What is Keyless Entry?

PINs, Key Cards, Smartphone Access: How to Decide Which is Right for Your Property

Did you know ancient Romans used to wear keys around their necks as jewelry? It was a sign of affluence and meant you had treasure or property to protect. While safeguarding your valuables is still vitally important to just about anybody today, doing so with a mechanical lock and physical key is quickly becoming perantiquus (Latin for—you guessed it—very antiquated). Instead, property managers now have an eyebrow-raising amount of choices when it comes to keyless entry and the “keys,” now known as credentials, that allow access. 

Let’s say you want an easier way to grant guests access to your vacation rentals. Or, you might be seeking the most secure solution for your employees to get in and out of your building. Whatever the case, property managers and owners in pursuit of keyless entry will use smart locks, software to control those locks, and one or a combination of these credentials: PIN codes, RFID cards and key fobs, or mobile access. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of each to help you determine which keyless entry is best for your business. 


PIN Codes

We’re all familiar with keypads on locks and doors. By entering an authorized PIN code, the user gains access to a space. PINs are one of the most basic and affordable methods of controlling access. They’re ideal for low-traffic doors and one-time users like the pizza delivery person or the occasional dog walker. Vacation rental owners like the simplicity of installing smart locks that use PIN codes on their rentals for easy guest access. When these smart locks are paired with RemoteLock’s access control software, vacation rental managers can remotely control access from wherever they are. They can also easily integrate RemoteLock with popular booking platforms like Airbnb. So, PIN codes are automatically sent to guests upon booking reservations, and cleaners and maintenance have customized access schedules. More and more multi-family operators are opting for this method on residential units, as well as common doors like those to pool areas or fitness facilities. 

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Convenient–no physical object needed
  • Eliminates key management and replacing
  • Easy to use and distribute to authorized users
Cons
  • Can be read by bystanders
  • Can be shared with unauthorized users
  • PIN capacity can be limiting

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Algorithmic PIN Codes 

While on the surface an algorithmic lock looks just like a regular smart lock with a keypad, there is an important difference. Algorithmic PIN codes work without a network connection and are ideal for providing temporary access based on date and time. Let’s say you have a property in a rural area without reliable internet service. Or, maybe there’s a door on an outbuilding or a gate on a pool enclosure that’s located outside of the main building’s Wi-Fi range. Popular algorithmic locks like those from KeyInCode and Igloo get around these challenges by using an algorithmic PIN code, which has permissions embedded right into the credential itself that are valid from a start to end time. So, these locks don’t need Wi-Fi to deliver the credential and permissions to a connected lock. The user enters the PIN into the lock; the lock verifies the code via its built-in algorithm to allow access based on the schedule embedded in the PIN.
 

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Convenient–no physical object needed
  • Eliminates key management and replacing
  • Works without network connectivity
Cons
  • Can be read by bystanders
  • Can be shared with unauthorized users
  • Some remote management capabilities limited when offline
  • Are longer than regular PINs


RFID Cards 

Radio frequency identification (RFID) cards are often used with wired readers for high-traffic doors. These types of cards use RFID to transfer information to a credential reader to grant access. Below is more distinction on the two most common types of access cards.

Prox Cards & Key Fobs

Proximity or “prox” cards and their smaller siblings, key fobs, are used with hardwired doors. They’re very reliable and ideal for doors like main entries and parking garages that would quickly wear down a smart lock’s batteries. You’ll see widespread use of prox cards and key fobs in both commercial and multi-family settings and often the use of a combination of credentials—a prox card for the parking garage and key fob or PINS for other common doors on the property.

Based upon decades-old technology, prox cards communicate at a frequency of 125 kHz. They offer very little security, as anyone who can get their hands on a prox card can easily clone it.  

Pros
  • Very reliable
  • Eliminates key management and replacing
Cons
  • More expensive than PINs
  • Easy to forget or misplace 
  • Can be easily cloned or passed to others

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Smart Cards & Fobs

Smart cards, such as those using  MIFARE® technology, are also available in fob form and are considered the next generation of prox cards. They communicate at a frequency of 13.6 MHz. Unlike prox cards, smart cards use authentication and encryption to protect from hacking. Before sending the data, a smart card first establishes trust with the reader and then transfers the data in encrypted form. Unlike prox cards that can store just one card number, smart cards can store multiple numbers to be used in other applications. For example, a smart card can allow access to the parking garage and an office door. 

It should be noted that some of the older technologies are no longer considered secure.  While they are harder to clone than prox, smart cards are still vulnerable to a determined attacker.  More modern technologies, such as DESFire and Seos, can be considered as secure.
 

Pros
  • Very reliable
  • Versatile 
  • Protects against cloning
  • Eliminates key management and replacing
Cons
  • More expensive
  • Easy to forget or misplace 
  • Can be passed to others
  • Slightly shorter read range than prox cards


Mobile 

In the past few years, the buzz is all about smartphone access a.k.a. mobile credentials. After all, nearly everyone—about 95% of the adult population—carries around a mobile phone. So, why not turn the smartphone into an access card? That technology has arrived. 

Mobile credentials are an especially good fit in multifamily where the property is multi-use. Residents who live in buildings with commercial enterprises on the main floor and residential units on upper floors want an easy access solution, not one that involves multiple prox cards and PINs

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It’s important to note that there are three different ways mobile credentials work. 
  1. Your mobile phone talks to the cloud through an app, and the cloud then connects to the door telling it to unlock. 
  2. Your mobile phone uses an app to talk directly to the reader at the door via Bluetooth. 
  3. Your mobile phone talks directly to the reader at the door via Near Field Communication (NFC).  
     

Defining your desired user experience will likely lead you toward one of these mobile credentials. For example, the first method requires the user to open his or her phone, open the app and then perhaps type in a PIN code. Also, this method only works with a network connection, so it’s not ideal for parking garages where there’s often no internet. 

Depending on the software provider, method 2 may employ “beaconing” technology, allowing the user to do little more than have the phone on his or her person. Method 3 varies between iOS and Android and then even between manufacturers of Android devices. 

The bottom line? There’s currently no standardization in the landscape of mobile credentials. Be sure to consult with an access control professional and do your research on this evolving technology. Ask to see how a mobile credential works with a specific smart lock, as certain brands of smart locks may work differently with specific phone operating systems, i.e., Android or IOS. 
 

Pros
  • Highly secure
  • Very convenient 
  • Eliminates key management and replacing
Cons
  • Expensive hardware setup, i.e., may require updating/replacing existing RFID readers 
  • Requires user to install an app 
  • Phone must have sufficient battery 
  • Not ideal for one-time users like guests


RemoteLock Supports Every Door & A Wide Range of Credentials

Whether you choose PIN codes, key fobs or prox cards, or mobile credentials for keyless entry, be sure you identify a software solution that can support a range of credentials and even combinations of credentials. Knowing customers want as much flexibility as possible, RemoteLock offers universal access control, which supports every door—hardwired ones, too—and multiple credentials. What’s more, this cloud-based solution allows multifamily operators, vacation rental owners and business owners to: 

  • Remotely control access from a smartphone or laptop, from anywhere.
  • Scale the system from 10 doors to thousands.
  • Easily create or revoke access codes.
  • Create user schedules for cleaners, maintenance, visitors and more.
  • Know exactly who enters a property—when and where, too.
If you have more questions about credentials, access control software and how a cloud-based system can benefit your business, talk to a RemoteLock expert today.

Daniel Bailin

Chief Product Officer

With extensive experience in security, biometrics, mobile access, RFID and more, Daniel is the leading advocate and visionary for RemoteLock’s new and existing products. Having previously worked at both startups and Fortune 25 organizations, he maintains a passion for inventing only what needs to be new and finding ways to repurpose the good work of others for the rest.