Changing landscapes of residential access control

Michal Kratochvíl, CEO of 2N Telekomunikace, discusses the latest developments in the access control market with HiddenWires’ editor, Amy Wallington.

AW: What are the latest trends in access and security for the high-end smart home market?

MK: The switch from analogue intercoms to IP technology is the most significant trend shaping our industry right now. With IP intercoms, you have features like HD, incredible audio quality and a huge range of integration options. HD video intercoms are already being widely used in residential properties and, in June last year, we launched the 2N IP Style, a flagship intercom with the best video transmission and a 10″ touchscreen display.

The second trend is mobile. Mobile based access systems were already in huge demand before Covid, but the pandemic has accelerated this because they limit skin contact with shared surfaces and so help to provide a safe and secure home access experience. We believe that our latest technology, WaveKey, is a breakthrough in this area and that a contactless system with a mobile phone will become the standard. The WaveKey technology can help manage contactless access to residential buildings and modern homes, as well as the handling of deliveries.

The third trend we are seeing is the integration of new solutions like mobile access control and video calls from door intercoms into home automation control apps. To be able to do that, your devices must be IP-based to be able to offer appropriate APIs. It is also essential that you, as a manufacturer, can offer SDKs for your own app, so it can be integrated into home automation applications.

AW: How have access and security solutions evolved for the residential market?

MK: Access control is constantly evolving to keep pace with changes in people’s lifestyles.

For example, our phones have evolved to become key tools in assisting with our everyday life. Crucially for access control, it has led to a boom in home deliveries of groceries and other items – which has supported a huge increase in the use of mobile credentials in high-end residential properties because it can give people peace of mind to continue receiving home deliveries securely and conveniently even when they are not at home. A video enabled app on your mobile enables the user to allow access to secure areas allowing deliveries to be dropped to a specified location. This can be a delivery room at a block of residential flats or a secure area at someone’s house. Importantly, this technology can be self-installed by simply connecting to Wi-Fi, thus removing the risk of strangers coming into the home. 

AW: Since the pandemic, would you say the demand for these products has increased or decreased? 

MK: Covid has also encouraged mobile credentials as a result of the huge growth in e-commerce that the pandemic has brought about. 2N’s Mobile Video service and app, for example, allows people to communicate with couriers and other visitors through their phone – even if they aren’t in the building.

More broadly, pre-Covid, our customers were primarily focused on convenience, flexibility and security, but times have changed. These factors remain important, but now, they are also looking for ways to help occupiers maintain social distancing and good hygiene. The value of technology in managing access to buildings has become more widely recognised as a result of the pandemic.

AW: What are some of the main features of an access and security system in a high-end home? What can they do and how do they improve the lives of homeowners?

MK: I would use our best-selling product, the 2N IP Verso, to illustrate the benefits that modern access control can have for residents in high-end homes. This intercom was awarded the prestigious Red Dot Design Award and has been very popular for residential projects thanks to its modularity, luxury design and enhanced capabilities. The modularity allows integrators to modify the functions of the intercom exactly according to the user requirements. For example, if you select the Bluetooth module this will allow residents to eliminate keys and entry cards and use mobile phones as a means of identification to gain entry. All that users need for this is to install the 2N Mobile Key application on a smartphone. Users can then gain access by pressing a button in the application or simply tapping the reader. Even when residents are not at home, they can open the door with their application from anywhere around the world. Our system can also provide secure access to the package room. Residents can let the couriers into the building via the main door and then to the package room using the mobile application.

We have also introduced services to facilitate the integration and administration of 2N devices via the internet. Our free cloud service enables remote configuration of the intercoms and access units using the My2N portal. The setup is very easy and doesn’t require any advanced network infrastructure knowledge. A lot of residents of high-end homes aren’t very tech savvy, so this appeals to them. It’s also entirely safe, thanks to double encrypted communication.

AW: What infrastructure (if any) is needed to install a typical access and security system for the home?

MK: Our devices no longer need to be connected to a single local network. You only need what is already available in most residential buildings and modern homes – an internet connection. No additional investment is required. Simply connect the intercom and the answering units to the router. You can then add the devices in the My2N platform and setup free calling between them.

AW: Are there any security issues with access and security systems for the home? How do you prevent them being hacked for example?

MK: It is more important than ever that users are aware of any potential vulnerabilities that may exist in their systems to ensure appropriate security measures are in place. Consumers must look for excellent security standards, not just a good user experience. Especially for this reason, we have our own 2N operating system to provide users with the highest levels of security and protecting their personal data. No one unwittingly wants to give hackers opportunities to access their personal information.

AW: Is it important to have flexibility with access and security systems for the home in terms of access methods, what it gives access to, who it can give access to? Why?

MK: Flexibility is definitely important. Our modular IP Verso intercom offers a range of totally interchangeable reader modules. Additionally, our reader range includes options which support multi technology credential types. By choosing a reader which supports both RFID and Bluetooth, or PIN codes and Bluetooth, homeowners can decide what’s the most convenient access and security system for them.

As for the platform itself, support of mobile credentials is increasingly becoming a core feature. Our own Access Commander software supports enrolment and management of Bluetooth credentials and has done for some time, so all that is required is to ensure the software is up to date. Choosing a system which offers flexibility is the key in transitioning to new technology, like mobile credentials, as they emerge.

AW: What would you say is the most secure method of entry?

MK: Technological progress means that there are a range of equally secure options available today.

In days gone by, for example, some people had security concerns about mobile based access systems and there were some attacks demonstrated on Bluetooth communication generally. However, our technology doesn’t use standard Bluetooth communication. Instead, we merely establish a connection via Bluetooth; our app creates an encrypted tunnel through which communication takes place using our proprietary technology. Therefore, the Bluetooth communication is fully protected in our own secure channel. We used AES-128 and RSA-1024 encryption keys. It is essentially impossible to eavesdrop and misuse mobile credentials.

AW: Do you think biometric systems or facial recognition is the way forward?

MK: 2N has prioritised mobile access control over biometrics, but each solution has its own strengths.

All credentials, including biometric, should be stored in cipher form so there is no need to adopt a specific security solution for biometrics. As with every type of credentials, the database administrator must follow the basic principles of data handling, which may also depend on the culture of the companies handling the data. 2N is ISO27001 certified, which is a guarantee that in addition to secure products, we have rigorous internal processes to keep our customers’ data safe. We also have a Hardening Guide that helps people set up their devices to minimise the risk of an attack.

In general, although we are focusing on mobile, we don’t think there needs to be one ‘winner’ in the battle between mobile and biometrics. Both can thrive because they meet different needs.

AW: What do you think will be next for access and security in high-end homes?

MK: We are seeing rapid transformation in the residential sector, and this presents great opportunities for our access control solutions. Our long-term strategy is to continuously invest in product development, which is the lifeblood of our business, and offer smarter and smarter intercom systems. On innovation, 14% of our revenues are re-invested in R&D and our customers feel the impact of this year on year. To keep up with the current IoT trends, we feel that the integration of products will be very important for the future, in order to add more functionality and security features.