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2022 Mobile Access Control Guide for Building Owners

By Maddy GlynnDigital Marketing Specialist
Published on September 12, 2022


If you own or manage a building, having a deep understanding of who uses it as well as when and how they use it can help you keep occupants safe, improve efficiency, save money, and even decrease your liability. Of course, you can't be there all the time to oversee building operations. That's where mobile access control comes in.

By using a mobile access solutions, building owners and property managers can protect their property and the people in it while still making it easy for tenants to gain access.

Below, we'll look at the details of mobile access, what it has to offer, and how it can be integrated into a visitor management system (VMS) for the most advanced building management and security. But first, it's helpful to understand access control, in general.

access control system

Types of access control systems

The goal of any access control system is to authenticate the identities of users trying to gain entrance to a building or specific area. A system should be both convenient and secure for areas where workers, tenants, or guests need to enter and exit frequently. There may be more levels of security added to storerooms, rooms that hold machinery or valuable items, and places where intellectual property is stored.

Access control is becoming increasingly popular and is concerned with two things: authentication (ensuring people are who they say they are) and authorization (whether that person should be allowed access to a site).

There are three types of access control systems you can use for authentication and authorization:

Discretionary Access Control (DAC)

In this system, it's up to the discretion of either a person sitting at an access point (such as the front desk) or a set of rules devised in advance to allow entrance or digital access to an asset based on a person's identity.

Mandatory Access Control (MAC)

MAC provides a more granular type of access based on a person's identity credentials. Partial access to information or entry is based on the level of permission a person has or the sensitivity of the site or information they're trying to access.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

RBAC gives oversight over access control to an administrator, and other entrants are given (or denied) access to assets based on their role within an organization. That may be an employee, guest, delivery person, contractor, etc.

When it comes to entering a physical building, the most common types of access control credentials include:

  • A passcode
  • A key card
  • A biometric scan, such as facial recognition or a fingerprint match
  • A smartphone or other mobile device app that you can scan or tap at points of entry

The last option forms the basis of a mobile access control solution. This cutting-edge technology allows building owners and managers to protect their operations, manage visitors, and remain secure in the most convenient way.

What is mobile access control?

In 2022, we're approaching nearly 16 billion mobile devices operating worldwide, a number that is only expected to increase over the next few years. Right now, there are twice as many mobile devices as there are people on Earth since most of us own some combination of phones, tablets, and smart wearables (like the Apple Watch).

Mobile access control systems let people use their mobile devices to access a property or spaces within a building (such as private laboratories or individual hotel rooms). By downloading an app and entering identification information, people can use mobile phones as digital access keys to seamlessly enter and exit buildings. At the same time, building managers can monitor data about building usage. Recent research shows that 42% of organizations are ready to upgrade to mobile access systems, with ease of use being the main reason.

While easy entrance is a crucial feature, mobile access also allows property owners to prohibit access to those without the relevant credentials. For example, a former employee may have their building access credentials revoked after termination so they can no longer gain access to company property, or areas that contain dangerous equipment can be kept off-limits to those who aren't trained to use it.

Building security and mobile access control

Mobile access control is quickly replacing physical building credentials such as key card systems and passcodes, which are more easily lost, forgotten, or stolen and can be used by anyone possessing them. Part of what makes mobile devices so secure is that they require a passcode or biometric authentication to access and are, therefore, much harder to use to gain entry by anyone other than the original owner.

Devices can be further secured with dual authentications and other security techniques to protect their ability to permit entry to buildings. Of course, people are far less likely to share smartphones than key cards since the former hold a larger volume of personal information (which is also why we tend to notice quickly if they go missing sooner than we would a physical access card).

Server-based vs. Cloud-based systems

Another choice companies need to make when choosing a mobile access system is whether the data they gather will be stored on a local server or in the cloud. Server-based systems need to be housed on-site and use physical hard drives. This may be a good option for companies with internal IT capabilities and copious infrastructure already in place.

On the other hand, cloud technology relieves companies of the need for physical infrastructure. It allows people to use remote access options, wipe data immediately if a phone is stolen, delete old credentials, and temporarily revoke privileges if they're notified of a potential breach. In other words, the cloud enables a robust security system to be in place on an individual's smart device before they even encounter the mobile access control devices. Research shows that organizations are typically upgrading to cloud-based systems whenever they can, especially when it comes to security and that the 2022-3 fiscal year will likely see around $78 million of spending on cloud computing (up from $73M in 2020).

mobile access control system

What are the benefits of a mobile access control system?

There are many benefits to using a mobile access system, especially when it's integrated into a VMS. All access systems provide a certain level of safety and security by preventing those without credentials from entering certain areas. But with a mobile system, you also get:

Convenience and reliability

First, there are no numbers to memorize (which is especially important for contractors and other guests who may have many such codes to memorize and may write them down) or key cards to lose.

Touchless entry for public health and wellness

While fingerprints are secure, they don't allow for touchless entry, which has become increasingly important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and our new collective understanding of infectious disease.

Whether it's an employee headed to work, a hotel guest checking in, or a teacher arriving at the school's front door for the new school day, each person can simply swipe or tap their cell phone or other mobile device (such as a tablet or smartwatch) to seamlessly gain entry for just themselves, without touching a commonly-used surface. They'll also know that no one can enter behind them without the proper mobile credentials.

For locations that need more monitoring capabilities, video monitoring and other safety controls can help form the basis of a complete visitor management system.


Like a VMS, mobile access is also a way to make your brand stand out and make a good impression on customers, guests, and more. Configuring the app for convenience and security shows that you're serious about the needs of occupants, while personalizing the app with logos lets people identify your company as the one concerned with safety and wellness.


If your system is being used to gauge building occupancy or monitor HVAC or other systems, you can choose to be transparent about how this data is used so that entrants can have insight into and appreciation for your building management.

Building management and reporting

The data that building owners and managers can glean from cloud-based mobile access control systems can be invaluable in monitoring the building's systems, adhering to sudden public health decrees like social distancing protocols, and monitoring the overall state of the structure or site.

When you pair mobile access with a visitor management system that provides customized usage reports, you'll have granular information at the tip of your fingers whenever you need it. This can come in handy when you're talking to contractors about a new HVAC system or impressing investors with the building's operations during your annual reporting season. Reporting is also crucial when communicating the details of building management to other security stakeholders, from risk management and compliance officers to local law enforcement.

How does mobile access control work?

It's helpful to know how technology works so that building managers and owners know what they're asking entrants for and can explain how they get maximum protection out of the system.

There are two main factors involved in making mobile access control work:

Mobile credentialing

Mobile credentials work the same way as physical credentials (such as key cards). A person's identity is encoded into a format that is indecipherable to all but the scanners they need to pass through. For example, your identification certificate may look like a bar code or QR code. No other systems are designed to read an individual's entry credentials - it's only decipherable to the mobile access or visitor management system of a specific building. Credentials are stored in a database where they can be changed, altered, or revoked by those with special access.

When the entrant opens their app, this code pops up. Then, they scan or tap it on the access control reader and are granted the appropriate entry permissions. Credentials can even be specialized to grant entrance to just the front door (for delivery personnel) or specific rooms and offices.

Enabling access control

Access control apps do require communication between the system and the entrant's mobile device. Bluetooth is one option. This allows only people who are a few feet away from the access reader to pair with it in order to read the credentials and grant access. The data is most commonly transmitted over the building's Wi-Fi system in order to verify credentials, but there are other ways for devices to communicate.

For example, NFC (or near-field communication protocols) is the technology employed in tap-to-pay systems. While this is less common, it doesn't require the same type of connectivity as Wi-Fi since there's no need for a data connection.

Check out Sine and Honeywell's access control solutions in action at Honeywell HQ in Charlotte, NC.

Does my building need mobile access control?

Many new office buildings have been built with mobile access control systems by construction managers who know the importance of this security technology for the future. Older buildings will need to be retrofitted with scanners and sensors and, in some cases, redesigned to alter entry points for more secure access.

Even in the most extreme cases, it's rare for these types of building updates to require much company energy or delay business tasks. Choosing a mobile access control strategy and specific system and training employees to use them will probably be more time-consuming but worthwhile in the long run when they help prevent unauthorized access to your people and property.

One potential drawback of a mobile access control system is concern over privacy. Not all employees, guests, tenants, etc. want to install an app on their phone, and some may be suspicious of a building owner or employer having access to their information. Fortunately, this can be addressed when companies purchase systems from reliable manufacturers with name recognition and a long history of making reliable products.

Data security is one of the major advantages of Sine and Honeywell's solutions. It allows purchasers to be completely transparent about the software, notifying anyone in need of entry that the system does not need and will not record any personal or private information stored elsewhere on their devices.

Get secure mobile access and visitor management together with Sine

Sine's VMS has access control integration capabilities that meet all of the standards listed above. It's built to be a convenient, paperless system that allows people to check in to buildings and move around them safely without having to fill out a sign-in sheet, provide paperwork, or wait for someone to find their data or enter it into a computer system.

Sine's access control system integrates with industry leaders Honeywell, Gallagher, and Inner Range for the best and most comprehensive site management.

When people check into a building managed by Sine, they can expect it to be fast and secure, with technology that remembers their credentials for next time. For maximum convenience, secure sites can also allow people to pre-register their smart devices for a seamless entry the first or fiftieth time they come through the doors.

Most importantly, Sine can help ensure the people that walk through your doors are meant to be there, keeping your workers safe from distractions and dangers.

Want to hear more about how Sine's can help enhance security and provide a seamless, premium experience to your visitors and staff? Contact us for a demo today!