mobile access control


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?

Mobile access control is one of the latest innovations in property technology (proptech). Using smartphones to open doors, manage access permissions, and view entry events creates more convenient and secure 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 too.

In this post, we’ll cover:


try butterflymx access control system


What is mobile access control?

Mobile access control refers to using mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches as a tenant’s credentials to access a building and the rooms within. As smartphone ownership continues to rise, mobile phone access control is a convenient and secure way to manage access into and within buildings. Usually, tenants need to download a smartphone app to enable access control from their phones.

Here are three ways a tenant can authenticate their identity with a mobile device to gain access:

  • Biometrics, like fingerprint and face recognition
  • Swipe or tap 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


How mobile access control systems work

Mobile access control systems work by using mobile devices as access credentials. These systems enable communication between the access reader on the door and tenants’ mobile devices to verify credentials.

Traditional access control systems require key fobs or key cards that you scan with the access reader. 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, as it’s the most commonly used wireless technology today. 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) eliminates the need to manually pair devices since it 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 since 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 most renters today – millennials, who grew up with advancing technology.

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. No need for door attendants or late night shifts: Let’s face it: Having a 24-hour doorman can be expensive. With smartphone access control, residents can let themselves in at any time of the night and day. 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 pass: 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, 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 their 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 in 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 it’s 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 the most sought-out 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. Having a camera built into 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 access the property.

For best results, pair these two smartphone access control systems with a camera:

  1. Video intercom: To manage access at the building’s entrance, install a video intercom. Visitors request access through the intercom. Then, residents see and communicate with guests on their smartphones before granting access.
  2. Keypad with a camera: A keypad access control system with a camera helps facilitate access within your building. You can control who has access to areas like amenity spaces and offices. The keypad’s built-in camera takes a photo every time someone accesses the room. So, you can review an audit trail of every entry event on your mobile device.


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 6,000 five-star reviews, so you know you’ll be in good hands.

Top features of an access control smartphone 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.


See how to use an Apple Watch to open the door:


Completing the mobile entry experience for visitors too

By enabling mobile access control, you’re on the path of making property access simple for staff and tenants. But what about visitors? Today, both apartment and commercial buildings get more visitors than ever before – friends, family, deliveries, and service providers, to name a few. While a mobile access control system is convenient for your building staff and tenants, it doesn’t benefit your building’s visitors.

The good news:

You can extend the convenience of mobile access control to visitors by investing in a smart video intercom system.

The ButterflyMX intercom is the ultimate visitor access control system powered by a smartphone app. Through one app, tenants can open doors, send one-time delivery passes to couriers and food delivery people, and assign virtual keys to visitors.

What’s more, the intercom runs on the ButterflyMX OS, which is powerful cloud-based software that connects directly to your access control system. The software empowers building staff to remotely update tenant information, manage access privileges, and review each door entry event.


try butterflymx access control system


Sarah Kim

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