What Is NFC? A Beginner’s Guide To Understanding Near-Field Communication: Use Case For Mobile Access

What is NFC, and how can it improve access control? We explore its multiple benefits, including increased security and reduced access control costs.

New technologies are making our lives simpler, faster, and safer. Near-field communication (NFC) is no different. From fast and secure payments to mobile access control and data sharing, the technology is already an integrated part of our lives. But, what is NFC, and how can it improve access control in your facility?

Let’s explore how near-field communication works, including the ways it boosts security and reduces access control costs. We’ll also help you make an informed decision about whether NFC is the best technology to use for your mobile access control needs.

What Is NFC?

Commonly used in mobile phones, wearables, tablets, and card readers, near-field communication enables secure, short-range communication between devices. The wireless connectivity technology allows enabled devices to transfer information when in close proximity—generally no more than 1.57 inches (4 cm).

what is nfc? door access control
Source: Shutterstock

NFC technology developed largely to facilitate contactless payments, but now has various applications, enabling secure data exchanges and transactions of all sorts. Think of communication between public transport kiosks, digital wallets like Apple Pay, smartphones, smartwatches, ticket scanners, and even mobile access control systems.

Sentry Interactive, for example, offers an NFC-integrated, cloud-based access control solution to provide fast, reliable, and secure keyless mobile building access and visitor management. In addition, data insights enable you to see access patterns, when and how tenants use the building, and real-time building occupancy levels.

Understanding How NFC Works

Think of NFC in relation to Bluetooth technology. Both technologies are wireless data transfer mechanisms; however, they’re not exactly the same. NFC technology is more secure and features lower battery consumption, making it more suitable for financial transactions and building access—both common targets for security breaches.

NFC traditionally requires at least one transmitting or initiating device—such as a tag, card or fob—and a receiving device. Since NFC technology uses an alternating magnetic field, no energy emits in the form of radio waves. This prevents interference from other radio communications operating at the same frequency.

Sentry Mobile Access takes an innovative approach to conventional mobile access—now, the user’s phone acts as the reader. Sentry Access enables the smartphone’s inherent NFC capabilities, pairing it with a wireless NFC door tile. Said tile integrates with Sentry Access cloud infrastructure to provide frictionless and secure entry; after an authentication check, the door will unlock for permitted users.

Mobile Access Control as a Service (MACaaS) also provides secure data storage, maintaining a record of historical access data. Protected with enhanced military-grade encryption, multi-factor authentication, and permission-based hierarchical security, Sentry’s access control system security is without peer. All data complies with the UK DPA 2018/GDPR and any additional contractual clauses for regions outside the UK/EEA. Extra security levels like GPS Geofencing and IP restriction further enable tight privacy control.

Sentry Mobile Access’ suite of features pairs with the inherent security features of NFC-enabled smartphones for even more robust security. Near-field communication combined with biometric authentication creates a multi-factor access security system well beyond anything a standard Bluetooth system can provide.

The Communication Process Unveiled

One key benefit of NFC is that it’s easy to use. As mentioned, most smartphones have inherent NFC capabilities—so authorized users can unlock doors with an NFC door access app, which serves as their digital key. The user holds their mobile credential hardware up to the reader; then the reader receives and processes data to verify NFC tag credentials in one of two ways:

  • If the device doesn’t have its own power source, such as a fob, it’s passive. This means the data transfer depends on power generated by the access control reader to communicate the encoded data.
  • Active NFC devices, on the other hand, can send their own radio waves and streams of data because they’re battery-powered. This is where Sentry’s unparalleled technology shines through, as the data is sent directly to the cloud from the user’s phone and stored securely.

As the door reader receives the information from the NFC device, an access control panel matches the information to its database. If the data corresponds, the control panel activates the electronic lock to disengage and unlock, allowing the user access.

executive wondering what is nfc
Source: Shutterstock

Advantages of NFC and Its Evolving Role in Access Control

Besides fitting in with our convenient, tech-savvy way of living, what is NFC really beneficial for? The advantages of NFC span much further than just convenience.

The keyless entry technology also improves safety and reduces business expenses. Let’s unpack some additional benefits:

Reduced Waste and Costs

Because there’s no need for physical access cards and printed tickets for check-ins, NFC technology is eco-friendly and reduces waste. In addition, NFC access removes the need for costly security system installation and maintenance if you integrate Sentry Mobile Access with your existing access controller/ access control panel.

Improved Operational Efficiency

A cloud server enables security managers to grant, disable, and revoke access remotely, ensuring the central management of permissions from any location. What’s more, organizations with multiple locations can easily manage NFC mobile access control for all buildings at once through ‘a single pane of glass’ application.

Personalization and Flexibility

You can provide personalized access rights based on a user’s role, location, and time. Certain staff members can even be granted access to certain areas, and guest NFC mobile access can be limited to only their appointment time.

Integration and Scalability

Expanding access is effortless since users simply download an app. In addition, the same NFC-enabled device that’s used for NFC mobile access control can also be used for secure printing and cashless contactless food purchasing at canteens.

Real-Time Monitoring

Remote access control systems offer data insights to see how and when tenants use the building. You can see entry and exit volumes, identify trends, and verify building occupancy levels. This data, captured via NFC mobile entry, helps managers optimize space and energy utilization.

Improved Security

NFC mobile access improves security by eliminating the chance of lost or stolen access cards. In the case of a lost mobile phone, administrators can deactivate credentials remotely.

Effortless User, Visitor, and Building Management

By integrating with a commercial property management system, you can automatically update when an employee leaves or joins the company. Tenants can use their NFC-enabled mobile phone–based access control system to grant and revoke access to guests at any time, including clients, deliveries, friends, and family.

NFC Applications Beyond Access Control

NFC technology holds limitless potential for future innovations, beyond just access control and contactless or mobile payments. Let’s briefly consider some additional uses, such as:

  • Unlocking rental scooters and car doors
  • Ticketing and entrance at concerts and other events
  • Automatic WiFi connectivity setup by tapping a mobile device to a router
  • Smartphone connection to a radiator to configure schedule and temperature settings
  • Smartphone or tablet connections to industrial equipment to access detailed control panels
  • Electronic voting across all levels—college, municipal, state, federal, and so on
  • Transferring fitness and sleep tracking data from a wristband to a smartphone
  • Medical record keeping for patients
  • Inventory tracking in logistics and supply sectors
  • Automated hotel check-ins and room access keys
  • Automated airline check-in and boarding access
  • Controlled road access at unmanned toll sites for governments and private road owners

NFC tags can also be configured for home automation to set alarms, open doors, switch lights on or off, and activate home cooling and heating.

Unlock the Potential of NFC With Sentry Mobile Access

NFC mobile access control systems are transforming building access management and enhancing security. They offer numerous advantages, such as centralized management, optimized traffic flows, and real-time monitoring. In addition, they offer an improved experience for both employees and their guests.

A solution like Sentry Mobile Access can integrate into existing access control systems to provide cloud-based access control that doesn’t require new hardware.

Discover the range of innovative features and capabilities available with Sentry Mobile Access to boost facilities management, improve security, and reduce costs. Contact us today to discuss the solution for your unique property and business needs.

William Bainborough

Board of Directors

William is an experienced British entrepreneur, founder, and accomplished board executive and advisor for a number of businesses. He is the CEO and co-founder of Doordeck, the world’s only true cloud-based access control aggregator. He is also the managing director and founder of Group Secure, a leader in providing security, CCTV, and access control solutions, products, and installation for high-net-worth individuals in the UK. 

William established his first business at just seventeen and brings 20-plus years of in-depth experience and industry knowledge. He has a proven track record for building businesses from the ground up—and then leading them to profitability and a successful exit across a myriad of sectors including hospitality, retail, security, telecommunications, and e-commerce. William’s leadership, vision, and experience in creating cutting-edge SaaS-based technology platforms will prove invaluable for Sentry Interactive moving forward.

Denis Hébert

Denis Hébert


Hébert began his career at Honeywell International where he held several leadership positions including Managing Director for the Automation and Controls business in France and eventually President of the NexWatch Corporation from 1999-2002. Hébert led HID Global as President & CEO over a transformative 12-year period from 2002-2015, where he provided strategic guidance and grew the business tenfold through a mix of strong organic and acquisitive growth. Most recently, Hébert was President of Feenics Corporation which is a cloud-based access control company that was successfully sold to ACRE LLC at the end of 2021. Hébert also served on the Board of Directors for the Security Industry Association (SIA) from 2009-2020 and was nominated to be Chairman of the Board for SIA from 2016-2018. He is currently Chairman of the Board for Nightingale Security based in Newark, CA.

Stephen Taylor Matthews

Board of Directors
Stephen is a very accomplished attorney, member of the Texas State Bar, licensed commercial real estate broker, and an avid philanthropist. He is an experienced executive board member, serving in leadership positions for more than 20 community councils and corporate boards—ranging from Boy Scouts of America to the ABBA Business Leaders Council, and most recently the American Bank BOD, the Real Estate Council of Austin, and the Marbridge Foundation BOT. With more than 35 years experience, Stephen and his firm, Barrond & Adler, L.L.P. are devoted to eminent domain cases in Texas.

Jon Davis

Board of Directors

Mr. Davis is an Experienced corporate board member, having served on boards of public, private equity-backed, and venture-backed companies. Jon possesses deep industry expertise in dairy, food processing, food technology and manufacturing, and food, beverage, and entertainment services. 

During Jon’s tenure of 25 plus years, he’s led operations, research and development, and mergers and acquisitions. He’s served as CEO and has been the founder and active board member for many successful enterprises—from startups to billion-dollar corporations. While COO and CEO of Davisco Foods International, Jon built a state-of-the-art cheese plant which was awarded the United States Dairy processing plant of the year in 2005 by Dairy Foods magazine. Currently, Jon is active with several non-dairy projects, including investments in local real estate, the Wayzata Brewworks, and his latest venture the new CōV restaurant in Edina’s Galleria.

Joe Caldwell

Founder and Chairman of the Board

Joe is an American entrepreneur, investor, and accomplished executive. He has co-founded, founded, and led many successful businesses, including US Internet, a leading fiber internet service provider, Securence, a leading provider of email filtering software, and Ravon, an industry-leading digital voice communications service. 

It was Joe’s venture, Municipal Parking Services (MPS), that inspired him in 2020 to start Sentry Interactive, an advanced touchless and staffless detection platform.

Caldwell currently serves as CEO and Chairman of the Board for Municipal Parking Services (MPS), a global tech company based in Austin, TX responsible for inventing and patenting technologies that assist in parking and security enforcement.

Joe was named one of Minnesota’s 500 Most Powerful Business Leaders for the past two years—and is a seasoned corporate board member. He’s served on boards of public, private equity-backed, and venture-backed companies—and has deep industry expertise in all aspects of digital technology.

Jason Bohrer

Jason Bohrer

Board of Directors

Jason Bohrer is one of the visionaries behind our mission to bring people back together safely and securely, in any environment, through Sentry’s advanced digital communications and detection platform. With over two decades of senior leadership experience, Jason’s track record of success spans across sales, operations, product innovation, strategy, and technology for domestic and global companies like Bexar Technology Partners, CPI Card Group, HID Global, and Motorola, Inc. Prior to launching Sentry Interactive, Jason was actively involved with several key technology transitions across multiple industries, including the contact and contactless EMV transitions in the U.S. payments industry and the adoption of smart card and mobile technologies in the global access and identity market. Jason was an inaugural member of the University of Chicago Executive Institute and holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Texas at Austin. He also serves as the Executive Director for two industry-leading not-for-profit organizations: the Secure Technology Alliance and the U.S. Payments Forum.
Brent Terry

Brent Terry

Chief Operating Officer
Brent Terry leads the operations and solutions organizations at Sentry. This includes all product innovation, development, and operations management. A veteran in the technology space, Brent has more than 30 years of experience across a myriad of industries, like physical security technology and building automation, SAAS, hardware and software product development, internet, digital TV, interactive TV, digital media, telecommunications, and medical products and services. Prior to Sentry, Brent has spun up successful startups and led high-performing teams for some of the biggest global, Fortune 500 companies, including ARRIS, Conerco, Motive Communications, SeaChange International, and IBM. Brent holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Louisiana. He also is the committee Chairman and Program Director for a non-profit organization responsible for the rollout of smart cards for physicians and first responders.