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Cloud platforms for access control are set to transform campus life

The use of cloud technologies for campus access control has enabled university students, faculty and staff to employ their mobile devices for valuable new experiences that range from entering dorm rooms to making cafeteria purchases with a simple tap or twist of their phones. The next step is to make campuses smarter and safer as mobile IDs on smartphones are augmented by other technologies in solutions that can recognize people and customize their work and learning environment on a more connected campus.

While these other capabilities can be achieved now, they must be implemented on a building-by-building or, at most, campus-by-campus basis, without the full benefit of cloud technologies that have touched so many other aspects of university operations. This all changes as mobile identities move towards greater adoption, and when today’s installed base of millions of physical access control system (PACS) readers, controllers, panels and locks, worldwide, are connected to the cloud and IoT, and are married with location services capabilities. This will unleash an avalanche of innovation as developers take advantage of a common cloud platform to create data-driven trusted identity solutions that give administrators many exciting new options for improving the campus experience.


The move to cloud-based platforms will ensure identity-aware, seamless and more consistent campus service delivery and user experiences while improving how identity solutions are delivered. For example, bridging biometrics and access control has been challenging in the past, because it requires a trusted platform designed to meet the concerns of accessibility and data protection in a connected environment. These barriers can be addressed through a secured and connected cloud architecture that can remotely manage all readers and users (including onboarding, template loading and enrollment activities for supported authentication modes).

Cloud platforms will also provide the backbone for universities to more quickly and easily add complementary applications to their access control infrastructure, like secure print, virtual photo ID, and vending, as well as other access control use cases and emerging permission- based transaction capabilities yet to be developed. Universities will have greater flexibility to upgrade their security infrastructure, scale it as they grow, improve maintenance and efficiency, and get the most out of their investments. Key to many new cloud-based capabilities is a location services platform that delivers high-value data for a host of applications and capabilities.

One of the most valuable benefits of cloud platforms for universities is that they can adopt new, more flexible subscription models which, for instance, enable more easy replenishment of mobile IDs when smartphones get lost or need replacement. These models have the potential to further streamline forecasting, budgeting and reporting while pushing campus mobile credentials from a product-based model to more of a service-based approach. Mobile ID subscription licenses can be transferred across campus users and provide administrators with an opportunity to register multiple mobile IDs across multiple devices without incurring additional cost.

Many universities have already adopted the cloud services model for ID card issuance, giving them the option for hardware, software and other resources to be leased and their costs bundled into a service offering billed on an annual or monthly-installment basis. The service model not only cuts multiple layers of program costs but also makes it easier for administrators to scale the campus ID card office to accommodate future technology capabilities or changing volume demands.

Moving forward, cloud-based access control will also fuel a new way to look at campus design as the convenience of mobile apps is married to the power of insights derived from data analytics (from both location services and access control devices that are connected across the university and its many buildings, labs and other facilities and common areas). The result: more intuitive and seamless service delivery, along with the benefits of remote access control hardware configuration as well as predictive system maintenance capabilities. This cloud model backed by analytics will also improve workflow planning across processes ranging from administrative services to time and attendance logging to booking labs, study areas and conference rooms, and pave the way for new capabilities such as campus wayfinding assistance and other innovations.


Millions of installed physical access control devices are poised to join a global cloud platform for trusted workplace innovation, which is good news for university administrators who want more choices for deploying access control solutions and more opportunities to improve campus life. These devices will be connected to the cloud and supported by software developer kits (SDKs) and open application programming interfaces (APIs) so that solution providers have everything they need to develop new offerings tailored to the special needs of universities.

To enable these connections to cloud-based services, IoT functionality will be embedded in access control panels as app extensions. With these IoT connections, access control systems will deliver realtime data to the cloud, which will facilitate remote diagnostics and a more predictive approach to system maintenance and help protect against emerging vulnerabilities. The complexity of reader configuration will be dramatically simplified: no longer will it be necessary to guess at the current reader configurations or make manual and time-consuming changes to them. Cloud-connected readers will enable remote inspection or changes to the reader configuration and updates to reader firmware.

These cloud connections will also enable access control systems to join advanced smart building solution sets through cloud-based monitoring applications that deliver robust analytics capabilities used to proactively pinpoint and troubleshoot potential system failures. The applications will also monitor secure connections between access control peripherals and trigger firmware updates to address potential cyber threats.

With the cloud model, the industry will move beyond siloed security and workplace optimization solutions to the simplicity, scalability and universality of mobile apps that can be downloaded anywhere across a global footprint of millions of compatible physical access control system endpoints that are all connected in the cloud and IoT.


Universities have been early adopters of cloud platforms for mobile access control, students, faculty and staff can use their smartphones to access parking garages, facilities, dorm rooms, and much more. These universities are providing real-life examples of where other campuses can take their mid- to long-range facility planning to streamline efficiencies and dramatically enhance the user experience.

For instance, students surveyed at universities where mobile access has been deployed have cited convenience as the top attribute of use their phone for accessing buildings and campus services, since their smartphones are always with them and they are less likely to lose them as compared to an access card. Students further pointed out the benefit of using their phone as a backup in cases where their cards were lost or stolen. They also indicated they absolutely loved using easy gesture technology to open the garage parking gate as they drove up to the reader, including the convenience of not even having to roll down their window as they approached. In addition, they validated the efficiency and simplicity of installing and registering the mobile app, citing that it required five minutes or less to complete the process, and it was a self-explanatory and intuitive experience.

Campuses have reported using mobile access far beyond opening doors and gates, where students can now use their phones to check out library books and use campus computer labs as popular examples. Cloud-based access control that is used in this way is poised to help improve everything from registration and enterprise resource planning to dynamically controlling lighting, temperature and other living conditions as administrators leverage the power of connected technology across more use cases.

Beyond the campus environment, co-working spaces are using cloud-based access control to serve entrepreneurs who need professional, reliable office space to build their businesses. In Paris, Deskopolitan uses HID Mobile Access to enable building occupants to access their co-working campus in the heart of Paris, conveniently and securely, expanding how occupants and tenants engage, interact and work in their more intelligent workspaces. Deskopolitan can easily provision or revoke mobile IDs, streamlining management with zero compromise on security.

In a similar example, the international property management group Skanska is using HID technology for secure access throughout its new office complex. The company selected HID Mobile Access due to the ease of integrating all of its building applications into a unified mobile experience, including secure access to its parking garage, virtual reception capabilities, access to offices, and other IoT functionality. Today, employees and their guests can now move throughout the building with nothing more than a smartphone and enter restricted areas to which they have been given access rights.


Cloud-based access control platforms will give university administrators more information about how their campuses are used to optimize efficiency, provide new capabilities like wayfinding and improve the campus experience. They are also fueling new opportunities to dramatically expand the choices universities have for getting the most out of their physical access control investments, giving them the backbone for adding new and emerging technologies, while improving how identity solutions are delivered.

A trusted, cloud-connected campus that leverages an ecosystem of millions of readers and other devices, applications and trusted mobile IDs will give universities greater flexibility to scale and enhance their security infrastructure while continuously improving efficiency. It will also usher in new opportunities to deliver seamless, even more secure and consistent user experiences, while taking advantage of flexible service subscription models and a new way to look at campus design and facility planning.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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