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The Role of Access Control Technologies with the Internet of Things

January 28, 2017

The Role of Access Control Technologies with the Internet of Things


The Internet of Things, or IoT, has been quietly growing around the globe for the last several years. In the physical security industry, these network-enabled devices and systems are already creating waves.

For those new to the term, the IoT refers to Web-enabled devices that use sensors and software to collect and share data. In security, this means intelligent cameras, network-enabled door readers, guard tour systems, intrusion detection sensors and countless other devices.

In access control, the rise of IoT-enabled devices holds plenty of promise. Thanks to the IoT, your access control customers stand to benefit from increased insight into their physical security, more rapid throughput for end users, and more.

Advanced Features

As networked access control devices become more popular, many customers are welcoming the advanced features that are promised by these IoT technologies. Today’s door panels can provide incredibly detailed information on throughput rates, traffic, and even the activity of individual users. This can help the business owner gain insight into the efficiency and effectiveness of their access control, as well as gather information following a security incident.

Meanwhile, network-enabled readers allow the administrator to set specific schedules and access levels depending on the time of day or day of the week or even during special events, which provides an enhanced level of security. They also enable the company to instantaneously block any former employees from gaining access to secure areas—a feature that is important to maintaining workplace security.

Mobile Credentials

In addition, many companies are embracing the IoT as an opportunity to use mobile credentials for access control, mainly through near-field communication (NFC). NFC is a leading method of sharing information between a portable electronic device, such as a smartphone, and a special tag that includes an NFC chip. The short-range wireless technology typically requires a distance of four centimeters or less in order to work reliably, making it perfect for access control credentialing.

Bluetooth is another option for this type of wireless communication between devices. Although Bluetooth has a larger range than NFC, these devices require a lot more power than NFC technology. For this reason, NFC is becoming increasingly popular in access control systems and allowing the end user to verify his or her identity in a faster and more convenient way.

Ensuring Full Security

For value-added resellers (VARs) working with access control systems in the IoT age, it is vital to have industry knowledge about potential vulnerabilities of IoT-friendly systems. This is particularly true as the industry continues to move more toward an IoT-centric mindset. VARs may deal increasingly with IT departments, rather than security staff, and it’s important to keep security—not just user-friendliness—at the top of your priority list.

For example, let’s say a facility allows the use of mobile credentials through NFC for employees to gain access to a high-security area. Without careful consideration of potential security holes, the NFC capabilities could be easily exploited by anyone who manages to gain access to an authorized user’s smartphone. In order to avoid these kinds of vulnerabilities, VARs should consider adding two-factor authentication, in which NFC technology is used in concert with another, more secure access control approach, such as biometrics or a PIN code.  

How has the growth of the IoT impacted your own physical security business? How do you plan to adapt to the changing role of and demand for access control technologies with regard to IoT systems?