Secure and private access in the cloud

Issue 1 2023 Education (Industry)

Access control users are not known for often making big changes to their company access control systems. Many still use unsecured card-based systems to control entrance and exit, and even the visitor’s book for access to their premises.

That said, many companies have made the move to biometric access and T&A; applications, primarily focusing on fingerprint biometrics. During the pandemic years, these systems caused some nervousness as touching the biometric reader at the door was seen as a potential health risk. As noted in the Smart Access & Identity Handbook, published in January by Hi-Tech Security Solutions, using mobile devices as an electronic key card has been available for many years, and it offers a touch-free solution (the user only touches their own mobile device).

Combining the idea of touchless and mobile access control, Secutel Technologies has developed NoKey. Secutel’s GM, Andre Vermeulen explains, “Our NoKey product is a secure keyless access control system using biometrics. It uses BLE technology, which ensures that the user is present on-site to open the door.”

As an additional security measure, the biometrics are not housed in the door reader, but the mobile device itself. This keeps the user’s biometrics (facial or fingerprint) private, while still allowing the company to ensure only authorised users gain access. Vermeulen adds that the application also concurrently arms or disarms partitions or alarms.

“The system is fully cloud-based, ensuring accuracy in the reporting of who is on-site and when. The scheduling of specific doors (when they can be opened) is done remotely, which assists business optimisation.”

Vermeulen provides the example of a jewellery store safe. For the safe to be opened, the user needs to be present. Further, it must confirm that a valid entry has occurred, and the monitoring company must confirm an intrinsically safe environment while the door is shut behind the shopkeeper. It must allow for disarming for a certain amount of time for the shopkeeper to enter the safe area.

Simplicity in all environments

In markets like the education sector, Vermeulen says that the NoKey application is simple to use, and intuitive. “Simple swipe technology, with the added benefit of allowing panics on the same device, puts the key and the control back in the user’s hands, without creating risks for the organisation.”

To further increase the security of the solution, NoKey is integrated into Secutel’s Visual Verification alarm system, which allows snapshots to be taken and sent to the cloud when someone enters a remote site. This confirms that it was the specific user who accessed the door. “This also allows for remote monitoring companies to protect high-risk assets such as currency, bullion and more,” adds Vermeulen.

“NoKey cuts costs due to its low data usage and the ability to integrate with specific electronic locks rather than forcing the client to change their entire architecture. It further decreases costs of inaccurate reporting and downtime through the use of remote maintenance monitoring.”

The benefits of cloud

While cloud-based access control systems are becoming more popular, some people have concerns about what happens during Eskom blackouts when the power is down, and when Internet access is down. There is also the questions some have about the security of personal information, stored on someone else’s computer, and the risks of transferring it over the Internet.

Vermeulen notes that NoKey uses encrypted read-write codes for security. Moreover, even in downtime, the doors are still active. The company can also provide low-bandwidth ‘redundancy routers’, allowing for dual SIM or APN failover.

Overall, he says cloud systems are better as they allow the installer to push any new firmware remotely onto the devices as soon as it is ready, and configure it without the need for site visits. It prevents maintenance from disturbing the client’s normal flow of operations. As it is cloud-based, user management is also easier as it is done remotely.


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