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EXCLUSIVE: Taking security to the next level with mobile credentials

Office buildings - Sharry and mobile credentials

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Mobile credentials and Apple Wallet represent a significant improvement in office building and workplace security compared to plastic employee ID cards and fobs, says Sharry.

Physical security

According to Proxy’s 2019 Physical Security Trends Report, the average 40,000-person company loses 10,378 key cards or fobs per year.

This is of concern because each lost access card or fob key presents a substantial security risk of unauthorized access.

Replacing each misplaced card incurs extra expenses and unnecessary paperwork.

On top of that, it can be exceptionally inconvenient and can disrupt the overall productivity of end users, not only during busy workdays.

Additionally, there is the environmental impact of the millions of plastic key cards containing toxic electronics dumped in landfills each year – or worse yet, making their way to the ocean.

The solution to these concerns is in our hands, or more precisely, in the palms of our hands that are holding the smartphone.

Mobile credential evolution

Since the iPhone was introduced in 2007, smartphones have replaced dozens of everyday tools and gadgets.

The use of smartphones is rapidly increasing – in the first half of 2022, daily time spent on mobile devices in the US was up 39.3% from three years ago, Insider Intelligence found.

In 2022, for the first time, US adults (not only Gen Z) spent more time per day with their smartphones (3:19) than watching TV (3:07).

On trend with the increased usage of smartphones, mobile credentials are heavily displacing plastic access cards and fobs in the workplace.

Last year, Apple launched employee badges in Apple Wallet, enabling staff and guests to easily access corporate spaces with just their iPhone or Apple Watch – from doors and elevators to turnstiles, printers and more.

Accompanied by a seamless user experience of frictionless badging through an NFC badge, Apple Wallet integration offers extra security features to enhance the cloud-based mobile physical access control system (PACS).

Thanks to a collaboration of Sharry, Shapack Partners and HID, the 167 Green Street office building in Chicago became the first multi-tenant office building in the US to offer all tenants building-wide access with a tap of their iPhone or Apple Watch.

“Employee badge in Apple Wallet represents a milestone for commercial real estate development, allowing secure and convenient access for tenants,” said Josef Šachta, CEO and Co-Founder of Sharry.

One lost card, many worries

To grasp the progressive advantages of employee badges in Apple Wallet, let’s revisit the initial scenario of 10,378 lost key cards.

Each time an employee loses a plastic card or fob to their office, they must contact the appropriate person at the company’s card office.

Then a new card must be issued (assuming it is available and does not need to be ordered) and associated with the employee in the company’s access control system.

Finally, the new card must be physically delivered to the employee, which could take several weeks, depending on their location.

In a multi-tenant office, the security administrator will also have to speak to the building security team, remove the old card credential from the access control system and add the new one.

However, from a security standpoint, the badge-replacing process represents just one aspect of the problem.

It has been proven that an employee is much quicker to notice that their mobile phone is missing than a plastic access card.

When they realize the loss of the card, they cannot actively do anything other than report it – unlike with mobile credentials managed through a workplace or tenant engagement app.

Not to mention other minor security violations like anti-passback.

Better approach with your mobile

Mobile credentials offer a robust approach to improving property management and security strategies. From the administrator or security manager’s perspective, they offer many key advantages:

  • Encrypted communication: every smartphone holds a trusted card number that is encrypted and securely linked to that device only. It cannot be cloned easily in seconds as a traditional keycard
  • More attentive users: employees tend to be more cautious with their phones compared to plastic cards. They are much less likely to lend a mobile to a stranger or even a colleague. If they lose their device or have it stolen, they’ll notice much more quickly – it’s much faster to revoke mobile credentials
  • Anywhere and anytime: mobile credentials are managed through a cloud-based web administration portal. The whole process of distributing and/or revoking can be easily done remotely – even in one click. The provision of employee access for any company location could be integrated into your identity management (like Okta or Active Directory) and operated automatically through a system for cross-domain identity management (SCIM)
  • Single badge policy: to prevent the simultaneous availability of multiple credentials, administrators may enforce the single badge policy. Once a user generates a new badge, for example in Apple Watch, the other ones will be automatically suspended. However, the user is still able to switch between badges smoothly in their workplace app to ensure greater flexibility and a better experience
  • Health issue: mobile credentialing decreases the necessity of face-to-face communication and reduces unnecessary meetings needed for handing over the plastic card. Mobile credentials also represents a 100% touchless solution to unlock any doors, turnstiles or elevators in the office building

Next level: Apple Wallet

Compared to traditional mobile credentials – using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for iPhone and NFC for Android, employee badges in Apple Wallet bring a higher standard of workplace experience for the end-user.

Despite being “just” a virtual badge, the employee badge in Apple Wallet has a real effect on the physical security of corporations and their security operations.

Card readers can use Face ID or Touch ID on iPhones (biometric solution based on a facial recognition system or fingerprint identity sensor) to provide additional security for spaces that require it.

However, the most common usage is with Express Mode when employees don’t need to wake or unlock their iPhone or Apple Watch to use their badge in Apple Wallet.

They can get in faster and enjoy a superb contactless experience.

Now imagine a user has lost their badge – what if there were a tool to track it?

Well, there already is one for mobile credentials. If an employee misplaces their Apple device with a badge in Apple Wallet, they can use the Find My app to lock and help locate their device.

It’s a very useful tool to reduce extra costs for issuing an unnecessary badge duplicate.

Even if the device is stolen, they don’t have to report the incident to Helpdesk or the IT department with a request to suspend their badge.

They can easily revoke their employee badge in Apple Wallet through iCloud or remotely erase the device and its office keys.

Regarding the security of personal data, employee badges in Apple Wallet take full advantage of the privacy and security features built into the iPhone and Apple Watch.

“Badges are stored on the employee’s device, which means Apple doesn’t see the doors or spaces your employees or tenants in the office building access, so data is private and secure,” concluded Michal Čeřovský, COO and Co-Founder at Sharry.

Towards a digital-first approach

The era of plastic cards for access control is fading away, making room for more efficient, secure and environmentally responsible solutions like mobile credentials.

The adoption of mobile credential badges, particularly employee badges in Apple Wallet, provides companies with a superior access management system that not only enhances security but also reduces costs.

By embracing this innovative technology, enterprises can protect their assets, enhance user convenience and demonstrate their commitment to a sustainable future.

This article was originally published in the August edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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