This year was the launch of the Global Security Exchange (GSX), formerly known as ASIS, and whether you’re a security director, end user, or OEM you had to be there to witness everything that is happening with today’s security technology. From Robotics to AI and Machine Learning to reimagined Mobile Applications, this year’s event was anything but your run-of-the-mill security conference. However, beyond the futuristic security robots and drones was a more subtle theme and the reason why developers are working to deploy such advanced solutions. This theme, according to UniKey’s executives was, “reinventing the consumer-security experience.” Below we have a list of the top trends that will contribute to the development of smarter, faster, and stronger security solutions for every consumer.

AI & Machine Learning
One of the many ways our team saw AI and machine learning being utilized was through video surveillance technology. With AI and Machine Learning, systems can learn to better identify people, objects, and even actions in order to keep a safer eye on facilities and the people within them. Systems can also learn to recognize and notify security directors of any required maintenance.
Mobile Security
Yes, mobile access control was an incredibly popular product at GSX 2018, however this time we’re talking about security that’s on the move. This year’s conference saw more security drones, droids, and counter-UAV defense systems than ever before. Companies were showcasing anything from security robots who could also detect spills and leaks to sophisticated drones that could effectively monitor building exteriors.
Passive Solutions
With the introduction of more advanced technology, security is beginning to see an emphasis on passive solutions. Consumers are looking for security systems that make access seamless and unobtrusive. One of the systems our executives noticed was Boon Edam’s Lifeline Speedlane Swing turnstile line. The turnstile utilizes IDEMIA’s MorphoWave™ technology which enables touchless fingerprint recognition, so that individuals need only slide their hand through a scanner instead of having to stop and have their hand be scanned.
Real-time Notifications
Companies like AppArmor and Sielox are introducing new ways to keep campuses safe. With push notifications, intelligent location sharing, and real-time crime reportings, these applications give campuses more tools to keep occupants informed of any dangerous situations. Some applications, like Sielox CLASS, even offer two way communication between occupants and first responders so they may exchange helpful details and instructions from one another during emergencies.
Mobile Everything
This year, and in the years to come, mobile applications will be prominent security trends. Mobile access control systems that enable remote sharing, revoking, and monitoring of user credentials are becoming a must-have option for consumers. Mobile Access Control is also becoming a highly sought after solution as it can potentially integrate with and enhance legacy security systems. From remote monitoring of video surveillance feeds to enabling frictionless and robust security solutions, the possibilities of what companies can do with mobile access control technology are nearly endless.

Mobile credentials are on the rise. They’re reaching popularity with consumers everywhere as people begin to experience the difference between using a keycard and using a smartphone to unlock their doors. Mobile keys mean more control, functionality, safety features, and lighter pockets as people no longer have to carry around traditional credentials. As mobile brings a greater user experience to consumers, more security vendors are looking to add keyless entry to their list of security solutions. However, breaking into the Mobile Access Control Industry isn’t always easy. You and your team will need the right hardware, software, and expert know-how to implement a mobile solution that will give your users an at-door experience that goes beyond the typical key, fob, pin code, or card. Our team can help you expedite the deployment of mobile access control solutions and bring more robust and convenient security to the front door. Go mobile in minutes with UniKey. Learn more.

Back by popular demand is our Employee Spotlight Interview. This time around we have Allen Davila, one of our talented and dedicated Hardware Engineers.  


UNIKEY: Allen, what is the best part of your job?

ALLEN: The best part is that I don’t feel like I’m actually working. Though we’re constantly working on challenging things, the people at UniKey make it fun and take the edge off of everything. You get to hang out with your team and build cool things together. It’s different from a regular 9-5 job where you’re just constantly grinding away, and getting little enjoyment out of what you’re doing.

UNIKEY: What is the toughest part of your job?

ALLEN: The toughest part is releasing hardware designs, because you have to try to get things right the first time. With hardware you don’t really have an infinite amount of chances to try to come up with new ways to solve a problem. It’s not quite like software where, you can hit recompile and make all the changes you want after realizing you made a mistake in the code or would prefer to take a different approach to something. And here there’s pressure because to build a design out, it can be very costly if you make a design mistake. Luckily, we have a strong team and process behind producing designs. My team members and I meticulously look over each other’s work through design reviews, that way if there are any mistakes we can take care of them. Really, with hardware it’s about being proactive, not reactive.


UNIKEY: What separates UniKey from other employers?

ALLEN: I’d say the culture and the comradery. UniKey has such a strong culture that brings everyone together. You don’t get that at every job. Oftentimes it’s just cubicles and isolation, whereas UniKey is open and full of positive communication.


Working at UniKey comes with a lot of opportunity. Whether it’s taking on new and challenging tasks, or getting the chance to work with a motivated and spirited team, it’s all in a day’s work at UniKey. To check out our available positions, visit 
www.unikey.com/careers.

Product Management in an Ever-Changing Startup World

6 Minute Read

Product management can be a difficult task for any company, and it’s no different for UniKey. It is important that our developers and engineers are well informed on what exactly it is they need to be working on. When working with our partners, it’s our job to take their ideas and turn them into a reality; one that works for both parties as well as the end user. Luckily, we’re in good hands with our VP of Product, Will Holderness. We sat down with him for an informative interview that really dives into what it means to oversee product management.

How would you explain product management to a 5-year-old?
Will: A lot of what we do is taking what a customer needs and turning that into something engineering can build. We’re effectively deciding what we’re going to build as a company. A lot of that comes from understanding what our customers actually need, and beyond that, what their customers need. Since we’re a B2B company, we usually aren’t serving the end customer directly, but because of that we have to also look past what our customers are asking for to better ascertain what the end-user will want out of our partner’s product. So, overall my job is to figure out what our partners are really asking for and how we can best accomplish that with them.

 

What are some of the biggest challenges you face when working on a new product?
Will: The biggest challenge is that smart access control is still a relatively new concept for a lot of companies and people. So, when our partners meet with us, there are a lot of ideas floating around and a lot of features they would love to have for their products, but they aren’t entirely sure of what can be achieved. Luckily, the possibilities are endless with our platform, so the real challenge is defining what is actually needed.

 

What are some of the questions you ask our partners when trying to determine their product vision and goals?
Will: A big part of it is asking them, “What do you see UniKey doing for you?” Because our team is capable of a lot, but we need to see how this will fit into our roadmap. For that reason, and to better understand where UniKey fits into a partners’ potential product, I ask them, “How do you envision us being a part of this product? What do you see as the end goal of this product for your company? What do you want the customer experience to be? What do you want your customers to get out of it?” Once we understand that, we can better align our product offering with what the final product will be.

 

How do you go about creating a product roadmap? What is the process?
Will: This is a tough one. A big part of it is figuring out what our customers want. In order to do this, I sit in on most of the sales calls, so that even before we sign a contract I can begin thinking about what’s coming down the pipeline for the company. It gives me some great visibility and better understanding of what a lot of our partners and future partners are looking for. Even if we don’t end up signing a deal with certain companies, at the end of the day you still gain a lot of insight that paints a picture of what the industry is asking for from those calls. I get to see what the commercial, residential, and automotive industries are looking for in their physical access control which I can then take and map out where it can all fit into UniKey’s vision. I even get to hear some individual customers asks like, “We need this feature to be able to support Bluetooth key fobs” or “We want to be able to use the gateway to be able to do something different.” A lot of these are great ideas and asks that a majority of the time represent internal asks that we also want to be able to do with our platform. When this is the case, Product will often make sure the team begins to work on these asks as soon as possible in order for us to better provide for our partners and the industry as a whole.


What are some business goals you have for the near future for UniKey?

Will: A business goal for us is to be able to provide a full SDK approach for our partners. A lot of our customers will come in and say,“We love your platform, your firmware, your mobile apps…but we want something different for our web portal.” At that point, we’ll then have to work on building something entirely new for our partners instead of being able to work on our core platform offering. Therefore, my goal is to get us to be able to provide our partners with all the tools they may need to be able to go off and build whatever they’d like to sell. This way we can service more partners who want to work with us, while still being able to work on enhancing our platform offering for our current partners.


How does product management tie into the overall vision and mission of UniKey?

Will: I think it’s pretty essential to UniKey. Our engineering team can pretty much build anything we ask them to build, but it’s Product’s job to take what our customers are asking and map that into the UniKey vision. We’ve had a few customers ask us to do things that don’t align with our core vision, so it’s Product’s responsibility to take all of that and find a way to make it all map together. A lot of the time, this actually ends up benefitting our partners too, as they don’t always know exactly what they want out of their product. In that case we’re often able to provide a better solution than our partner was initially asking for, while still being able to keep our vision in line.

As you can see, building a product, especially one that is still in the very beginning of its life-cycle, can be difficult. However, that’s what UniKey is here to do. Working with our partners, we not only get the opportunity to bring their product visions to life but we’re also given the chance to provide the industry and end-users with smarter, more secure access control solutions. To learn more about collaborating with UniKey, visit www.unikey.com.

As we make our way through Q3 of 2018, our team has been working hard alongside industry giants to develop and deploy the latest in physical access control technology and solutions. Since the company’s humble beginning in 2010, it’s seen several product launches, partnerships, and internal growth. For a company that is rapidly innovating, it’s only natural that its website should follow suit and reflect the same level of ingenuity UniKey is known for. From launching a new website to delivering industry-leading solutions, this quarter and the ones to follow in 2019, are going to be momentous for the mobile access control pioneers.

Find your way to UniKey’s new homepage by clicking the UniKey logo in the upper left-hand corner or here.

“Swipe from the best, then adapt”

A quote from the author of In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters.

Today in physical access control we’ve reached a point where we’re doing just that- swiping and adapting. Every great piece of technology was most likely adapted from another. The automobile was adapted from the horse and buggy, from the loom we got the sewing machine, and from the invention of key cards and mag-stripes we now have mobile credentials. Thus, is the way of progress, as adaptation is the birthplace of innovation and life-changing inventions. As the physical security space progresses, there will be a few challenges to address along the way however, this is something that is only natural in the cycle of innovation and change. Our Founder and CEO, Phil Dumas, discusses this topic in greater detail in his latest post.

 

By 2021, experts predict that roughly 44 million mobile credentials will be downloaded and used to unlock home and office doors across the globe. However, these numbers don’t take into consideration all the other mobile credentials we use on a daily basis. It’s easy to make your way through theme park turnstiles or general admission at a concert without realizing you just used a form of mobile access control. In fact, the average person most likely uses one to two mobile credentials a week (at the very least) in ways that are more subtle than a smart lock powered key. Below is a list of four overlooked mobile tokens many of us have used before:

Theme Parks

By far the most unnerving experience at theme parks has got to be the ticketing line. If you have ever been to a theme park before the development of smartphone technology, you know exactly what this is referring to. Thankfully, we’re now living in 2018 where mobile ticketing, or eTicketing, has become a solution theme parks like Disney and Universal have implemented into their admissions system to make the ticketing process a lot smoother and significantly less trying. For example, Disney and Universal offer their guests a mobile app where they may go in and purchase theme park tickets. What were once paper tickets, which almost always needed to be printed or physically handed off at a ticket booth, are now QR codes that are ready to scan the moment guests purchase the tickets.

Concerts, Sporting Events, and Plays

One of the biggest ways we all have used mobile credentials is through third-party/online ticketing powerhouses like TicketMaster and StubHub. These sites were created in the same vein of Disney and Universal’s mobile/eTicketing solutions and offer users the ability to obtain tickets to shows online, which are then sent to consumers via an email with an embedded QR or barcode. Now sports fans, theatre lovers, and concert-goers can enjoy the ease of purchasing digital tickets and can focus more of their attention on what really matters: the event.

Airports

Another way a majority of us have used mobile credentials is through electronic boarding passes. Back in 2007, the TSA started to allow travelers to use e-passes instead of physical tickets. Ever since the release of this mobile innovation, over 102 airports have implemented e-pass scanners into their check-in and boarding process and almost 1 billion people have used the more convenient mobile boarding pass. It’s expected that by 2019, over 1.5 billion travelers will be using e-passes over their paper counterparts.

eWallet Apps

If you’ve ever used AppleSamsung, or Android Pay, then you have used a form of mobile credentials. These apps digitize your credit cards and communicate through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Near Field Communication (NFC). Stores either install BLE and NFC-enabled POS systems or they rely on NFC beacons to transmit the embedded data from our phones to the checkout counter. Wallet apps like the ones listed above, as well as Venmo and Paypal are expected to account for 503 billion dollars of global purchases by 2020.

Connect the Digital and Physical Worlds

Mobile credentials are taking many different forms in our everyday lives. Several have reached a point where they are speeding up, or completely eliminating some of the most tedious tasks we’ve had to do in the past. As mobile credentials become a more widely adopted solution, more companies are taking notice and partnering with platform companies like UniKey to build a mobile solution for their goods and services. At UniKey, our products and solutions are motivated by our goal of building seamless and smarter access for our homes, offices, and cars that can keep up with digital consumers and innovators. To learn more about mobile credentials and simplifying the way the world accesses everything, visit www.unikey.com.

Since the development of new communication standards like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Near Field Communication (NFC), there’s been a lot of debate throughout the physical access control space on which one delivers the most bang for your buck. Additionally, with long-standing protocols like Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), the discussion then leads into a “if it’s not broken, why fix it?” kind of dialogue. While RFID has great use cases for applications such as inventory management and theft prevention, the 70 year old technology is becoming a limited communication protocol for the physical security space. Below we dive into the key differences between BLE, NFC, and RFID communication protocols and how they impact the overall security of physical access control technology.

First off, due to the industry’s long standing use of RFID, hackers and other bad actors have had plenty of time to identify the holes in the system. Moreover, several devices have been produced since RFID entered the physical access control space that make it simple for hackers to breach a system in as little as 30 seconds. These systems are being sold on sites like eBay at a low-cost; making it easy for anyone to intercept the data being communicated between key cards and your average 125KHz RFID powered system. Since awareness of RFID system vulnerabilities were brought to the security industry’s attention, efforts have been made to ameliorate the issues. However, according to Francis Brown, managing partner at security firm Bishop Fox, “despite increased efforts and progress made by some companies in recent years to upgrade to more secure contactless card systems, the large majority of physical access control systems out there are still legacy 125KHz proximity card deployments”.

Additionally, the credentials that are powered by RFID are (more often than not) hard credentials, making them easier to lose, steal, or copy. This is where using RFID’s successor, NFC, can improve on a system’s security, since it utilizes soft credentials like digital keys to distribute access. The caveat with NFC is that although these system’s soft credentials make it more secure, the communication protocol is still derived from RFID. As such, NFC communicates in a similar fashion to its predecessor; offering two-way communication between NFC enabled devices and their corresponding devices through HF (High Frequency) RFID. Ultimately, the communication protocol still holds the same kind of risks, unless companies utilize secure NFC channels with rich encryption to ensure that data is transmitted with full integrity.

BLE based systems also have the advantage of utilizing soft credentials like digital keys to facilitate tighter security. However, the key difference between both RFID and NFC with BLE is the communication process. Where RFID and NFC uses radio frequency to communicate, BLE utilizes outbound signals to find and communicate with other Bluetooth enabled devices. While the utilization of signals may sound like it could open BLE communication up to the same vulnerabilities found in RFID and NFC, the key difference lies within a systems approach to securing the transmission of the data.

For example, UniKey’s platform uses a heavily encrypted mobile application to communicate with an equally encrypted, BLE enabled, smart reader. While the mobile application is always broadcasting a signal, the reader remains idle; waiting for a user to touch it and trigger its search for a compatible, BLE enabled device such as the smartphone and its mobile application. The reader then 1) scans to see if the compatible device is within range of it and 2) holds proper credentials. All data that is passed from the phone to the reader is heavily encrypted, allowing for secure transmission and smarter access. Moreover, since native BLE security harbors several possible weaknesses and exploits, UniKey’s platform does not rely on it to hold down the fort. Instead, BLE is solely used as a point to point communication channel, and is undergirded by UniKey’s own crypto protocol. It also gives platform customers the ability to share keys among system users without requiring device pairing for every user. Notably, this is something native BLE security would require.

Overall, no matter the communication standard a security system uses, the level of security it can provide consumers is in the hands of the company that produced it. At UniKey, our mission is to provide our partners and the world with the most secure mobile access control solutions technology can offer. To learn more about how UniKey uses BLE to empower our solutions and partners, visit www.unikey.com.

In our last blog post, we took an in-depth look at the hardware and embedded processes behind Mohammad’s SmartCabinet. “When I started the project, my deadline was the senior design fair, roughly 5 months out. Looking at the scope of work and time it would take to put it all together, I thought the project was going to be impossible, at least in that small frame of time. UniKey’s platform expedited the process though, making it possible for me to meet that deadline.”

When we sat down with Mohammad one of the first questions we asked him was: What did you feel was the biggest pain point throughout the entire project? Naturally, “bringing the cabinet online” was his response. This problem, which was nearly identical to what UniKey had to overcome with the deadbolt, was a perfect match for the company’s mobile key platform. The hardware, as we alluded to in the previous How it’s Made post, was just half of what Hammad had to tackle on the road to bringing his product online. As with any connected device, functionality and user experience is also wildly contingent on the product’s firmware, software, and mobile applications.

The Software & Mobile Applications

In order to bring his SmartCabinet online, Hammad first had to build his mobile app. Utilizing UniKey’s mobile SDK and support, Hammad fashioned a custom Android app, powered by UniKey for all BLE communication and security protocols. To enable mobile access control, Hammad had to connect his mobile application with the hardware we mentioned in the previous post. “The entire security protocol and BLE processes are supported by UniKey’s platform and SDK, ensuring we’d feature a robust and trusted security architecture. This allowed me to have an accredited security protocol and the ability to focus on the features that are unique to my product”, Hammad adds.

Moreover, Hammad explained that UniKey’s app interfaced perfectly with all of the functions he wanted to feature on the SmartCabinet, including Touch-to-Open® and Inside/Outside Intelligence®. The software and mobile apps created through UniKey’s SDKs were also flexible enough to include a log of the cabinet’s weight-sensor, along with other unique functions. This was an added touch Hammad wanted in his product in order to allow users to see a real-time log of their belongings which are being tracked in the cabinet; granting them a stronger peace of mind in seeing the contents untouched. Additionally, similar to UniKey’s smart locks, users of the SmartCabinet are able to send eKeys from its mobile app. It also offers them the same level of control over the device as the app displays the cabinet’s lock status. Together, with Hammad’s vision, hard work, and some help from UniKey’s components, users are given a sophisticated, connected experience.

Putting the Pieces Together

“Producing the SmartCabinet took me several weeks of dedicated time and labor, but I’m incredibly happy with the results”, states Hammad. Having seen and even tried out this mobile key enabled SmartCabinet, we can add that the product is anything but a commonday piece of storage. It’s also a direct example of what anyone can do with UniKey’s mobile key platform. Roughly five months ago, Hammad’s cabinet was just a dormant piece of storage. Today it’s an automated, intelligent safe that can be observed in real-time and enable the same smart, passive features UniKey enabled locks and readers are known for. To read the last two posts on Hammad’s SmartCabinet, or to learn more about UniKey’s platform visit www.unikey.com

A few weeks ago we sat down with Mohammad Hammad, our test engineering intern turned full-time engineer at UniKey Technologies. Mohammad filled us in on all the aspects of how rigorous and time consuming a senior design project for UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science can be. The weeks leading up to the final Smart Cabinetry project, Mohammad worked relentlessly, spending many late nights in UniKey’s hardware lab to put the final pieces of his project together. However, “UniKey’s mobile access control platform made it much easier to implement the BLE communication/authentication and gave me the ability to focus more on the overall functionality of the product,” he stated. Designed to be a simple and straightforward process through the utilization of sophisticated SDKs and hardware reference designs, Hammad was able to bring his smart cabinet to life within 5 months time. Below we break down the pieces of UniKey’s platform that helped him make it happen.

The Hardware

When you think of a cabinet, generally the first image that pops into your head is a kitchen cabinet. Naturally, “it was the most common design for cabinetry and we wanted our product to be designed for common use. We pictured it being used for medicine cabinets, pantries, liquor cabinets, and home office setups.” Whether it would be used to keep hazardous products away from children or to simply protect confidential documents, certificates, or records, Hammad wanted a design that could be suitable for multiple purposes. Diving more into the nitty gritty parts of the hardware, in order to create a mobile access control cabinet with an automated opening/closing feature, Hammad built his own locking mechanism. The lock is powered by a M995 servo to give it the kind of torque needed to open the cabinet door.

As the project was sponsored by UniKey, Hammad inherently wanted to utilize one of the company’s greatest assets: Touch-to-Open® Technology. TTO packs a powerful user experience as it not only supplies the convenient touch to unlock feature, but it is also fortified by Inside/Outside Intelligence® that authenticates the location of a user’s location upon their interaction with the lock. TTO, however, proved to be a challenge for this project as it’s something that had only been rendered on smart locks and readers. To supply the cabinet with this level of functionality, Hammad built a touch-pad sensor and housed it within the cabinet to maintain its outer aesthetic. The sensor uses a cap touch circuit that’s triggered by a user’s touch, initiating Touch-to-Open® and a frictionless experience for cabinetry.

For the embedded portion of the project, Hammad used a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) to serve as the hub for  microcontrollers which run the system, the coprocessor and host. The coprocessor was modeled after UniKey’s PBU (Powered by UniKey Module) reference design and handled the BLE communication for the PCB. The host simply needed to communicate with the coprocessor and control the hardware peripherals. To enable the mobile applications for the smart cabinetry, Hammad leveraged UniKey’s coprocessor firmware that handled the security processes and BLE communication between the phone and cabinet. Due to the design of the cabinet, an external BLE antenna was required. With guidance from some of UniKey’s expert team members and reference design, an antenna was built that could handle the communication protocol. This was done by using a copper plate and wire to create a “patch antenna”, which was then plugged  into the PCB, and routed to the coprocessor to amplify the BLE signal.

Just the Half of It

In this post we focused on half of the components and thought processes that went into the cabinet’s hardware and its corresponding embedded technology. “When I first came up with the idea to make a smart lock-enabled cabinet, I was inspired by all the technology I got to work with at UniKey on a day to day basis. The project was definitely a challenge but it was made feasible by UniKey’s platform and its straightforward APIs, SDKs, and hardware reference designs”. In the upcoming weeks we’ll sit down with Mohammad once more to hear about the the software and mobile applications that were used to power the SmartCabinet’s user experience. Until then, you can learn more about the SmartCabinet and UniKey’s platform by visiting www.unikey.com.