NFC vs. Bluetooth® Mobile Credentials

Evaluating the differences between the two and discovering which is right for you.

| 05/12/2022
Keely Sustarsic 
by 

If I had to bet, your mobile device is either in your hand, next to you or less than 10 feet from you. Let me know later if I was wrong, but the point I’m making here is that we always have our mobile devices within reach. And the reason for that is our mobile devices have become so much more than something we simply use to make phone calls.

They are our camera, calendar, calculator, phone, flashlight, camcorder (do they still say that), credit card and so much more. It’s natural to expect them to continue to evolve and replace even more items throughout our life. 

Due to the increasing demand for our mobile devices to be the one-stop-shop, the desire for a mobile access credential is growing stronger each and every day in the security space. Employees are asking for a mobile employee badge. Multifamily tenants are tired of carrying physical keys. And college/university students are ready to ditch their student ID for good and use their mobile device instead.

But as different types of mobile credentials enter the market, like Bluetooth® and NFC (Near Field Technology), security professionals are oftentimes asking themselves the same question. Which technology makes sense for my use case?

Before we dive into the ins and outs, let’s take a spin down memory lane.

THE HISTORY

The mobile credential journey became popular by using Bluetooth® technology. But even the creators of it would tell you it was never meant to be used for access control. While great for small to medium-sized businesses, who just desire the ability to open and close a door, it’s a perfect fit. However, larger enterprise corporations, higher education institutions and multifamily properties are scrambling to find something, anything, better.

That’s when NFC technology showed up to the party.

NFC is known as Near Field Communication. Similar to Bluetooth®, it’s a technology that is built into a mobile device, most commonly used in the form of a “Wallet”. In fact, most mobile devices already contain NFC technology, but for so long that technology was not accessible across all mobile device manufacturers.

Until now.

Recently, the largest mobile device manufacturers granted limited access to their NFC technology, opening the door to new access experiences. So what does this all mean?

Well, to put it simply, those who have been granted access can now develop solutions that create a unified mobile credential experience for an entire facility. 

You are probably thinking “well doesn’t a Bluetooth® mobile credential already do that?” The answer is yes and no. 

The Bluetooth® mobile credential allows users to open and close a door, but that’s pretty much it. With NFC technology, for example, a corporate office could issue an employee badge as a mobile credential in which said employee can add that credential to the respective “wallet” on their mobile device and use it freely across not only access points, but print, vending and more.

Outside of an elevated user experience, NFC technology provides customers enhanced security with the true validation of user identity on every single presentation of credential.  The user’s personal Apple, Google, or Samsung ID is tied to the device as well as their professional or educational identity provided by the IT staff.  This benefits both the user and the business in protecting the facility. 

In addition to the validation of the identity, the actual communication from the credential and the reader are specific to the individual customer site.  So each user presenting a credential has their unique credential validated every time for authenticity by the reader. From there, a secure communication is sent between the reader and access control panel to determine if the user should be granted access. This process is direct, secure and more efficient.

Now that we’ve covered the logistics of this new technology, let’s talk about provisioning.

PROVISIONING MOBILE

Provisioning an NFC mobile credential is a dream for admins. Security professionals are able to provision thousands of mobile credentials at once, without any headache. For example, higher education institutions can provision thousands of wallet credentials to incoming students in a matter of seconds. All the students are required to do is navigate to the institution’s app and add their credential to their device wallet. It’s seriously that simple.

If it hasn’t already been implied, there are a lot of benefits to implementing NFC technology at your facility. However, there are pros and cons for both Bluetooth® and NFC mobile credentials. Bluetooth® credentials are ideal for small to medium sized businesses looking to simply open and close a door. NFC comes into play when facilities are looking to unify their entire access control experience. Meaning one mobile credential does it all. This can be things like access in and out of doors, using dining credits and seeing the balance remaining, access to print, vending and more. This solution, however, relies heavily on the reader technology currently in place.

Luckily for WaveLynx customers, our readers are already set up to enable that complete, secure and unified access experience for both you and your employees, tenants and/or students. The interoperability we provide allows the mobile credential to be more than just something that opens and closes a door. We are constantly working with our device partners to unlock (no pun intended) more use cases where the mobile credential can be utilized, making that unified experience even more of reality for our customers.

We’ve got some exciting updates coming very soon as it relates to the NFC Wallet. Follow us on LinkedIn to be the first to know.

For more information on credential strategies or common migration paths, check out our recent articles:

Three Things to Consider When Choosing a Credential Strategy

Top 4 Reader and Credential Transition Strategies