THE MAGAZINE

Dial “O” for an Open Door

By John Wagley

The most time-consuming part of setting up the pilot was installing NFC readers onto 14 doors in the dormitory where the pilot would occur, Ploughe says. As participants approached the door, they would need to activate an application on their phones that would then permit the use of the embedded credential for about 30 seconds.

Eighty percent of participants said that using the phones was just as convenient as using traditional access cards, Ploughe says. Many students expressed an interest in using the phones for other purposes, such as purchasing meals and doing laundry. Some nonparticipants viewing the phone-based access expressed an interest in being able to do it, she says.

At least a few students complained about the usability of the application, however. Some felt that the process of opening the application for access purposes would sometimes interfere with phone calls or other phone activities. Some participants expressed an interest in a solution that might allow for a single button to launch the application so as not to interrupt other phone activities.

In a few cases, the application seemed to stop working. This was generally resolved, but required the user to take out the device’s battery and then replace it and restart the device, she says.

Although she’d eventually like to bring the technology to the university, Ploughe says that doing so presently would be too challenging for financial and other reasons. Using the technology throughout the campus would likely require adding wireless Internet to numerous university dormitories and establishing a much larger system of credential provisioning. “Right now, the [return on investment] just isn’t there,” she says.

Aside from the cost, one of the main challenges currently facing NFC-enabled phones is a reliable power source, says Dave Adams, HID senior product marketing manager. Though NFC requires relatively little power to be effective, the risk that batteries could run out in phones could hinder the reliability of phone-based access control.

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