The benefits of using Smart Credentials in your Access Control solution and their positive environmental impact

It’s a given – smart technology is transforming the way we live and work. There are few areas of daily life that haven’t been impacted by smart mobile devices; be those phones, tablets, watches or other; and the realm of Access Control is no different.

Whilst it’s still early days for so called ‘Smart Credentials’ technology adoption within access control solutions, its popularity is on the increase and with good reason.

So how do Smart Credentials work?

Fundamentally, using smart devices removes the need for access cards, tokens or fobs to be issued. The user downloads an app or token onto their smart device, enabling them to gain access to a building or site by using something they are already carrying around (their smart phone or watch), rather than a separate card, token or fob.

When the user wishes to gain access, a secure app is activated on their mobile device (normally by the device being in proximity to a credentials reader). The information which establishes access rights is transmitted through the air – as a digital credential. If the prerequisite conditions are met, access is permitted. In today’s world of convenience, this is right up there.

Articles and manufacturers discuss the pros and cons of this continually developing technology. But along with offering the ultimate convenience, there’s one advantage in particular that could drive long term acceptance of Smart Credentials within Access Control over alternative solutions.

Doing your bit to ‘Go Green’

The environment. In their current format, many access control solutions rely heavily on single use plastic. Within the Paris Climate Change Agreement, governments around the world have committed to reducing their country’s impact on Climate Change and the UK Government has just pledged to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030.

To meet this ambition target, the UK Government have outlined a 10-point plan and, as part of this, taxation will be implemented to encourage businesses to reduce waste, including single use plastic.

This is just one argument that a Security Installer could consider when discussing Access Control Solution options with end customers.

A huge range of benefits

There are several other benefits too:

1.Reduced Risk of Compromised Security:

Research shows that users are less likely to forget their smart devices than a security pass, access token or fob. It’s one less thing to remember to bring with you to work. They are likely to take better care of their smart device because it is personally valuable to them and/or incorporates other benefits such as the ability to manage work calls/emails/systems.

A security system is immediately compromised when a user loses their traditional access mechanism in the form of a fob/pass/token.

2. Considerable Cost Savings:

There is a huge cost associated with replacing lost or stolen access mechanisms for organisations, both physically and in terms of managing a system of re-issuing or updating security cards, fobs, etc.

Credentials within a smart device can be automatically updated and, as we’ve outlined above, are less likely to be lost or stolen because users take better care of them generally. This reduces the overall cost of ownerships of your Access Control Solution.

Even if you can recoup some of the costs, e.g. on a University Campus by charging students when they are issues with an access device, there are still considerable administration costs.

Cloud-based management portals allow administrators to create, manage, issue and revoke credentials.

3. Effortless Visitor Management

Visitors can be sent an email to download an app or token granting them temporary access privileges. These can be set up as a single use privilege or as time controlled and, importantly, can be revoked even if the visitor still has the app on their mobile device.

4. Cyber Secure

Smart Credential Access Control Solutions are highly encrypted and use randomisation, so smart devices can securely communicate with access readers.

5. True Contactless Solution

Another contemporary consideration is that Smart Credential solutions are contactless, not requiring the common touch points that PIN code readers or fingerprint biometric solutions normally do – ideal for current health and safety concerns. Intuitive “Tap” or “Twist and Go” gestures within several of the solutions on the market allow users more convenient and efficient access.

6. Enhanced People Management

Solutions available allow building managers and end users to benefit from people management tools – granting discreet access to ensure people stay within certain areas, controlling people density and ensuring only approved people enter the building. Reporting functionality allows the end user to understand the flow of occupants, potential bottlenecks and requirements for the building.

7. Reduced Maintenance

Smart Credential Access Control solutions normally work through a cloud hosted platform, therefore allowing ongoing maintenance to be carried out remotely, with alerts in place for anomalies and the ability to quickly see exactly where a problem has occurred, reducing the time to fix it.

And with a subscription-based service, end users and installers alike can benefit from a predictable cost/income structure which enables organisations to efficiently scale up or down in response to their business needs.

Some considerations

There are also a few factors to bear in mind with a Smart Credentials-based Access Control Solution:

1.Work or personal mobile?

If your business issues all staff with a mobile phone as standard, then you are well placed to roll out company-wide downloadable software containing access privileges. However, if staff are expected to use their own, they may be concerned about the company having access to software on their personal device. Several of the newer solutions don’t store any individual’s personal data within the app themselves, just an encrypted token number which links that number to the user in the system for identification.

2. Requires users to own a smart mobile phone or device

Not always the case and, of course, they have to be charged up! Some manufacturers have accounted for this, ensuring their systems are responsive to battery levels in a device that are too low to allow the use to make calls/messages.

3. Theft

Smart Devices are targeted by thieves because of their intrinsic value second hand. If a device containing an Access Control app is stolen, of course the permissions to that app can be revoked immediately, but that necessitates the owner advising the organisation in the first instance and this may not be a priority for the user given everything else stored on their device.

4. Maintenance

There is still a low level of administrative burden to manage the system along with maintenance of readers and the overall technology in place. Timely updates to ensure systems remain cyber secure must also be adhered to.

 Risk Assessment of the building or site

When considering which type of access control solution is most suitable for your or your client’s organisation, clarity of the purpose of the system must be strived for with the end customer being clear on what they wish to achieve.

It is also important to assess the different risks and threats to any specific location within each site.

High Risk: systems using a combination of both smart credential technologies and biometric recognition give a superior level of certainty that those requesting access are authorised to do so.
Low Risk: At the other end of the spectrum, PIN codes are a cost-effective access control solution for low security risk areas that must be kept under lock and key, such as stationery or cleaning materials.
Medium Risk: One step authentication using mobile credentials offers the same level of security as a fob, pass or token, whilst benefiting from ease of distribution and management along with the ability to revoke or amend access immediately, all remotely via a cloud solution should you wish.

Many businesses could benefit from a so called ‘hybrid’ solution; tailoring their Access Control system to fit their needs by combining smart credentials with traditional access methods. This is particularly beneficial whilst the organisation transitions to a system using smart device technology on a cloud-based platform, allowing them to implement best practice and offer greater flexibility for authorised personnel whilst managing visitors and contractors using digital certification.

Competition inhibits uniformity of tech

Another factor to consider when assessing the varied smart credentials access control options relates to the lack of consistency across smart phone platforms – is it Bluetooth wireless technology or NFC (near field communication), or do you need a multi-technology reader that allows either to be deployed along with the use of QR codes perhaps for easy visitor management?

Most access control using mobile phones is BLE (Bluetooth) enables with a long-range capability, however this can lead to issues. For example, at a venue using multiple barriers there is potential to pick up credentials from a device that is not the one being used to gain access.

Meantime, NFC technology allows devices to touch or be in close proximity to the reader and supports encryption, making it idea for secure ID-based applications. But NFC has battled with widespread acceptance among some mobile phone manufacturers and therefore isn’t a viable option on its own in the establishment of a mobile credential access control solution.


It’s clear that flexibility is key when assessing the implementation of a smart credential access control solution and there are pros and cons within each level of adoption. Individual end customer needs must be fully explored and most likely a phased implementation approach embarked upon.

However, this area of physical security is developing rapidly, with several strong players competing in the marketplace to advance their solution for mobile device access control. The wide range of long-term benefits outlined above – in particular, decreased total cost of ownership with increased return on investment – coupled with our growing desire to make environmentally friendly business decisions mean that Smart Credentials Access Control solutions will continue to generate interest.

The Norbain Advantage

Norbain partners with some of the market leaders within the security industry to provide fully integrated cutting-edge solutions.

We can advise you and your end customer on current Smart Credential Access Control solutions available in the marketplace and which solution would be best suited to your needs.

We also understand that every business is unique, and some solutions can’t be delivered in a box. That’s why we have Solutions Specialists to provide you with ongoing support, help define project roadmaps and work with you to optimise technology investments.

Get in touch with us to discuss your requirements.

Watch our Pocket Size Buzz video on Smart Credentials:

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