Mobile credentials VS. facial recognition in access control: will one come out on top?

 

 Gareth Robinson, 05.10.2021, 4 min read

Physical access control technology has been evolving at breakneck speed over the past few years. Much of the innovation in the sector has focused in two areas – mobile technology and biometrics (including facial recognition) – with companies placing bets on which they believe will grow fastest and even, potentially, emerge as the clear winner.

 

For customers looking to upgrade their access system to a ‘keyless’ solution, the choice can be confusing. What are the advantages of mobile vs facial recognition?

The staggering growth of mobile

The growth of mobile credentials for access control is probably unsurprisingly given how ubiquitous smartphones have become, but the growth rate is still extraordinary. In 2018, annual downloads of mobile credentials reached 4.1 million worldwide. Within just three years, IHS Markit projects that the number will have reached over 120 million.

There are various drivers behind this phenomenon, but the most important is convenience. For the user, it means being able to access their building using their phone without needing to carry additional cards/fobs.

Advanced mobile access control is also not ‘sight’ dependent, so is well-suited to door entry systems for flats, where people may be coming and going in the dark, and where access is requested from a vehicle.

They are convenient for the administrator too, as credentials are very easily replaceable if a phone is lost or stolen (which may not be true for biometric data, since a face or fingerprint does not change).

Mobile access control systems are also a smart choice for administrators that need security throughout a building, not just at the main entrances which are equipped with video door intercom systems. Bluetooth modules are relatively inexpensive and can easily be deployed to control access to individual rooms or zones.

Facial recognition: some challenges still to overcome

Facial recognition technology initially grew around identity detection and tracking in high-footfall or public spaces. In recent years, however, we have seen it increasingly used in physical access control, especially at the entrances of large commercial spaces which have a large number of people entering and exiting throughout the day.

Technological developments continue at a brisk pace, so the overall reliability – which has been an issue, particularly identification bias around race and gender – is improving. The technology is also becoming more affordable.

Facial recognition is, however, facing some non-technological challenges too, not least regulatory changes governing its use which have recently been made in many territories across the globe. Complying with GDPR obligations is a complication as well, with people having the right for their personally identifiable information to be deleted or ‘forgotten’. 

Is this a battle with only one winner?

Some major companies are focusing their R&D spend on one technology over the other – 2N, for example, the global leader in IP access control systems, has prioritised mobile, with a suite of products in that area – but each solution has different strengths. As a result, it seems likely that the two will continue to thrive by meeting different needs.

Only time will tell, but one thing does seem clear: the pace of innovation in this sector will benefit customers, whatever their specific needs may be.

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