Led by door access gorilla, Assa Abloy / HID, NFC is getting a lot of unwarranted hype as the next big thing in access control. They envision mobile phones using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology replacing today's proximity and magstripe cards as the preferred choice of accessing facilities.
Despite the hype and parroting from the industry press, we have not seen any detailed, critical analysis of whether NFC makes sense for physical access control. As such, this report digs into the operational details to examine the drivers and barriers to NFC adoption.
Near Field Communications is derived from RFID technology, except that NFC chips can be changed and updated repeatedly. This flexibility means NFC can be programmed to behave like a 'digital wallet' one moment and a door access credential the next. Running the function on a device like a networked mobile phone means that you'll have access to the right credential when you need it. Your phone can become your access credential, allowing you to throw away your physical access card.
In our analysis, we see 4 main questions shaping the viability of NFC for physical access:
- Is NFC Truly More Convenient? Clearly, convenience is the main driver for NFC proponents. However, what operational or logistical issues are created when using NFC enabled devices, like phones, as a physical access credential?
- Is NFC Secure Enough for Access Control? Using a phone as a credential to access secure facilities raises new issues of how secure NFC is and the devices it runs on.
- What infrastructure Changes Are Required? Physical security is a conservative industry with deep infrastructure already in place. What changes will need to be made? How much will they cost? How can it be justified?
- Will Security Managers Accept NFC? Switching from cards to phones raises new operational concerns. Will security managers find this operationally easier or more difficult?