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Fingerprint lock vs. mobile access control for multi-families: which is better?

September 19, 2023

Introduction

Multi-family communities are always looking for ways to improve security and convenience for their residents. Two popular access control methods are fingerprint scanning and mobile app access.

Fingerprint scanning uses a person’s unique fingerprint as a way to identify them and grant them access. Mobile app access uses a smartphone app to grant access, via one or more of these communication protocols – Bluetooth, Wi-fi, NFC, GSM (mobile data).

How fingerprint locks work?

Fingerprint locks are a type of biometric lock that use a person’s fingerprint to open a door. When a user places their finger on the scanner, the lock converts the fingerprint data into a numerical template. 

The lock then compares the scanned fingerprint with a previously saved template. If the fingerprints match, the lock opens. If they don’t match, the lock remains closed.

Door with fingerprint lock

How mobile access control apps work?

Mobile access control apps like Gatewise are cloud based, meaning the data of which user (identified via his mobile device) can access which access point (gates, doors, etc.) is stored in the cloud. When a user wants to open a door, he selects the desired door/gate from his installed app. The open request is sent to the cloud and validated there.

Advantages of Fingerprint Access Control

  • Highly secure: Fingerprints are unique to each individual and cannot be easily replicated. This makes fingerprint scanning a very secure way to control access. Since fingerprint access control systems are regarded as highly secure, they are usually installed in highly sensitive facilities, such as data centers, research labs & industrial buildings.
  • Convenient: Fingerprint scanners are quick and easy to use. Residents simply need to place their finger on the scanner to gain access.
  • Always on (you) – as everybody has a fingerprint, and since it’s always with us, your residents cannot lose their access option, while they are not required to carry anything with them.
  • Durable: Fingerprint scanners are built to last. They can withstand the elements and everyday wear and tear.
  • Affordable compared to other biometric access control systems. Iris scanners and voice recognition systems usually cost much more than fingerprint locks.
  • Cost-effective: Fingerprint scanning systems are relatively affordable.
  • No loss option – like with mobile access control systems, you don’t have to deal with lost / stolen keys, or have to repair them in case of physical damage.

Disadvantages of Fingerprint Access Control

Access control mobile app

  • Requires physical contact: Fingerprint scanners require residents to physically touch the scanner to gain access. This can be inconvenient for people with disabilities or injuries. This also makes the fingerprint lock option much less suitable for car gates, where the physical distance between the driver and the sensor might make it hard to reach.
  • Requires scanning every resident, employee & authorized vendor’s finger print. In order to be able to recognize them, you’ll have to make sure every member has their fingerprint scanned and saved to the system. This alone makes the system much less sustainable and hard to manage, compared to mobile apps based system, which requires only adding/removing phone # to add/revoke access.
  • No real option for visitors’ access. Continuing from the previous paragraph, the need to have every member’s fingerprint scanned, makes it impossible to allow for visitors access.
  • Might not work – scars, calluses, or even just dirt/filth on your residents’ fingers might cause it to fail in reading the fingerprint.
  • Even though fingerprint locks are regarded as highly secured, they can still be susceptible to spoofing: Fingerprints can be spoofed using a variety of methods, such as using a fake fingerprint or a mold of a real fingerprint.
  • Requires regular maintenance: Fingerprint scanners need to be regularly cleaned and calibrated to ensure they are working properly.

Advantages of Mobile App Access Control

  • Portable: Mobile app access can be used on any smartphone or tablet, so residents can access the system from anywhere. Since we all carry our mobile phones with us everywhere, it makes mobile app access available (almost) as much as biometric access control.
  • Ideal for guests: Residents can grant temporary access to guests or contractors from anywhere, even if they are not physically at the community. With the Gatewise system every resident can grand and send (via SMS) mobile temporary access to their guests at any time.
  • Easily scalable: Mobile app access can be easily scaled to accommodate new residents or changes in the community’s needs. All it takes to add or remove a resident/vendor is add/delete their phone # from the management portal.
  • Cost-effective: Mobile app access systems are relatively affordable. In addition, systems such as Gatewise are easier to install, thus favorable by installers.
  • Convenient with both doors and car gates. Since the app relies on remote communication, the resident can open car gates from a distance, not forcing them to step out of the car in cases where the sensor is not in hand reach.
  • Reliable. For remote systems that rely on more than a single communication channel (e.g. Wifi) the system is almost fail proof, as your residents will always be able to open the gates & doors of your community.
  • Can be integrated with Smart locks installed in your residents’ apartments.
  • If you’re offering a self-guided apartment tour to your potential residents (you should, if you don’t), they can enter the apartment without the need to scan their fingerptints.

Disadvantages of Mobile App Access Control

  • Can be less secure: Mobile apps can be hacked or malware can be installed on them, which could compromise security.
  • Requires residents to have a smartphone or tablet: Not likely, but still, maybe not all residents may have a smartphone or tablet, which could limit the system’s usability.
  • Can be inconvenient: Residents may forget their phones or lose their phones, which could prevent them from accessing the system.

Conclusion

Both fingerprint access control and mobile app access control have advantages and disadvantages, but for most multi-family communities, the advantages of mobile app access control systems overcome those of fingerprint (or any other biometric) systems. Unless your community requires extra (extra) security, so that it overcomes the convenience and cost considerations, you should probably check mobile app access control options first.

Additional Considerations

In addition to the factors mentioned above, community managers should also consider the following when choosing an access control system:

  • The size of the community: Larger communities may require a more sophisticated system with more features.
  • The budget: The cost of the system should be considered, as well as the cost of maintenance and upgrades.
  • The level of security required: Some communities may need a system with a higher level of security than others.
  • The technological expertise of the community staff: The system should be easy to use and maintain for the community staff.