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NFC technology by smartphone manufacturers to turn smartphones into a key to unlock doors

Published on 13 February, 2012
NFC is a short range wireless technology enabling communications between devices
SALTO Systems are already anticipating the new technology with a complete product range of electronic locks

At the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, a number of smartphone manufacturers demonstrated how their new models would be able to be used as ‘keys' to unlock doors, much like smart cards do today when used in hotels, universities etc.

The secret behind this ability to turn a smartphone into a key comes courtesy of Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. This enables both commercial and residential lock systems to be unlocked with the phones thus providing an alternative method of door security other than mechanical keys and smart access cards.

This move towards creating keyless buildings by upping the game from proximity cards to smartphones is exciting stuff for companies in the access control world. SALTO Systems are already anticipating the new technology with a complete product range of electronic locks and readers that are already NFC compatible with the future built in.

Near Field Communications (NFC) is a short range wireless technology enabling communications between devices. It operates at 13.56MHz over a range of a few centimetres (typically less than 10cm) and complements many popular consumer level wireless technologies.

One of the main advantages NFC offers is its compatibility with existing contactless card infrastructure, enabling a user to utilise one device across many different systems. The aim of NFC is to allow contactless transactions and connectivity in a fully interoperable way and make life easier and more convenient for consumers around the world by making it simpler to make transactions, exchange digital content, and connect electronic devices with just a touch.

Among its many applications will be access control, where hotels will probably be among the first to employ smartphones as ‘electronic keys'. It will work like this.

Guests will make a hotel room reservation via the internet or by telephone as they do now, and will then receive their booking confirmation on their mobile phone. Ahead of their arrival at the hotel, they will then receive a welcome message and a reminder to check in to their room via their smartphone.

When they arrive at the hotel they can bypass check-in (and its queues) and go straight to their room, their hotel room ‘key' having been sent to the smartphone over-the-air. Here they simply present the handset to the reader on the escutcheon - as they would do now with a conventional Mifare smart card - and the door will unlock. The door lock will then communicate with the front desk PMS system (Property Management Software) to let the hotel know the guest has entered the room.

As with a current hotel ‘key' the smartphone will only be able to open the door for the programmed access time. At the end of their stay guests will check out with their NFC smartphone, and once the digital hotel room key stored in the phone expires, access rights to their room are cancelled and the ‘key' is then automatically deactivated from the smartphone.

Keith Carey, Marketing Manager SALTO Systems UK, says "Having a product range that is already NFC capable means SALTO offers an easy migration route to smartphone use as an access credential, enabling end users to enjoy all the advantages of a ‘keyless' building that is secure, as well as smart to own, operate and manage."

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