Pilot shows smartphone potential

HID: Other applications in the works
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Monday, January 30, 2012

IRVINE, Calif.—With the announcement today of the completion of its smartphones-as-keys pilot project at Arizona State University, HID officials hope more integrators will begin to investigate how NFC-enabled smartphones might fit into their access control offerings in the future.

Saying this project is just the beginning, Karl Weintz, VP business development, mobile access, for HID Global, said eventually smartphones will be able to “be used as a reader not just a credential.”

The well-publicized ASU project was the subject of an hour-long educational session at the ASIS show in September.  The pilot involved 27 students and five staff members, 14 doors with HID iClass SE readers, four offline Sargent locks, various smartphones embedded with HID’s Secure Identity Object (SIO) technology (Apple iPhone 4s, Samsung Androids and RIM Blackberry Bolds) and service plans from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. In the future, the same technology could be used for cashless payments at the school dining halls, for parking and more, Weintz said.

HID’s parent company, Assa Abloy, completed a similar pilot project with Clarion Hotels in Sweden, and more projects with enterprise clients are underway in North America. In addition, at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, HID’s sister company, Yale Locks, and Verizon demonstrated a residential solution using phones to unlock wireless locks.

While the Yale/Verizon solution is a residential application, Weintz said it’s the kind of technology that could be useful in the future for commercial applications. A building with wired readers on the perimeter of a building could have smartphone/offline lock solutions on interior doors, where a wired solution is cost-prohibitive. This would provide a cost-effective way to “provide visibility” about who accesses those interior doors and when, he said.

Weintz said many integrators mistakenly believe you “need to have Wi-Fi or Zigbee networks to make [solutions like this] work, but you don’t,” Weintz said. “All you will need in the future is a battery-operated lock with NFC and a smartphone with NFC and a wireless carrier network such as Verizon to carry back [information] to the head end—that’s the future we’re building toward.”

HID will tweak the way its readers and phones interact and alter the design of some phone applets as the result of findings from ASU—such as ensuring the phone works as a credential even if it’s out of power.

Although a lot of customers and partners are waiting until more NFC-enabled phones are in use before seriously exploring this technology, Weintz said NFC phones soon will be ubiquitous.

"There are rumors that the next iPhone will have NFC. There are currently 26 different handsets available and NXP is predicting that there will be 70 different handset models in 2012, with Gartner Group predicting over 120 million NFC phones," he said.