How Mobile Credentials & the Cloud Are Expanding RMR Opportunities
The rise of mobile credentials and Cloud solutions is impacting the role integrators play in selling and supporting access control systems. Learn how to capitalize.
There are two major shifts reshaping the access control space — mobile credentialing and Cloud-based solutions. The coming together of these two offerings is uprooting the norm for both security integrators and customers alike.
They’re presenting new options for end users, and some new challenges — and opportunities — for systems integrators. Without question, the proliferation of mobile credentials and Cloud solutions are directly impacting the way end users buy — and integrators sell — access control systems.
Cloud solutions are now mainstream and being adopted by end users of all types, from small- and medium-sized business owners all the way to enterprise corporations. Concurrently, mobile has hit a turning point, and is delivering new and superior technologies that will soon replace traditional cards and fobs. Mobile use, and peoples’ dependence on it, is on the rise in every age group.
A 2017 Pew Research study reports that 46% of smart phone users say they “couldn’t live without their phone.” That number is probably even higher today. It only makes sense that people are now coming to expect that their phones should allow access to their homes and workplaces.
Cloud and mobile each deliver a slew of advantages, from both the end user and integrator perspective, but when combined — when mobile access is built upon a Cloud platform — the benefits multiply. This makes such systems a very easy sell, assuming integrators are acquainted with how the technology works and can clearly communicate the unique value such solutions offer.
Appeal of the Cloud to End Users
Cloud-based solutions, which dramatically reduce the burden placed on end-user IT departments, are refreshingly easy for end users to implement — and access — from virtually anywhere. All that’s needed is a browser and Internet connection.
They’re also very cost-effective, requiring only a minimal investment in computer hardware, no traditional software licensing, and significantly reduced labor associated with installation and maintenance.
Installation costs are primarily limited to the access hardware, such as readers, that are needed onsite. Ongoing maintenance costs also mostly go away, because with Cloud-based solutions, continuous software updates are provided by the manufacturer. And IT and security managers can rest easier knowing that their cyber risk is significantly lower because the company’s access control platform has been completely removed from their internal network.
To top it off, Cloud solutions are often built upon an open API, making for ease of integration and enhanced functionalities, working with everything from video surveillance, to visitor management, to license plate recognition (LPR) systems.
For all these reasons, Cloud access is becoming increasingly more attractive to end users. And they’re not the only ones for whom this is true.
Savvy integrators are also doing a double take at how appealing Cloud-based access solutions can be. They’re markedly easier and quicker to install and configure than traditional access systems.
When support is needed, if the issue is software related — such as programming new capabilities or customizing the user experience, the Cloud platform can be accessed remotely without ever visiting the customer’s site.
The access control as a service (ACaaS) model comes with recurring revenue from the monthly subscription cost paid by the end user. And, since updates are performed automatically, keeping the customer’s software always current, integrators save copious time troubleshooting and dealing with onsite calls. Integrators that embrace and capitalize on Cloud-based solutions can undoubtedly differentiate themselves, stay competitive and drive increased RMR.
Mobile Credentialing Has Arrived
Early adopters transitioning from cards and fobs to mobile credentials did, admittedly, experience some glitches, due mainly to the fact that many access systems have typically required a WiFi connection to validate mobile credentials.
To further complicate the process, phones had to be unlocked and then held quite close to Bluetooth readers, so as to mitigate signal interception and ensure that readers only communicated with the “right” phones.
Consequently, the decision to use mobile phones in place of physical access cards was not always a popular one. The convenience promised by mobile solutions often turned out to be more marketing hype than practical reality. But that was then, and this is now.
Within the past year or two, a significant number of manufacturers have been bringing innovative and improved mobile credentialing solutions to market. Convenience and security, coupled with Cloud platforms that simplify the issuing and management of credentials, are happily becoming the new normal for mobile access. End users are ready to embrace the advantages, which are many.
Plenty of Perks
How is the new generation of mobile solutions delivering that previously elusive convenience factor? One breakthrough can be found in systems that are able to discern a user’s “intent to enter” without requiring them to remove their phone from a pocket or purse, or even unlock it.
This makes the mobile credentials truly more convenient for users than cards or fobs (which has always been the ultimate goal) — meaning that companies can, at last, transition away from using them completely. And once that happens, the benefits are enormous.
For starters, cards and fobs are expensive. Systems that use mobile credentials eliminate the cost for the physical cards, plus some manufacturers are moving toward an unlimited credentials model that only charges by reader, rather than by user.
These systems are not only infinitely scalable; they also allow for replacement credentials when users get new phones. Plus, Cloud systems can make issuing new credentials a snap. Some systems, in fact, make the process as easy as a simple click though the access control interface.
The Cloud allows manufacturers to control and generate highly secure, unique credentials on demand, per user, eliminating the need for end users to prepurchase “blocks” of credentials to dole out and then keep track of.
This process also happens to facilitate superior cybersecurity, as it’s almost impossible to clone or spoof these types of phone credentials.
To further meet and exceed customers’ expectations, integrators should examine access control systems that can validate a user’s credential even when their phone has no cell or WiFi service; all that’s needed is Bluetooth. Some mobile credentialing solutions also now allow the phone and reader to communicate over longer distances without compromising security.
This gives the system more time to verify users before they get to the door. And to make sure that readers are not inadvertently activated, and corresponding doors unlocked, artificial intelligence and new dual-antennae technology distinguishes whether a nearby phone is inside or outside of a controlled doorway and responds (or doesn’t), accordingly.
Integrators Can Perfect the Package
For the integrator, mobile solutions represent a hotbed of opportunity, but they must proceed with caution; integrators need to offer a mobile option that won’t disappoint. While there is a growing field of strong and reputable offerings, there are also plenty of solutions on the market that don’t deliver the convenience they promise.
Here’s another obstacle integrators must be prepared for: Because mobile Cloud solutions are so user-friendly, some manufacturers are transitioning to a direct-to-end-user sales model, looking to lower their MSRP while pocketing a bit more for themselves from every sale.
In response, integrators should be prepared to strut their stuff, highlighting the added value they can deliver to the customer. These include best practice integration expertise and customization capabilities, hardware maintenance, knowledge of fire codes and how to stay in compliance, and their ongoing ability to service customer needs long after the system is implemented.
Customers angling to save a few dollars at the time of system purchase by bypassing the sales channel should be reminded of the additional responsibilities, not to mention the potential headaches, they will be incurring throughout the life-time of their system if their in-house staff is not equipped to deal with all of the aforementioned issues.
Now is the time for integrators to leverage the opportunities that strong mobile, Cloud-based access control can provide. Demand is growing and many of today’s solutions are up to the task.
Putting these services on their line cards will allow them to successfully compete for projects, increase RMR and establish longer-term, customer-facing relation-ships to ensure profitability well into the future.
Jeff Perri is President of ProdataKey.
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