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ASSA ABLOY Creates NFC Solution that Uses Phones to Open Doors, Grant Computer Access

The company's Seos system is being trialed around the world to provide access to secured areas and equipment via a tap of an NFC-enabled phone against an RFID reader.
By Claire Swedberg
To provide access to an employee, visitor or guest, hotel or office-building operators first transmit a "digital key" that can be used to open a lock by means of an NFC reader connected to that lock. An invitation is sent to that person's mobile phone. He or she can then accept the key, which consists of a unique encrypted ID number and any necessary access rules, which are stored either on the phone's subscriber identity module (SIM) card, its built-in secure element or a microSD card. The user also downloads the Seos iClass user interface application, enabling an encrypted NFC transaction between the phone reader and an access-control reader.

Daniel Berg, VP and general manager of ASSA ABLOY Mobile Keys
In residential environments, a homeowner can tap his or her NFC phone against an interrogator located at the front or back door, which will automatically unlock that door. The Seos system also allows that individual to share access with authorized parties—even if for only one occasion—without having to loan out physical keys. For example, if a worker requires access to the house to perform a repair, that person's phone could be authorized wirelessly in the Seos system, and the authorization could then be revoked once the task was complete. A nanny could be provided access to the house—and to certain areas within that home, if readers were installed at interior doorways.

At an office building, digital keys can be sent to specific phone holders, granting them access to offices, conference rooms or maintenance areas. The system can also provide access to computers, printers or other office equipment that management may wish to restrict to authorized users.

The NFC-enabled phone ecosystem still has limitations, however, that may delay adoption. Thus far, only a limited number of mobile phones worldwide are NFC-enabled. What's more, mobile-phone service providers also need to supply the mobile network to link NFC data from the phone's NFC RFID module to the servers managing access control—whether the server is hosted by a security company, ASSA ABLOY or another entity.

For mobile phones that are not NFC-enabled, ASSA ABLOY can provide a microSD card with an NFC module that a user can install in his or her handset. However, some phones lend themselves to this kind of upgrade more than others (if there were a great deal of metal in that part of the phone surrounding the microSD card, for example, it would affect its NFC RFID module's transmission). Until NFC capability becomes more prevalent in phones, Berg says, the solution can be used with NFC-enabled cards, such as HID Global's new iClass Seos card, which contains a 13.56 MHz passive RFID inlay compliant with the ISO 14443 Type A standard.

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