Unlocking simple, safe, secure access with biometric access cards by Maria Pihlström, Director, Global Marketing and Comms at Fingerprints
In mid-May Fingerprints was jointly exhibiting alongside Freevolt Technologies at IFSEC 2022, in London, one of the leading security events in Europe. Attendees at the show learnt how the two companies are combining their innovative tech to develop S-Key, Freevolt’s flagship biometric access card. To learn more, Fingerprints’ Marketing Director, Maria Pihlström sat down with Gonzalo de Gisbert, Freevolt’s Head of Product and Business Development.
- Please can you provide a brief overview of Freevolt and its flagship product, S-Key?
Innovation and R&D are a core part of Freevolt’s fabric thanks to its academic roots. It was first established as a spin-off from research completed at one of the world’s leading universities, Imperial College London, that was investigating technologies that can harvest radiofrequency (RF) energy from common networks (NFC, cellular, Wi-Fi). We are taking this ground-breaking research and using it to develop the next generation of biometric smartcards, which is seen in our flagship product: S-Key.
S-Key is a battery-less biometric smartcard providing stronger authentication for the access control industry. Because it is battery-less, drawing its power using Freevolt’s RF harvesting system, it requires no special software or changes of existing smartcard infrastructure, enabling it to work seamlessly with 3rd party systems e.g., HID, Salto etc. Another benefit of it being battery-less is that it comes with significantly lower costs. Once a card is deployed, it requires no charging or battery swaps. It also means no costly disposal processes or cell recycling.
Using Fingerprints’ solution, it offers all the benefits of biometrics from one of the world’s leading experts: enhanced security without sacrificing convenience, supporting worryless access.
Having built a smart card from the ground up, using our Freevolt energy harvesting technology, our company now has the opportunity to build on this platform for other use cases such as cryptocurrency, healthcare, payments etc.
- What do you think are the key issues facing the access control industry today?
Over the past couple of years, physical and logical access control strategies have had to respond to many new challenges. Flexible and distributed workplaces mean businesses have had to extend their enterprise cybersecurity settings to protect digital estates wherever and whenever employees are working. But it’s not just with cybersecurity where organizations need to rethink access control, as there are new physical security threats to tackle.
Lower footfall in offices means that it’s harder to know if someone you see should or shouldn’t be there. Pre-COVID if you saw an unfamiliar face in the office, you would be inclined to challenge that individual. After two years of remote and flexible working patterns, and with no sign that they will go away, new faces might be more common, and people may become more complacent. What’s preventing this ‘new face in the office’ from using a lost/stolen/borrowed/skimmed non-biometric access card or compromised credentials such as PINs and passwords?
Furthermore, access control strategies now must respond to hygiene worries around shared surfaces such as PINs and touchpads, urging the need for touchless solutions. Granting access through fingerprint verification on your card is a great way to unlock contactless 2-factor security measures without sacrificing convenience or hygiene.
- As a solution provider, what drove you to consider integrating biometric tech in S-Key?
We turned towards biometric tech as it is becoming increasingly common in our daily lives as consumers are attracted to the convenience and security embedded in their smartphones, PCs, and even smart locks. Also, given today’s security challenges, many are using biometrics to avoid relying solely on PINs, passwords and traditional access cards, which can be cumbersome and vulnerable, not to mention that they can also be stolen/hacked.
- What key criteria were on your list when you were searching for a biometric partner?
When we were searching for a biometric partner, we were looking not just at expertise, but also those that can also help us meet the unique objectives with S-Key.
We wanted a partner that was not only a general expert in sensors and biometric solutions, but someone who had experience in being a market leader across other verticals. We landed on Fingerprint Cards as they are exactly that, having a market leading position in the mobile phone market with a rich history in biometrics since the tech first started coming onto the scene. As such, we are able to channel Fingerprints’ expertise and innovative skills directly into our product, and also work closely with them taking into account the unique design challenges when integrating biometric sensors.
Traditionally, biometric solutions present a challenge with data protection, especially for regulations such as the UK and European GDPR. Yet with the S-Key, this is not an issue as we use the on-device approach championed by Fingerprints, where the biometric data is enrolled, securely stored, matched and authenticated on the card itself. That means no databases of data in the cloud. This supports S-Key’s ability to work seamlessly with existing infrastructure without the need for costly retrofits or software updates to handle biometric data. It also reflects our belief in privacy and that individuals should retain full control of their data. Being able to leverage Fingerprints’ software libraries alongside its sensors was key to developing a secure, privacy-first product that we would be happy to trust our own biometric data with.
- Beyond access control, what other potential use cases are possible with biometric cards and what’s on the horizon for Freevolt and the S-Key?
Our vision for S-Key is to bridge the gap between physical and logical access. You might come to work, using your card to get into the building, log onto your machine, release a secure printing job, etc. etc. We really see this unified solution as a key value proposition for widespread adoption.
We also have several other projects in the healthcare and cryptocurrency spaces whereby Freevolt really provides an edge, thanks to its ability to work with just about any RF power source using NFC. Think powering a card with your mobile phone to validate a transaction, or clocking in and out of work, etc.
It’s an exciting time for us here at Freevolt as we continue to invest in our core technology to keep it ahead of the market competition and explore new opportunities in the access control space. We’re glad to be working with Fingerprints as part of our journey.
Missed us at IFSEC but interested in learning more about Fingerprints and Freevolt? Listen to our latest episode of “On the Pulse” where the S-key is also being demonstrated.
If you’d like to know more about our solutions for unlocking a smarter, more secure workplace through biometrics, visit our website