The Future of Access Control: A Wave of the Hand, A Wealth of New Opportunities


Change in the access control industry, together with innovation, is occurring at a rapid pace.   The virtualization of contactless smart cards, and their residency on smartphones, allows a whole host of new innovative thinking, along with the ability to combine many access control applications into a single, very convenient solution.

Recent new developments include using hand gestures for access control, which in the future could enhance the next generation of mobile device-based access control credentials.  Just as mouse technology was a disruptive innovation that revolutionized the computer interface, gesture-based technology will change how users interact with access control systems. 

The industry is already seeing the impact of gesture technology in gaming. Further developments are underway in the interactive TV market, where users are able to swipe through on-screen TV and game console menus by gesturing in the air from their seat on the couch.  Other developing applications for gesture technology include robots that help care for the elderly, and digital signage that can see who the customer is and display content that is relevant to them.  Now, perhaps, the access control industry is poised to experience a similar transformation.

With a simple user-defined wave of the hand or other gesture, individuals will be able to control a variety of RFID devices.  This will improve the user experience while increasing security by providing new authentication factors that go beyond something the cardholder “has” (the card) to include a gesture-based version of something the cardholder “knows” (like a password or personal identification number).

Gesture-based access control works with smartphones in a mobile access control environment, where it will be possible to use both two- and three-dimensional gestures by leveraging a smartphone’s built-in accelerometer feature.  Because the phone’s accelerometer senses movement and gravity, it can tell which way the screen is being held. This allows for a novel way of adding another authentication factor to the existing authentication scheme.  A user could present the phone to a reader, rotate it 90 degrees to the right, and then return it to the original position in order for the credential inside the phone to be read, and for access to be granted.  So in the future when you see someone waving their phone at a secure door and it opens, don’t be surprised.  “Open Sesame’ has arrived.