immediate improvements the school realised from the mobile solution was seen during the student registration check-in event that takes place each semester. All students now use the mobile access system on campus, registering digitally either in person or remotely, with credentials available via a smartphone that make scaling individual access significantly easier for IT, faculty and students. Les Roches Marbella also applied its own in-house ingenuity to the system to foster disruptive thinking. The school used 3D printers to design a customised case to house phones/tablets alongside access modules, creating a unique, homegrown handheld tool that easily allows campus security personnel to check IDs as required.

Among Les Roches Marbella’s next mobile access initiatives is automated student attendance tracking to save time at the beginning of each class period and serve as another way to further support and protect students. Mini-computers and readers will be installed in each classroom and students will use their mobile ID via their smartphone to mark attendance.

Another unique and effective application of mobile access can be seen in Northern Finland, where the Municipality of Liminka sought to replace their keyless entry system controlling access to meeting rooms, indoor gym equipment and outdoor sports facilities. A primary catalyst was reducing costs associated with replacing the key tags, particularly after efforts to utilise text messaging to deliver entry codes suffered from delays that were far too long for most users. A mobile access control system could not only eliminate key tag replacement costs, but also improve the experience for people using the municipality’s gym and recreational facilities – potentially generating an uptick in visitor attendance and room bookings.

Working with Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Security Expert access system, which leverages the HID Software Developer Kit, Liminka implemented HID Mobile Access, Seos credential technology and HID Signo Readers to provide secure, convenient digital access control throughout the municipality’s recreational facilities. Doing so allowed the municipality to take advantage of an increasingly mobile-first world by enabling mobile devices to function as secure access credentials. Administrators also leverage user data that is securely stored on the HID Origo cloud platform to seamlessly create, manage, issue and revoke credentials and assign access levels. The mobile access solution was also integrated into Liminka’s room booking system.

Along with a more satisfying user experience, the resulting mobile access system streamlined access management for the municipality. From an operational perspective, the system can be managed from anywhere without requiring in-person interactions. Using the integrated reservation system, residents and employees can use their smartphone to conveniently book sports facilities and meeting rooms. At their allotted reservation time, the user simply presents their smartphone or smartwatch to the reader by the door to allow them to securely access the space.

The number of users with mobile access is now nearly six times higher than with the previous key tag method. Further, by eliminating physical tags and text-based entry codes, the municipality has realised a 20 percent savings per user by eliminating the need to replace lost tags, physically maintain older systems, or pay to send codes to facility users by text message. Mobile IDs are also faster and more reliable than key tags, leading to a drop in support call volume compared to previous systems.

An easy transition

An important parting note is that modern physical access control solutions actually help simplify the transition to mobile systems. For example, millions of HID readers installed worldwide are already capable of using HID Mobile Access while some may require only a simple upgrade. That lets many end users quickly and efficiently adopt mobile access without requiring new or upgraded hardware installation.

With the UK and other governments employing a “learn to live with COVID-19” strategy, the need for a safe, contact-free and frictionless access experience is paramount as employees return to the office. Transitioning to mobile access allows employers to provide returning workers with a greater sense of security and protection than with physical options – and delivers the added benefits of streamlined management and lower operational costs.

For more information, visit: www.hidglobal.com/

This article was originally published in the June 2022 edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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