Smartphones As "Digital Keys" Coming To Doors Near You


Photo by Keith Williamson via Flickr CC

The dematerialization continues, right down to our keys. The plastic ID badges that people hold up to readers at doorways to get into secure areas could soon be replaced by simply holding up your cell phone. Plastic keys could become so last decade. Forbes reports, "HID Global, a California-based division of Sweden's Assa Abloy, is testing software that acts as a digital key when loaded onto a smartphone. The software, which interacts with physical ID card readers via an application or by swiping it near a reader, could eventually replace the plastic badges that millions of people worldwide use to securely enter their offices and other facilities."

Starting out at college campuses, the company tested the technology at Arizona State University. Instead of using campus ID cards, students can use cell phones. After a month-long test run, feedback from students is apparently "pretty positive."

It could signal yet another way smart phones are helping us dematerialize. From allowing us to replace a pile of various gadgets from radios to calculators to cameras, replacing paper copies of receipts and documents with digital versions, even allowing us to pay for items via cell phone instead of with paper money or credit cards, smart phones are helping us minimize materials we cart around with us. Replacing yet more plastic could be the next wave.

However, it could be a little while. Forbes reports, "The pace of adoption depends, in part, on the maturation of Near Field Communication (NFC). HID's digital key software uses this short-range wireless technology to talk to hardware readers. Though NFC is attracting attention from handset makers, wireless operators and payment processors, it is still hard to find in most U.S. buildings and cellphones. Before rolling out digital keys, ASU needs to wait until clear NFC standards are set."

Even so, the company feels that this technology is perfect for hotels, offices, even homes, with access allowed or revoked with a quick signal sent to the particular cell phone.

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Tags: Concepts & Prototypes | Dematerialization | Electronics | Gadgets