Access Control Goes Mobile

We live in a mobile world. People use their smartphones for banking, buying groceries or requesting a ride share pickup. Why not also use these devices to enter places of employment or to gain access to a workstation? The time has come for plastic cards to give way to mobile credentials acting as a virtual key.

The process has begun.

A leading market research company forecasts the download of mobile credentials will increase at a compound annual growth rate exceeding 100% from the base year of 2017 to 2022. Within three years, 20% of the current installed base of access control readers will be mobile capable. The technology will begin to penetrate small to medium size (SMB) businesses.

The Technology

So how does it work? Employees and/or vendors download a smartphone app enabling the phone’s Bluetooth technology to communicate with door readers. As with cards, individual restrictions can be placed on mobile keys limiting access by location, date and time.

Facility visitors can receive an email with a link to the app. By downloading it, they add a mobile credential that enables them to bypass the front desk upon arrival and immediately access approved doors and workstations.


Mobile credentials heighten security. A user must have possession of a smartphone with the downloaded credential. The phones themselves require entry codes to open. Many add a biometric verification. Also, the cost of the phones and the personal data they contain make it unlikely a person will loan them to another employee. If a phone is lost or stolen, the credential can be immediately deactivated.

A smartphone’s built-in GPS technology enables facility managers, within appropriate privacy safeguards, to know where each device – and owner – are located. Mobile credentials represent a huge security upgrade over the still widely used and often hacked proximity access control protocol.

Mobile credentialing may also be part of a multi-factor authentication process when used with a PIN or biometric scan at doors to critical areas such as labs, data centers and executive offices.


The costs of smartphone-based credentials are predictable. An organization pays only for the credentials its needs, reducing or eliminating costs related to traditional access control such as the procurement and storage of plastic badges, printers and ink. Imagine the annual costs to a large university which must print thousands of new badges for incoming students.

There’s no need to purchase new phones, as most employees will prefer to use their own devices. However, there will be a need to replace or enhance existing readers in order to accommodate mobile keys. Hybrid readers capable of supporting both traditional and mobile credentials are available. Also, add-on readers can be hidden in walls and ceilings to bring Bluetooth technology to most locations. Either of these choices enable a planned, phased migration to mobile technology.

How Soon?

The technology required for mobile credentialing is proven and readily available. However, the sheer number of existing legacy card-based systems will take years to fully replace. But user’s increasing comfort level with the technology ensures organizations of all sizes will look to mobile credentialing as a meansof driving efficiencies while increasing security and convenience in access control.

Contact us for more information about starting a mobile credentialing plan for your organization.

(Chris Krajewski is general manager of Ojo Technology’s Central Valley-Sacramento operations.)