Tuesday, 10 January 2017

A New Year means New Technologies to Unlock Time Access control for Everyone

Welcome to 2017! What a year 2017 is shaping up to be for the security, smartlock and access control industry with the emergence of new low power/low frequency/low cost technologies such as NB IoT, LoRa and Sigfox. For a crash course in these technologies see here.

Here is a quick overview of these technologies - they're low cost narrowband radio technologies that use no onsite infrastructure and less power than other communication standards such as Wi-Fi, enabling the connection of thousands of physical objects, such as hand-held devices, wearables, vehicles, security products and smarthome IoT devices. It provides the network connectivity that enables the embedded electronics, sensors and software in these devices to offer better features, and to collect and exchange data, regardless of their location, providing operators with detailed, real-time information on which to improve their services. Some have described the technology similar to that used in submarines in World War 1, or even a 1G/2G type of mobile network.

IoT going back in time to go forwards!
In layman's terms Internet of Things devices such as smart locks or parking sensors only need to communicate to service providers, 'small parcels of information with very little bytes on an irregular basis'. For example in the case of a parking sensor, its very simple. "is there a car over the sensor?" yes or no? This information is only 1 byte that then needs to be sent up to the cloud to be used in parking management (and this may only happen 5-10 times a day). Right now without the new technologies this 1 byte parcel of data has to go through Wi-Fi modems/networks/bridges (on site/off site infrastructure and power) or use Bluetooth to get to phones to go through broadband networks, and then it has to compete in the network with massive files such as video's, images, and everything else floating around up there - which equals congestion. And of course sending data around in a broadband frequency costs money - we all know that as we have to pay our monthly fees to our Internet Service Providers.

In the case of smart locks and access control systems it is somewhat similar to the parking sensor example - locks just need to know when to open their doors, and for whom, and for how long, and to relay this information to a property manager. This information can be reduced to a few bytes of information. In the past if anyone wanted to have a timed access control system on their property, typically used in hotels and offices, they needed to have all this onsite network infrastructure such as wiring and power connecting and communicating with all the electronic locks, controller boxes, onsite servers, encoder devices for writing keycards, onsite PC’s and software (usually not interfaced to other software), sometimes servers in the basements connecting everything together, and then you needed someone on site 24/7 operating the system to allow for the timed access control (in the case of hotels this is the reception desk staff job when you check-in).

But with the emergence of new technologies such as NB IoT it has the potential to unlock enormous security improvements, in addition to all the features of the typical wired timed keycard systems (but so much more) and value for property managers and end users alike. With no need for onsite infrastructure and power, for the first time in history this opens up timed access control, until now limited to offices and hotels and homes, to places such as outback mining communities, schools, shops, sporting and community facilities, storage sites/containers, and so on and so forth.

Due to the technology only beginning to roll out recently (Sigfox just got the highest ever capital raise in Europe to roll-out their network in Nov 2016) some lock companies have been forced to offer 'clumsy' solutions that use a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to offer timed access control. For example hotels such as Hilton and Starwood are using a costly and unstable digital key solution with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi bringing with it all the typical problems with these technologies such as pairing problems, network congestion, black spots, inconsistencies etc. And the large number of complaints about digital keys not working in the comments sections in the Hilton Guest Loyalty App with digital keys in the Play and App store reflects the problems.

 The risk of hacking in locks is also removed with the new narrowband technologies as Wi-Fi and other ‘vulnerable’ technologies such as Z-wave or Zigbee have been designed with security features such as user names and passwords, which can hacked "over the air". NB IoT also means greater battery life (the device is basically always sleeping, and just wakes up for one tenth of a second to send the small bytes to the cloud) and it offers lock manufacturers the ability to hook up their smart locks to a cloud application for completely automated smartphone self check-in; and to normalise data from multiple connected smart products (e.g. smart lighting) allowing an application to access data from a node that is deployed by other companies.

And one of the most important features of the use of NB IoT in smart locks is being able to capture all data in one place in the cloud, and integrating that with all other hotel software to ultimately improve the travel experience for everyone.

A New Year means New Technologies to Unlock Time Access control for Everyone

Welcome to 2017! What a year 2017 is shaping up to be for the security, smartlock and access control industry with the emergence of new low ...