The Case for Smartphone Credentials

05/31/2013 | By Jennie Morton

Learn how digital keys are opening doors

Need to unlock a door? There’s an app for that. Your smartphone can now store a digital credential that replaces physical keys, access cards, and ID badges. Launch the app and a smart reader will verify your identity data.

Your smartphone has become your alarm clock, calendar, camera, and note pad – why not let it replace your key ring too?

Instead of an ID badge or key card, you can now carry a digital credential on your smartphone. This latest option in access control minimizes the costs of physical keys and cards while offering additional identity protection.

The 411 on Mobile Credentials
You need more than just an app on a smartphone to open a door. To start with, your mobile device must be enabled with near field communication (NFC). Similar to RFID but more complex, NFC uses radio signals for two-way communication at 4 inches or less. It is the same technology used on credit and debit cards for contactless payment.

Equipped with NFC, users will then need to download their credential and the accompanying application, says Jeremy Earles, product marketing manager for Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies. For security purposes, the credential is stored in the SIM card or secure element of the phone.

“This creates a firewall between the application and the credential,” explains Peter Boriskin, director of product management for manufacturer ASSA ABLOY. “Otherwise data stored in the application area of a phone can be susceptible to malware or rogue applications.”

When their credential must be verified, users simply launch the app. The software uses NFC to initiate communication with the smart reader, which then processes the identity data just as it would with any other credential.

The digital key can also replicate the look of a traditional ID badge, Earles notes, so it can be used for manual checks by security if a reader isn’t used at a particular entrance.

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