I sometimes try to remember what mobile access meant to me before joining HqO a year and a half ago. Up until that time, my only experience with mobile access was staying at a hotel that featured it as an amenity. As someone who has too many times sheepishly approached the concierge to replace a lost room key, the idea made perfect sense. My previous employer and office building had not adopted the technology, and I was only vaguely aware that it had applications beyond the hospitality industry. Today, as a Senior Implementation Manager immersed in mobile access, I have discovered a world of possibilities which, much like a car engine, seems complex when you try to break it down into its individual components. In application, however, you simply feed it gas, press the pedal, and cruise.
What is Mobile Access?
Simply put, mobile access is a digital version of the hard card many of us carry in our wallets or have attached to our lanyards. The difference is that mobile credentials are cheaper to replace, are actually associated with a person (it’s easier to hand someone your hard card than it is to give away your precious phone), and are encrypted with technology that makes them harder to copy than those hard cards. HqO’s mobile access integrations simply facilitate the download and storage of mobile credentials alongside all the other integrations, features, and perks in our app.
Just like a hard card, mobile credentials have an ID number associated with each one — again, like a hard card, that ID number needs to end up in whatever access control system (ACS) you use (Lenel S2, Genetec, Genea, DSX, AMAG, Avigilon, etc). If you’re an HqO customer, it doesn’t matter which ACS you use, because we integrate with the platforms that produce the mobile credentials (HID, Openpath, Datawatch, STid, BluB0x).
Why Does it Matter?
It’s difficult to think of a privately-owned physical space that does not have some sort of lock on it, and the workplace is no exception. But why should you replace your existing hard cards with mobile credentials? The same question was probably asked when hard cards were introduced and companies looked at replacing their metal toothed keys. The answer remains largely the same: mobile credentials are more secure, easier to replace, harder to reproduce, more convenient, and more flexible to changing work environments.
Plus, mobile access is really neat! Whipping out your phone and eliciting a physical reaction from a piece of hardware feels like magic. It gives users a sense of empowerment that they don’t get with many other apps or device utilities. I tend to compare it to smart lights and the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ I get from my parents when dimming my living room lights from the Google Home app. This is why, when asked to identify the most important technology in their commercial space, the majority of landlords said access control.
The Thrill of It
Two months into my HqO career and the sphere of workplace experience, I was not thrilled when my manager asked me to own mobile access implementations. It was a big, scary, and complex tech space that embodied the HqO virtue of “let the experts do what they do best.” However, after a while, it all clicked. I realized that mobile access is more like the Wizard of Oz. Scary at surface level, but you pull back the curtains only to find a fairly simple schema with concrete outcomes.
How did I pull back that curtain? By piecing together conversations with amazing engineers, partners, clients, and integrators that I have the pleasure of working with everyday — Steve, Jeff, Kevin, Anna, and Brody on our engineering team; Deedee and Kenny at Datawatch; Dave McGuinness at Openpath; JM, Ed, and George at Kastle; Daniel Ferdenzi at the Center at Corporate; Kyle Malcher at JCI; and Jamal Farooq and Nishit Shah at Cadillac Fairview. The gratification of working through a problem together cemented the concepts I needed to know, thus helping my clients find a solution that works for them.
Challenges and Innovations
My marketing team will try to remove this statement, but this is a bolder blog post than most: mobile access doesn’t work 100% of the time. Have you ever gone to connect your earbuds or car sound system to your phone and it didn’t take? What did you do, turn bluetooth off and on? Maybe you closed some apps and tried again? This is the reality of bluetooth and the technology used by almost every mobile access provider. When that connection fails, the reaction from a user momentarily locked out of their building tends to be more acute than someone who had to wait a minute before Taylor Swift started to play. Add to it that sometimes your phone runs out memory and shuts down other apps running in the background.
Even though there are challenges, I haven’t kept a hard card in my wallet for over a year and use mobile access everyday. It’s also why our soon-to-be announced feature release is so exciting. It leverages NFC (Near Field Communication) which is more consistent than Bluetooth, doesn’t require an app to be running, benefits from some really cool functionality native to your device (if your phone dies you can still use the mobile credential stored), plus enhancements that ease administrative burden. I’ve been nerding out on mobile access for so long that innovations like these make me as excited as seeing my Celtics in the NBA Finals.
Take the Leap
I think most people get stuck at the very beginning of their mobile access journey. They don’t know what questions to ask or whom to talk to. At HqO, we’ve seen this a lot, but we have the experience and approach to customer success that have helped dozens of our clients adopt a technology in which a growing number of landlords and corporate spaces have already invested. If you are looking for a differentiating tech for your building or a perk for employees, give us a call. Sometimes, the secret to workplace experience isn’t happy hours and yoga classes, it’s how you get in the door.