Co-written with Edsel Shreve, General Manager, BioConnect AI

Where digital transformation is reshaping every aspect of business operations, the convergence of digital authentication and physical security is not just a trend—it’s a necessity. For security professionals, understanding how to leverage digital authentication for physical security is crucial in today’s landscape.

Traditional methods of access control are rapidly being supplemented—and even replaced—by advanced, IT-approved digital solutions. Let’s dig into the growing trend of reducing physical credentials in favour of mobile-based authentication, enhancing user experience, and integrating second-factor authentication for robust security.

What is Digital Authentication?

Digital authentication refers to the process of verifying the identity of a user or device before granting access to resources, whether digital or physical. This can be done through various methods such as passwords, biometric data, tokens, or mobile applications.

The Shift to Mobile-Based Solutions

Mobile devices have become an integral part of our daily lives, and their role in security is expanding. Mobile-based authentication offers numerous advantages:

  • Convenience: Users can authenticate their identity using a device they already carry.
  • Cost-Effective: Reduces the need for physical credentials like keycards and fobs.
  • Enhanced Security: Mobile authentication can integrate multiple factors of authentication, making it more robust.

User Experience

One of the most significant benefits of mobile-based authentication is the improvement in user experience. Traditional access control methods often involve cumbersome processes and physical credentials that can be easily lost or stolen. Mobile-based solutions streamline the authentication process, making it seamless and user-friendly.

Imagine walking up to a secure door and simply using your smartphone to gain access, much like contactless payments. The ease of use and quick access not only save time but also enhance overall satisfaction. However, where mobile-based authentication solutions have come up short is in ensuring a very tight bonding of the user to the mobile device or mobile authentication method that would satisfy the high-security standards of many IT and Physical Security groups.

The Growing Trend of Reducing Physical Credentials

The push to reduce physical credentials aligns with broader digital transformation initiatives. By migrating to digital authentication methods, organizations can achieve:

  • Lower Costs: Reducing the dependency on physical credentials means saving on production, distribution, and replacement costs.
  • Greater Security: Digital credentials are harder to duplicate and easier to manage.
  • Operational Efficiency: Streamlined processes and reduced administrative burdens.

Second-Factor Authentication

While primary authentication methods like passwords or PINs are common, they are often not enough to ensure robust security. Implementing a second factor—something you have, something you know, or something you are—adds an extra layer of security that mobile authentication solutions have typically lacked. There are now common IT-approved mobile authentication tools that can for the first time be used for physical security access as additional authentication tools. These include:

  • DUO, Okta, PingID: Offers strong multi-factor authentication (MFA) capabilities, ensuring secure access to both cloud and on-premises applications.
  • SMS: Sends a one-time code to the user’s mobile phone, adding an additional verification step.
  • BioConnect Mobile: Uses secure mobile biometrics, such as facial authentication, for authentication. Unlike the phone-based biometric, BioConnect Mobile creates a tight binding of the user and the device for additional identity certainty. Additionally, it places control of the enrolment policies and experience with the company to ensure that binding cannot be compromised through any user actions.

Real-World Applications

Organizations across various sectors are already benefiting from integrating digital authentication with physical security. Here are some examples:

Corporate Offices

Corporations are using mobile-based authentication to control access to buildings and sensitive areas within offices. Employees can use an IT-approved mobile/digital app for a second factor for increased security. For example, while an access card can accepted for access during business hours of an organization, an additional DUO authentication may be required for access outside of business hours.

Healthcare Facilities

Hospitals and clinics are leveraging digital authentication to secure patient records and control access to restricted areas, ensuring both data privacy and physical security.

Educational Institutions

Schools and universities are adopting mobile-based authentication to provide secure access to campuses, dormitories, and academic resources.

The Future of Security is Now

Leveraging digital authentication for physical security is no longer a futuristic concept—it’s happening now. The reduction of physical credentials, the shift to mobile-based solutions, and the implementation of second-factor authentication are transforming how organizations secure their facilities and data.

By adopting IT-approved solutions like DUO, Okta, PingID, SMS, and BioConnect Mobile, organizations can achieve a higher level of security while enhancing user experience and operational efficiency.