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How to open your gate with your phone?

By Alexander Kim

In today’s convenience driven world the mobile phone has integrated everyday items such as the camera, mp3 player, and GPS system into a single handheld device. Not to mention the countless applications that can be easily downloaded to allow users to be able to do anything from access bank accounts, locate constellations in the night sky, and pay for everyday transactions in lieu of cash and plastic cards. The ability to gain access to a gated community via mobile phone, therefore, should seem relatively simple in an effort to replace RFID chips, keys, and remove the inconvenience of remembering a PIN number.

Cellular Gate Opener

            The technology to open a gate to a community with a mobile phone is not new and is an available alternative to augment the ever-growing appetite for the convenient modern lifestyle. The device opens a community gate by receiving a phone call from the mobile phone of an individual who has clearance to enter the community. The caller’s phone number acts like a “key” that must match with a number that has already been entered and added into a queue of phone numbers in the gate opener.

 

Compared to conventional methods of gaining access to a gated community, such as RFID chips or keys:

  • This technology is an extremely convenient alternative for residents and the community alike
  • Residents will no longer have to remember to bring an extra item, a key or RFID card, to return to the community. As most people will likely remember to take their mobile phones with them when going out, they will be essentially bringing with them, the “key” to the community.
  • As for the community, management will no longer need to deal with the mess that comes with physical cards or KEYFOBS, and will solely manage a digital list, adding or removing any individual’s access to the gated community.
  • The device operates very simply by opening the gate to a community after it receives a phone call and recognizes a preprogrammed phone number with access to the community.

 

According to one vendor, ILUS Electronics, “the call is not answered, and since the call is denied, it is free [and] not charged to the caller.” Phone numbers can be easily preprogrammed into the gate opener by a designated administrator who is given “an access code that allows him to program the gate opener from a PC or by sending a text message from a cell phone.” This can also allow for greater security concerning adding or removing clearance for individuals’ “keys” to the gated community. “Compared to RFID cards or KEYFOBS that [are] easy to lose or could be stolen,” gate-opening devices via mobile phones are have greater flexibility in restricting access to lost or stolen mobile phones.

The device is also very simple to install and can make use of pre-existing gate opening device terminals and wiring. Installation of the technology requires minimal do-it-yourself capabilities and basic wiring skills. The device can be programmable to sustain 200 to 1000 phone numbers, depending on the model, and can cost anywhere from $350 to $450.

There exists, however, a few disadvantages that concern using this convenience driven device. The phone calls to open the gate can be placed by a resident from anywhere. There is “no need to be physically close to the device,” as it is not able to distinguish whether the resident is dialing the device’s phone number from ten feet or ten miles from the front gate. This can pose a security risk from pocket dialing or other forms of accidentally calling the designated phone number for the gate. Another disadvantage occurs “when the cell network is down, which is very rare,” and renders the device inoperable. Alternative methods to gain entry do exist, however, such as calling “from an alternative phone, mobile or landline,  or using a parallel manual opener such as a keypad.” There is also a concern for privacy as the device can also log phone numbers for security purposes, and subsequently downloaded to be viewed on a spreadsheet. But as with most new technology today, it is the community’s duty to find its own preferred balance between convenience and security.