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Access Control

Future of access: a wave of the hand

Among the access control industry’s latest developments, gesture-based technology is particularly exciting, writes Spencer Marshall, pictured, Regional Sales Manager Northern Europe, HID Global.

Just as mouse technology was a disruptive innovation that revolutionised the computer interface, gesture-based technology will change how users interact with access control systems. We are already seeing the impact of gesture technology in gaming and further developments are underway in the interactive TV market, where users are able to swipe through on-screen TV and game console menus by gesturing in the air from the couch. Now, with increasing demand for more innovative security solutions capable of countering new inside and outsider threats, the access control industry looks set to experience a similar transformation.

With a simple user-defined wave of the hand or other gesture, individuals will be able to control a variety of RFID devices. This will improve user experience while increasing security by providing new authentication factors that go beyond something the cardholder “has” (the card) to include a gesture-based version of something the cardholder “knows” (like a password or personal identification number).

Gesture-based access control works with smartphones in a mobile access control environment, where it will be possible to use both two- and three-dimensional gestures by leveraging a smartphone’s built-in accelerometer. Thanks to this feature, it senses movement and gravity, and in doing so can tell which way the screen is being held. This allows for a novel way of adding another authentication factor to the existing authentication scheme. A user could present the phone to a reader, rotate it 90 degrees to the right, and then return it to the original position in order for the credential inside the phone to be read, and for access to be granted.

Using a gesture as an identity authentication factor will increase speed and security, minimising the possibility of a rogue device surreptitiously stealing the user’s credential in a “bump and clone” attack. It is important to create awareness of how this technology can be utilised by organisations to maximise protection from incoming threats, Gestures could be used to unlock apps, to lock and unlock doors as an alternative to mechanical keys, and to secretly signal the system and security personnel when entry is occurring under duress.

Mobile access control will be rolled out in stages. In the first deployment phase, smartphones will receive digital keys that the users can then present to door readers in the same way they present today’s ID cards or badges. In the future, the phone’s on-board computing power and built-in network connectivity will be used to perform most tasks that today are jointly executed by card readers and servers or panels in traditional access control systems. This includes verifying identity with rules such as whether the access request is within a permitted time and, using the phone’s GPS capability, whether the person is actually standing at the door. Information is checked against cloud data, and the phone sends a trusted message over a cryptographically secure communication channel to open the door.

With this model, mobile devices (rather than an access control system) become the access decision-makers, and doors (rather than cards) become the ID badges. This paradigm reversal, will change how access control solutions are offered. Organisations will no longer need intelligent readers connected to back-end servers through physical cabling – just stand-alone electronic locks that can recognise a mobile device’s encrypted “open” command and operate under a set of access rules. This will dramatically reduce access control deployment costs, enabling organisations to begin securing interior doors, filing cabinets, storage units and other areas where it has been prohibitively expensive to install a traditional wired infrastructure.

Access control technologies continue to advance security and convenience while bringing new capabilities such as gestures that will be used for multi-factor authentication. As access control capabilities move beyond plastic cards to smartphones, users will be able to carry all of their ID credentials on an item they rarely lose or forget. This next-generation access control will drive new opportunities to more economic solutions that protect even more doors, drawers and other assets, while also enabling new services like authenticating documents, anywhere, anytime, by using the technology intrinsic to a mobile phone.


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