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Research Shows Growing Role of Mobile Access Control to Improve Sustainability, Facilitate Hybrid Work

The pace of mobile access adoption is rapidly accelerating as solutions migrate to centralized ecosystems of cloud-connected devices, applications, and mobile identities, according to two recent HID studies.

These solutions that combine digital IDs and mobile authentication technology will have even greater market potential, especially with today’s rapid uptake of digital wallets that enable keys, employee badges, and student IDs to all be placed in the wallet app.

The Pandemic Effect

The first of HID’s two studies in the third quarter of 2022 confirmed that even the seemingly simple and straightforward process of entering, exiting, and navigating the workplace was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For instance, a major trend identified in our State of Physical Access Control Report last year was the growing demand for mobile technology. This demand may initially have been spurred by the need to reduce or eliminate physical touchpoints during the pandemic. But demand did not wane as pandemic hygiene and safety mitigations eased.

66 percent said they had already upgraded to mobile readers or planned to do so.

Instead, the ability to reduce or eliminate having to touch a panel or other physical object drove the adoption of new applications that similarly benefited from the convenience, security, and efficiency of contact-free interactions with physical and digital spaces.

When survey respondents were asked about upgrading to new technology, 43 percent said they would deploy “touchless/contactless capabilities,” and 41 percent said they want any new access control system to include mobile access. Touchless technologies were identified as the single most impactful technology for improving physical access control by 20 percent of respondents, followed by mobile (18 percent). What’s more, 32 percent of respondents said they were actively using mobile IDs, and 66 percent said they had already upgraded to mobile readers or planned to do so.

Another big revelation from the 2022 survey was how much access control affected—and had been affected by—new work models. Organizations that instituted a hybrid model (both remote and in-person work) during the pandemic now needed a better way to monitor building occupancy data to optimize efficiency and make better-informed property-usage decisions.

The most common way to do this is through the organization’s access control system, according to survey respondents. Forty-two percent said they used these systems to understand employee occupancy, enabling them to evaluate office space needs, ensure desk space was available when needed, and determine how best to manage hybrid work demands. Thirty-four percent of respondents said they used these systems to understand visitor occupancy.

Among the top access-control upgrade drivers cited in the 2022 survey was the long-term convenience of replacing proprietary models with open, long-term standards and solutions.

Associated findings included:

  • 49 percent of respondents said they wanted the “ability to add or support new tech in the future.”

  • 33 percent said they would require “integration with existing security platforms.”

  • 28 percent said they desire “open-standards’ based tech.”

  • 27 percent cited “integrating with other enterprise systems” as one of their top three challenges.

Achieving these objectives requires a modern, digital-ready infrastructure that facilitates mobile adoption across systems, as well as future-ready touchless access control and the ability to scale deployments without additional large investments.

Our March 2023 State of Security and Identity Report looked more closely at these issues, revealing how the challenges of hybrid work environments are helping to push cloud-based access management even further into the mainstream by enabling integration with a range of access use cases, along with centralized control across multiple building and property technology management solutions.

Moving to the Cloud

Even before the pandemic, digital transformation and the convergence of physical and logical access moved more and more access management capabilities to the cloud. Now, the majority (81 percent) of 2023 survey respondents said they are offering a hybrid work model, and mobile and digital IDs were cited by 48 percent as the most important requirements for adapting to it.

The speed of this digital and mobile ID adoption is changing the way security operates. Identity was traditionally tied to something physical, such as a customer presenting a driver’s license when paying for goods or services by check. But today, trusted identity is increasingly a digital phenomenon, from passports to student IDs to corporate credentials. A digital ID is essentially an extension of physical identity and offers a new way to securely verify who we are, while mobile IDs are a type of digital ID that are stored on—and authenticated via—mobile devices, including smartphones and wearables.

47 percent of integrators and installers said their customers are using mobile identities for identity verification. 

Contributing to mobile identities’ adoption is the growing popularity of digital wallets from major players like Google, Apple, and Amazon, as well as the expansion of mobile ID capabilities beyond payments. Smartphone users now can add items mentioned earlier, like passports, student IDs, and corporate credentials, directly into the wallet app, as well as dorm or hotel room keys and drivers’ licenses (already allowed in eight U.S. states).

In fact, the phone may one day win out as the credential of choice in the battle for identity. Digital wallets comprised 48.6 percent of e-commerce transaction value worldwide in 2021, or just more than $2.6 trillion. In addition, digital wallets are projected to rise to 52.5 percent of transaction value in 2025, especially as expanded capabilities allow users to add more keys, IDs, and digital documents in the wallet app.

According to our 2023 survey results, 47 percent of integrators and installers said their customers are using mobile identities for identity verification. Organizations with more than 10,000 employees have the highest use of mobile IDs—despite the fact that implementing mobile IDs was not a top priority for healthcare companies, which made up the largest portion of this group.

One example of how effective mobile IDs are is in the commercial real estate (CRE) industry. Large CRE firms are implementing mobile access as part of their larger tenant experience apps. For example, New York City-based Silverstein Properties offers secure contactless access to its office buildings through employee badges in Apple Wallet. Recently, this model made its debut in the UK at 22 Bishopsgate, where it provides another example of the next step in transforming the user experience in a modern workplace.

These tenant experience platforms serve as a “single source of truth” across a variety of services and applications. They integrate access control and cloud-based credential management with visitor management, building operations (from alerts and maintenance requests to notifications about broken elevators), shared asset management (booking shared spaces, etc.), and custom experiences like local dining options and yoga schedules. Building tenants can create flexible, multi-location and hybrid work styles that include work-from-home and in-office hot-desking. Users can securely access a variety of building services through their mobile phones and other devices in the trusted access ecosystem. They also have the convenience of touchless and seamless access to doors and elevators, plus intuitive features and amenities that make their journey to and from the office easier.

Employees enjoy using their mobile phone in the office the same way they do everywhere else—as the ubiquitous command center that consolidates, on a single device, what they need for both work and life.

Looking Ahead

Cloud-based access control appeals to users through greater convenience and more choices of credential technologies. It also helps organizations future-proof solutions, adapt more quickly, deliver new and improved experiences, and take advantage of the latest solution and service innovations. As the world continues to explore hybrid work options, cloud-based access will also give organizations data analytics they need to optimize processes and while implementing and fine-tuning new workplace concepts. 

Ramesh Songukrishnasamy is the senior vice president and chief technology officer (CTO) of HID. He is one of the founding members of FiRa Consortium. Prior to joining HID, he was vice president and CTO of Honeywell’s Security and Fire Business. Songukrishnasamy provides transformational leadership and execution excellence to create and deliver high-value offerings that align technical innovation with business needs. Throughout his career, he has earned recognition for his ability to create outstanding teams, drive business transformation, and demonstrate a customer-centric approach to product design and development using lean/agile principles.

© Ramesh Songukrishnasamy