How are smartphones impacting the physical security market?
Rapid changes in technology span both the consumer and the physical security markets. In the consumer market, technology innovation is nowhere more apparent than in the palms of our hands, where we all hold the latest smartphones and mobile devices. Simply put, the unprecedented power and capabilities of today’s smart phones have changed our lives. No wonder they are also having an impact on our business of physical security systems. Although a consumer product, smartphones increasingly play a role in security. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How are smartphones impacting technologies in the physical security market?
Smartphones and mobile devices have become a central part of many technology areas and physical security is no exception. The security protocols on phones (such as fingerprint readers and encryption) have become some of the strongest available to consumers and are regularly used to access essential services such as banking. With this level of trust and user convenience from mobile device security, it makes sense to produce physical security systems that also take advantage of it. Two mobile device technologies which have come to the fore are NFC (Near Field Communications) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) authentication. Having been courted as “The Next Big Thing” a few years ago, there has been a noticeable drop in interest in NFC. Whilst NFC still has a place in the security mix, Bluetooth Low Energy has more scope, being far more mobile platform-agnostic, offering greater flexibility and compatibility for cost-effective open systems.
End user demand for mobile credentialing is exploding, making the now ubiquitous smartphone an integral part of today’s access control. Organisations can email invitations containing a link to a mobile app and authorisation to activate the phone as a credential. There is no loss of security as smartphones provide multiple layers of authentication including biometrics, PINs, GPS and a MAC address unique to each device. Smartphone credentials also eliminate the cost of plastic badges, printers and handling. Don’t expect to see traditional badges disappear soon, but smartphones represent the future of access control. Other mobile apps are providing remote control of video and other peripheral devices. Using network or cellular connections, smartphone apps allow a guard to multitask – performing patrol duties while still maintaining control of vital security systems. The convenience, efficiency and reliability of smartphones that attract consumers are also winning the approval of many physical security directors.
The powerful capabilities of today’s smartphones make them uniquely suited to impact physical security: location and presence awareness, multi-factor authentication, always being connected, coming equipped with a camera, speakers and more. These attributes can be combined to create powerful applications. One of the biggest trends we see is in empowering employees to use their smartphones to take a more proactive role in the security of their organisation. There are many ways employees can step up and take control such as submitting photos to a security operations centre of improperly secured access points or identifying potential risks for aggressive or unusual employee behaviours. Businesses can also take advantage of location-based safety check-ins for lone workers and travelling executives, and can use immediate two-way global emergency notifications and responses. Because of these capabilities, many of our clients see the smartphone as a core component of their holistic safety strategy.
Smartphones are already having a tremendous impact on access control for three main reasons – security, cost and convenience. On the security side, utilising a secure Bluetooth credential on your phone provides better security than a card, fob or keypad. Smartphones can also require passwords or biometrics so multi-factor authentication is free if you want it. On the cost side, you no longer have the need for expensive access control cards, panels, software and IT networks. And on the convenience side, most individuals are already carrying their phone with them, making them far less likely to leave their phone behind than a proximity card. Cards and FOBs will be around for a while but the security, cost and convenience advantages will enable Smartphone Access Control to quickly gain market share.
In today’s world, smartphones are driving video compression, storage, CPU speed and in general, infrastructure for bandwidth (Ex: city surveillance and mobile platforms for first responders). Having smartphones as part of a business strategy means that everyone can join the security team, especially with remote monitoring capabilities. Certain smartphone applications can also be used to configure, control or even check field-of-view to make setup faster and easier. Lastly, video footage from security cameras can now be sent and viewed on smartphones, which can help law enforcement, security guards, etc. “see.”
Smartphones have had an enormous impact on how customers expect to access and utilise technology. As a result, this expectation has built new industries and opened up doors for expansion in existing markets, but also closed the door on others. As the smartphone pushed more and more information and convenience right into the consumers’ hand, this expanded their comfort level with cloud-based and IP technology. This comfort level and consumer expectation have paved the way for the rapid adoption of network based systems, cloud-hosted platforms as well as the latest trend, mobile credentials, in the physical security market. With consumer acceptance and demand for IP systems, there is a shift in the security market that may allow companies from other industries to bring their network expertise and cause disruption in the physical security space; similar to how the smartphone made the MP3 player and GPS devices obsolete.
From serving as credentials for access control to providing on-the-go availability of video images, today’s smartphones are expanding the capabilities of our industry’s technologies. Increasingly, smartphones are not just a handy tool in our lives. They are also a vital part of the systems we create to make the world a safer place.
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