Skip to content

Who’s Ready to “Go Mobile”? Digital Maturity Predicts Mobile Credentialing Acceptance

Mobile credentials are making inroads into the world of access control and user authentication, long dominated by radio-frequency identification (RFID) card technologies. Is there a way to predict which companies are ready to “Go Mobile”? A scientific study by Denize Sebit, the Vice President of Telesales for ELATEC GmbH, suggests a link between formal measures of digital maturity and acceptance of mobile access technologies.

Denize, who undertook the study as her executive master’s thesis, says, “Go Mobile is not a trend; it’s here to stay. Companies who make the move to mobile are experiencing huge benefits in terms of security, cost and convenience.”

Trends in Acceptance of Mobile Credentials

Denize undertook the study in part to understand why many companies have been slow to move to mobile access technologies. RFID cards—in the form of employee and student IDs and other types of membership cards—have been widely adopted for user identification and access control since the 1980s. Smartphone-based credentialing systems have been available for more than ten years now but have not yet come close to card technologies in popularity.

Why have more companies not moved from cards to mobile authentication? A decade ago, equity and access were still major considerations, as not everyone carried a cell phone. But today, cell phones are nearly ubiquitous for anyone over the age of 15 (and much younger in many countries). In fact, there are 5.32 billion unique smartphone users today, for a world population of 7.75 billion. Considering that roughly 26% of those humans are under the age of 14, that really is nearly everyone of high school age and up! In particular, smartphone access has exploded for populations that lagged a decade ago, including the elderly and people in developing nations. More and more, a smartphone is considered to be a necessity, especially for people of working age. And, of course, with a multi-technology reader like those offered by ELATEC, organizations can still choose to offer ID cards for the few users who do not carry a smartphone.

And yet, as of 2022, only a small number of organizations using access control and user authentication technologies have made the switch from cards to mobile. What predicts readiness to Go Mobile? And can we expect to see more companies make the move in the near future?

Mobile Acceptance and Digital Maturity

Denize tackled the problem scientifically, using a survey of 260+ organizations in 20+ countries. Out of employees from these (mostly) large organizations in her sample, about 40-45% have used mobile credentials in some form. In addition to asking about mobile credential awareness, perception, use, and intentions to use, the survey asked a number of validated questions designed to provide a score of the organizations’ perceived level of digital maturity. A Digital Maturity Model provides an objective measure of where a company is in the process of digital transformation.

The results showed a positive correlation between digital maturity and acceptance of mobile credentials. In other words, the further a company has moved along the continuum of digital transformation, the more likely that organization is to already be using mobile credentials or be planning to use them in the future.

This perhaps comes as no surprise: it makes sense that organizations that are “early adopters” of new technologies in general are also more likely to be among the first to move to mobile credentialing. But, while it is outside the scope of this study, it is also possible that moving to mobile credentials may help companies advance their digital transformation strategies. Mobile credentials offer significant advantages for companies in terms of flexibility, cost, ease of implementation and security, among other benefits. Further research will be needed to tease out these causal relationships and determine the impact of mobile credential adoption over time.

Getting Ready to Go Mobile

For those organizations who are not yet ready to Go Mobile, several perceived barriers may come into play. Companies may worry that the transition will be complicated or time-consuming for their IT departments, especially if they will need to continue to support existing card technologies during the transition or for users who do not carry a cell phone. They may also worry about user acceptance—for example, employees may have concerns about using their personal cell phones for access to work locations, devices or systems. Others may simply not fully understand the benefits that would justify such a move. (The study did not examine these issues.)

Fortunately, moving to mobile credentials for physical access control and other applications is easier than many organizations realize. And with the vast majority of working-age adults already carrying smartphones, user readiness and acceptance may be higher than they think. A majority of respondents in the survey had positive responses to questions about the usefulness and perceived ease of use of mobile credentials, with most saying it was “slightly likely,” “quite likely,” or “extremely likely” that mobile credentials would be useful for them in their jobs.

ELATEC makes it easy for organizations to Go Mobile. Multi-technology readers from the TWN4 family of RFID readers support both traditional card technologies (HF and LF) and smartphone-based credentialing systems using Near-field Communication (NFC) or Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE). This simplifies the transition and allows companies to support the needs of all users. In addition, we can help design a digital transformation strategy to make the switch as easy as possible for the IT department. With the right technology, software and service, moving to mobile doesn’t have to be hard.