Bluetooth Access Control – the future is already here

posted on: Fri, 06 07 2018 - 12:00:00 by Clarus Systems | Access Control

The acceleration of mobile technology and its implementation in daily applications is remarkable. From wireless and cloud technology to smart homes and businesses, mobile technology is making its mark, and one of the simplest and most effective applications is Bluetooth-based Access Control systems.

The rise of the Smartphone

According to a recent report by Zenith Media, Smartphone penetration will reach 66% across 52 key countries around the globe – and in the developed world penetration is already between 80-90%. 

How Access Control currently works

Generally, Access Control systems operate by recognising and authorising people based on one of the following:

  • An item you carry (RFID tag, access card or key)
  • A PIN or access code
  • A biometric attribute (fingerprint, retina scan, facial recognition)

But the above are generally not used in conjunction with each other, often require expensive hardware and software solutions, and are prone to fallibility – people lose their cards or forget their PINs, and biometric systems can become temperamental over time.

Where Mobile Technology has a part to play

The simple fact of the matter is that Smartphones already combine the above authentication parameters by default – access codes/PINs are standard, many devices now use biometrics, and Near Field Communication (NFC)-based RFID readers are increasingly common.

What this means is that Smartphones offer an excellent composite solution for Access Control – access to the authentication device (the phone) is defined by the inherent two-factor authentication, and access to an area is defined by the phone’s subsequent communication with the Access Control system.

Where Bluetooth comes in

Smartphones use Bluetooth as a standard technology to communicate with external systems and devices. Whilst NFC is also used, it can be limited as earlier versions of phones (for example iPhone 5) do not support NFC – less than 50% of Smartphones come NFC-enabled, which does create a limitation for the use of the technology for Access Control via a mobile device.

The advantage of Bluetooth over NFC can be summarised as follows:

  • It’s popular and use thereof is widely understood
  • Bluetooth readers are less expensive due to economies of scale and lower operating costs (low power consumption means lower maintenance costs)
  • NFC uses less power meaning a device has to be much closer to a reader to be effective, whereas Bluetooth is generally effective from a range as far away as 15 feet (the range of activation can be governed by the Bluetooth reader to prevent unwanted activations from distance)
    • Bluetooth readers can also be mounted on the inside of a secure facility and still be activated (due to their greater activation distance capabilities) which protects the reader against potential tampering

So what’s required?

For a Bluetooth Access Control system to work, the following must be in place:

  • A direct connection between the Bluetooth-enabled device (phone) and the Internet via a wi-fi or cellular date network
  • A mobile credential – this is installed on the phone using the Wallet App, into which new credentials are loaded and stored
    • There is a step-by-step registration/authentication process to implement the mobile credential

Once the above is in place, the user simply needs to present the Smartphone within the established proximity of the Bluetooth reader and access will be granted.

There are security parameters and practical concepts that need to be understood and met, for example ensuring that your wi-fi connection and Bluetooth network is secure, understanding how each authenticated user is registered and what accesses are granted, and how to manage new permanent and temporary authentications, but overall the systems are becoming more intuitive to set up and use.

For information on Bluetooth Access Control systems for your home or business, contact Clarus Systems today. 


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