Redefining Access Control with a Mobile First Approach | White Paper
By Jeff Perri, President and COO, ProdataKey
We’ve reached a tipping point. Mobile devices, rather than computers, now drive the majority of internet traffic. It’s no wonder that to be considered for most of today’s access control projects, a mobile option is the price of entry.
There are many advantages inherent in a mobile solution. The most obvious is convenience. We feel lost without our phones; we have them with us always. Therefore, using them for access control just makes sense. It gives us control from anywhere, anytime.
Mobile solutions also tend to be more user-friendly. UX designers put careful thought into how to best leverage the limited visual real-estate of the small screen, simplifying menus, and making navigation options blatantly clear. Users expect a very short learning curve when encountering a mobile app, compared to the more complex ins and outs of traditional computer software. When it’s on a phone, we feel no hesitancy to “dive right in.”
And, of course, there’s the desirability of mobile credentialing – the freedom of eliminating fobs or prox cards, along with their associated expense.
For these, and many other reasons, most access control manufacturers now offer some form of a mobile solution. It’s what their customers want; what they expect. But offering mobile credentialing or a mobile app is a far cry from delivering a true “Mobile First” platform. What does Mobile First mean, and what makes it a superior approach to access control?
A Mobile First platform, like ProdataKey’s pdk io, is built from the ground up with the needs of the mobile user foremost in mind. Access through the web is powerful and efficient, but the mobile experience is the intended, default method by which the system will be used. This is true at every level of engagement; integrators, technicians, system administrators, managers, employees, and tenants each benefit from full-featured mobile tools that optimize the user experience. In this white paper, we’ll examine what Mobile First means for each of these stakeholders and why it’s the gold standard by which all access control systems will soon be measured.
Integrators and Technicians
The advantages of a Mobile First solution are evident from the moment an integrator begins meeting with a prospective customer. Mobile First allows the initial conversation to focus on software, rather than hardware, as the salesperson can demonstrate a system’s full capabilities and ease-of-use right from their own phone. Prospects can see, first hand, the simplicity of adding and removing users, unlocking doors, creating schedules, and monitoring event logs. And they can picture themselves doing it too. Any uncertainty they may have about the platform’s “usability” is alleviated.
For example, system integrator Blue Sky Technologies has installed PDK’s Mobile First access control system at their Jonesboro, Arkansas facility.
“When we meet with prospective customers, we are able to demonstrate – using our own phones – how to use and manage the system we have installed back at our office,” explains Brian Duckworth, Sales Consultant. “We can show the simplicity of the interface along with its ability to control all of the system’s complex features.”
A Mobile First solution also provides integrators with dedicated mobile tools designed just for them. Technicians have the ability to view, configure, test, modify, and add new devices to a system without running back and forth to the head-end. All controls are in the palm of the technician’s hand. This focus on simplifying the integrator’s installation experience is unique to Mobile First systems. Most access control “apps” are limited to providing basic user-focused features.
In terms of maintenance and customer support, Mobile First technology allows dealers to be more quickly aware of and responsive to support needs. Push notifications can alert both stakeholders and dealers to problem events, such as a controller losing communication, and because we check our phones constantly, intended recipients will see and receive these alerts in a timely manner. In 2019, American’s checked their cellphones an average of 96 times per day!  Immediacy and seamlessness communication are inherent in a Mobile First platform, meaning nobody needs to log into a dashboard in order to know that an issue demands attention.
Finally, from the perspective of integrators, the ability to offer integrated solutions is simplified when Mobile First manufacturers choose to partner with each other. For example, when Mobile First access control is integrated with VMS, home and building automation, or visitor management platforms, integrators can provide customers with powerful, synergistic solutions that can be implemented with little or no programming skills. Added functionality and security becomes both approachable and convenient for the customer, and an added source of revenue for the dealer.
System Administrators and Managers
Mobile First access control gives system administrators the luxury of fully managing and monitoring their system from anywhere, anytime – a benefit that has become even more valuable in today’s COVID remote-work environment. Physically decentralized Security, IT, and HR departments, often working from home, can easily monitor building activity, issue new employee credentials, deactivate employees, create and manage user groups, change permissions, control locking schedules, and even remotely admit deliverymen or temporary workers, no differently than if they were on-premise. All they need is a phone or tablet.
In fact, in a Mobile First platform, managing from a mobile device is the intended administrator experience. The software’s desktop version is really just a large-screen mirror of what’s been initially designed for mobile. So unless the administrator is sitting in front of a computer anyway, there’s no need or reason to access the system through a standard web interface.
Managing mobile credentialing is an area where Mobile First platforms truly shine. In traditional access control solutions, in which mobile apps have been added as a “feature”, mobile credentials often “mimic” their user’s physical cards or fobs. They still must be purchased individually and assigned to each user. Furthermore, many systems cannot distinguish between which is being used. To the door controller, they both look the same.
In a Mobile First system, using a smartphone is the primary way users are intended to interact with readers, rather than an option or afterthought. If cards or fobs have also been issued, a Mobile First system can tell the difference, allowing management to set separate permissions for each. Also, because of this ability to differentiate, the system can help detect fraud. If both a mobile and physical credential have been used in close succession, the events can be flagged, possibly indicating that the card has been used by someone other than its rightful owner.
Because mobile credentials are distinct from physical card credentials, Mobile First provides can offer unlimited mobile credentialing. As needed, administrators can request and instantaneously assign (or revoke) user credentials with just a few clicks from their own phone, and there’s no need to keep running spreadsheets of assigned codes. In addition to administrative convenience, unlimited mobile credentialing can deliver significant savings to companies with many employees or high employee turnover.
Finally, when employees are empowered to get work done from their mobile devices, studies have shown they are more productive. Companies gain an extra 240 hours of work, per year, from employees due to mobile working, the equivalent of $5114 extra work per employee. When access control management is something that can be handled from either a BYOD or a company-issued device, some of those extra hours can go toward security management.
Employees and Tenants
For employees and tenants, Mobile First does far more than allow them to ditch their cards or fobs.
At the most basic level, Mobile First provides users with a superior experience to traditional card access. Unlocking a phone, and then opening an access control app to physically present a mobile credential to a reader, requires more effort than presenting a prox card – and yet, that’s what many mobile apps require. Furthermore, many mobile apps communicate via wifi or cellular. If connectivity is glitchy, doors may not open.
By contrast, a Mobile First solution, like PDK’s, includes specially designed Bluetooth readers that can automatically sense encrypted credentials on locked smart phones carried by users, even when they’re deep inside pockets, bags, and purses. Even if the internet is down or there’s no cell service, the phone and reader will connect. The result is hassle-free, frictionless door access that far surpasses the common “mobile app” user experience.
It should be noted that for entryways not equipped with a Bluetooth reader, Mobile First does offer a second option to open doors by using a mobile app to communicate “over the air” with the network. And, in many cases, that app may offer a more robust set of tools than typically available. For example, users might be able to remotely unlock doors from their phone-based upon their personal permissions. When integrated with a building’s intercom system, a tenant or employee could view the visitor on their phone’s screen and then proceed to admit them.
A powerful Mobile First platform may even allow users to control and open doors at more than one location from a single log-in. For example, if they have more than one job, they can access multiple work locations without logging in separately for each. And they can save “favorite” doors to the main screen for quick access. This level of convenience is the product of a manufacturer’s Mobile First mentality – always thinking in terms of how mobile users will engage with the system.
Also, as mentioned earlier, there are a growing number of user-friendly integrations that combine Mobile First access control with other apps, such as multi-tenant home automation and community management. Tenants living in buildings that offer these amenities benefit not only from enhanced security but many other conveniences, all from a single interface. For example, Freedom Lofts Homeowners Association, in Atlanta, Georgia, has integrated PDK’s access control with OwnerGo, a platform that keeps track of its property’s leasing documents, event calendars, online work orders, resident directories, online payment processing, and more.
Today, mobile is everywhere. Almost all modern network or cloud-based access control systems include a mobile component. While they offer some level of convenience, they diverge from true Mobile First solutions in their inability to deliver full control and functionality from within the mobile platform. In many cases, mobile has been created as an afterthought – to supplement a legacy system.
For access control systems that demand anywhere, anytime control, mobile is the logical platform-of-choice. A Mobile First approach ensures that customers derive all the benefits unique to mobile, without compromising the functionality and performance delivered by today’s best-in-class access control solutions.
Pdk is a team of security integrators with decades of hands-on, in-the-field experience. Pdk believes that the best technology is created by professionals who know what it takes to secure a facility properly and provide the end-user with a solution that instills confidence and safety.
Pdk is passionate about creating technology to enhance the security, safety, and overall experience of both the professionals installing electronic access control and those that live with and use the system. Pdk continues to create technology every day to enhance its products and the products of its technology partners.