mobile access control


Key takeaways

  • With our highly-rated mobile app and built-in delivery solutions, the best mobile access control system is ButterflyMX.
  • Mobile access control is a way for tenants to open doors on your property with their smartphones.
  • A mobile access system can connect with smartphones using WiFi, Bluetooth, or NFC.
  • The benefits of mobile access control include easier access and delivery capabilities for multifamily, commercial, and gated communities alike.
  • The best mobile access systems come with features like cloud-based administration, cameras, and feature-rich mobile apps.


Whether you own or manage a residential or commercial property, you need a robust access control system. One that not only keeps your building staff and tenants safe but is also convenient to use. Thankfully, we live in a very mobile-centric society. From the alarm that wakes us up in the morning to the device we use to pay at the grocery store, smartphones have made our daily lives easier. So, why not also use them to manage access in and out of buildings?

Read on to learn more about mobile access technology, how it works, its benefits, choosing the right system, and completing the mobile access experience for your visitors. Most importantly, you’ll discover what the best mobile access control system is.

In this post, we’ll cover:


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Best mobile access control solution

The best mobile access control solution is ButterflyMX.

Mobile access systems take advantage of residents’ smartphones to offer features like remote unlocking or intuitive, user-friendly apps. But a resident’s phone is only one piece of the access control puzzle.

The best mobile access systems also make administration easier for management and staff alike — and that’s where our powerful ButterflyMX system stands above the competition.

The ButterflyMX mobile access system’s features include:

  • Integrations with multiple hardware options, like video intercoms, fob readers, and keypads
  • Custom-built delivery solutions: allowing residents to issue Delivery Passes to couriers, ensuring that they’ll never miss a package again
  • Cross-functionality with other types of credentials, like Bluetooth and NFC
  • Highly-rated app with features like amenity reservations and an intuitive swipe-to-open interface
  • Our powerful ButterflyMX OS, which empowers building staff to remotely update tenant information, manage access privileges, and review each door entry event


What is mobile access control?

Mobile access control refers to using mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches as a tenant’s credential to allow them to open doors.

As smartphone ownership continues to rise, access control using mobile phones becomes an increasingly convenient and secure way to manage access into and within buildings.

Tenants can authenticate their identity on their smartphones with:

  • Biometrics, like fingerprint and face recognition
  • Swiping or tapping in a mobile app
  • Passcode

Enabling smartphone access control at your property means you don’t have to issue physical keys, fobs, or cards to tenants. Those items often need replacing – either because tenants lose them or they get damaged.

However, smartphones are far less likely to get lost or forgotten, and most tenants already own them. Entering a property through a smartphone app makes access control a seamless process for both tenants and property staff. In addition, mobile access control can also be touchless since users can open doors without touching any surfaces besides their phones.


What is mobile access credentialing?

Mobile access credentials help property staff easily keep track of who enters and exits the building as well as when. Plus, mobile access credentials facilitate a secure way for authorized personnel to access restricted areas of a building.

Additionally, for residential properties, mobile access credentials provide a way to manage who enters amenity spaces, restricting access to only those who paid the amenities fee. Since most mobile access control systems are cloud-based, administrators can easily grant and revoke mobile credentials anytime, anywhere.


mobile access control phone


What’s the difference between mobile access and remote access control?

Mobile access control is the term we use to talk about smartphone-based access to physical doors and gates. On the other hand, remote access control is based on granting access to a computer’s digital database.

When you think of remote access, think of workers who want to remotely access files at their workspace. And when an employee can access whatever data they need remotely, they don’t need physical access to a building — and it’s physical entry into a building that a mobile access system provides.


How mobile access control systems work

Mobile access control systems work by using smartphones as access credentials. These systems enable communication between the mobile access control reader on the door and credential info stored on tenants’ smartphones.

Traditional access control systems require physical credentials, like key fobs or key cards. But in mobile access control systems, phones, tablets, and smartwatches replace fobs and cards.

All you have to do is tap a button in a mobile app or bring your smartphone near the mobile access control reader to open the door or gate. Not only does this type of access control ensure maximum security, but it also provides the ultimate convenience for all parties involved.

There are three main ways to enable mobile access:

  1. WiFi
  2. Bluetooth
  3. Near-field communication (NFC)


1. WiFi

Chances are that your property already has dozens of devices connected to WiFi. Similarly, many phone access control systems are powered by a WiFi connection.

Both the access control reader and tenants’ phones connect to the same wireless network in WiFi-based systems. Then, the reader verifies the tenant’s credentials before signaling the door lock to open.


2. Bluetooth

Another common technology that’s widely used in smartphone door access control systems is Bluetooth.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) automatically establishes a connection from a few feet away, typically within 2 to 3 feet. When a mobile device with access credentials is nearby, the access control reader picks up the signal, and then the door unlocks.


3. Near-field communication (NFC)

Similar to BLE, near-field communication (NFC) technology connects a phone to the reader. Although NFC is not as well-known as WiFi or Bluetooth, you’ve probably used NFC technology before, as it’s widely used for tap-to-pay payment applications.

However, unlike BLE technology, NFC requires you to be very close to the access control reader to work– its range is only a few inches.


See the different ways to open the door or gate with ButterflyMX:


Benefits of mobile access control

There are several benefits associated with mobile access control. Besides offering a convenient way of entering a building, it also gives property managers and staff a simple and efficient way to manage access permissions.

Learn how mobile access control solutions benefit:


Multifamily apartment buildings

Security is the top feature renters seek out in multifamily apartment buildings. In fact, 55% of renters report they’d move into an apartment specifically for advanced security features, like smartphone access control solutions. Mobile-powered smart access control systems cater to tech-friendly renters – like millennials and Gen Z, who make up large swathes of today’s rental market.

Three benefits of mobile access control in multifamily buildings:

  1. No physical keys: Keys are the most common item that Americans lose – on average, residents spend 2.5 days in total looking for missing keys and wallets. However, your residents are much less likely to forget their phones at home. With the ability to enter their apartments with their smartphones, residents will never be locked out because of missing keys.
  2. Ability to reallocate staff: Let’s face it: your third-shift workers would much rather be spending their time elsewhere. Instead of 24-hour doorman service, residents can use their phones to let themselves in at any time of day or night. This also frees up property staff’s time to focus on more important tasks, like fulfilling maintenance requests and organizing community events.
  3. Virtual keys and delivery passes: When paired with a video intercom, the mobile access control system can facilitate property access for guests, service providers, and delivery people. Residents can give a one-time delivery pass to food or package couriers so they’ll never miss a delivery. Authorized guests can also use virtual keys to let themselves in even if the resident isn’t home.


Commercial and mixed-use properties

One of the most complex parts of managing a commercial property is controlling who gets access to specific areas. Commercial buildings with multiple uses – such as those with offices, coworking space, retail shops, and restaurants in the same complex – pose even greater access management challenges. That’s where mobile access control comes into play, offering a convenient way to manage property access.

Three benefits of mobile access control in commercial buildings:

  1. Improved security: Tenants want to feel secure at work. That’s why enabling mobile access is imperative in commercial property settings. Unlike forgettable key cards or key fobs, an employee’s cell phone is much less likely to get lost or fall into the hands of unauthorized persons. You can also use a mobile system to control access to elevators, ensuring only authorized tenants can access certain floors.
  2. Convenient property access for visitors: Tenants welcome guests into their office spaces daily – whether they’re clients, business partners, associates, friends, or family members. With a mobile phone access control system, tenants can directly grant or revoke access to guests as needed.
  3. Robust, yet simple, access control for areas within the property: If your commercial property is mixed-use, you need to manage who gets access to which areas. Instead of painstakingly programming each access card for every — and hoping they don’t lose them — use a cloud-based mobile access control system. You can manage these systems remotely and won’t have to issue physical access cards or keys. When integrated with a commercial property management system, the access control system automatically updates whenever an employee joins or leaves the company.


Gated communities

Gated communities are one of today’s most sought-after properties. Both residential and commercial tenants desire gated communities for their sophisticated security and controlled access.

Three benefits of mobile access control in gated communities:

  1. Ease of access for tenants and visitors: With a cell phone gate access system, tenants can open the gate from their phones without getting out of their cars.
  2. Prevents traffic congestion: At a gated community without an efficient access control system, it may take up to five minutes to verify each vehicle or visitor before allowing them access. However, with mobile access control, tenants and authorized visitors can request access within seconds from their phones.
  3. Reduces and eliminates tailgating: Tailgating is a serious problem in gated communities. Installing a mobile access control solution with a camera captures video of those unauthorized vehicles or guests.


mobile access control gate


Choosing the right mobile access control system

With many mobile access control solutions to choose from, you might not know where to start. That’s why we’ve outlined the top three criteria you should seek when investing in a mobile access control system.

Here are three features to look for:

  1. Cloud-based
  2. Camera-equipped
  3. Highly rated mobile app


1. Cloud-based

A mobile access control system that’s cloud-based is easy to manage remotely. Keeping tenant access credential information on the cloud — instead of an on-site server — ensures that you can update the system from anywhere.

Plus, this will automatically update access credentials on tenants’ smartphones. So, you won’t have to issue new key cards or other physical credentials.

Also, since the cloud is a part of the IoT ecosystem, you can connect the access control system to any device that uses the internet.

Integrate your cloud-based access control system with:

  • A video intercom system
  • Your CRM or G-Suite directory
  • Slack to enable automatic notifications when certain security events occur


2. Camera-equipped

For added security, choose a mobile access control system with a camera or integrates with security camera systems. Having a camera alongside the access control hardware enables building staff and tenants to visually verify who’s entering the building. With this feature, you can be confident that only authorized individuals can access the property.


3. Highly rated mobile app

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of a mobile access control system is its mobile app. Choose a system that has a highly-rated smartphone app. Residents should be able to easily navigate the app and manage its notification settings.

A great way to gauge an app’s ratings is to look at customer reviews. For example, the ButterflyMX mobile app has over 20,000 five-star reviews, so you know you’ll be in good hands.

Top features of a mobile access control app:

  • Multiple ways to open doors and gates: The more access methods, the better. Examples of access methods include swiping or tapping a button in the app, using voice commands, and using 3D or haptic touch.
  • Door release logs: For maximum security, choose an app with door release logs. This way, you can review all door releases with time- and date-stamped photos from within the app.
  • Virtual keys and delivery pass: Residents should have an easy way to let trusted guests into their homes even when they’re not home. A mobile app with a virtual key feature lets residents send access credentials to guests in advance. Residents should also be able to issue one-time delivery passes to couriers so they’ll never miss a delivery.


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Sarah Kim

Based in New York City, I love exploring the real estate industry and explaining how property technology can improve people’s lives.