Cost Considerations of Using Apple Wallet Integration for Mobile Access
London, UK. 20th September 2023 - In today's digital era, the convenience and convergence of using our smartphones and wearables for various purposes, including building access, is becoming a norm.
Apple Wallet integration for mobile access, enables iPhone users to use their Apple Wallet for building entry and store digital versions of access cards and employee badges within the wallet. Employees can use their verified badges to access buildings by simply tapping their iPhone or Apple Watch on an NFC reader instead of needing a physical fob or key card.
Apple Wallet offers the promise of seamless user experience. However, this does not come without its set of costs and logistical challenges, especially implementing legacy hardware and integrating into your current building access control infrastructure.
Before adopting Apple Wallet or traditional upgrade strategies as THE only mobile access solution, do your homework as it's crucial to understand up front the preliminary limitations and costs associated with upgrading your existing access control readers. When comparing Apple Wallet integration as a solution for mobile access control, I have noticed the following additional costs. A detailed look and breakdown of potential costs and budgets involved in adopting Apple Wallet are important and subject to your specific applications.
Reader and Firmware Upgrade Costs
Since Apple only supports Apple Wallet keys with approved lock or reader manufacturers who already have NFC readers within their portfolio of products, due to age, you’ll likely to update or replace your current access control hardware and infrastructure. So, consider readers prior to 2016/17 with suspect compatibility for Apple Wallet integration. There may have been expansions performed over time, leaving the older readers in place if they are functioning properly.
Considering how long readers can function, most widely branded & installed readers are justifiably still active today and are not firmware upgradable for Apple Wallet access, this is potentially a massive limitation that could rule out as much as 75% of readers that are active today for Apple Wallet adoption.
For example, HID’s market dominance of Prox, MultiCLASS, early iCLASS and Prox are some of the most popular readers still in use globally and make up significant proportion of the market in question.
As you develop your preliminary budgets, its best to inventory your site’s reader count, and if possible, their age from deployments then consider the average labor & material costs of ‘rip and replace’ for new hardware and installation could amount to $1k+ per door or more depending upon local labor markets. Based on upgrading a multi-use building that requires the installation of 20-30 new NFC enabled readers, this could amount to $20k - $30k in cost to just provide hardware that enable Apple Wallet keys integration. As installed, also consider potential business disruption of phasing in departments, employees, new apps, and training.
If a firmware update is possible on-site, there is labor to carry out an upgrade that would be required by the integrator so as not to void your warranties. It’s usually a two-person job, one at the reader to power down, load firmware, then power up and test. The other is in the command and control to validate the upgrade is done, then move on to the next reader.
As a point of comparison, one of my clients, Sentry Interactive, enables you to keep your perfectly functioning readers in place regardless of the age of the legacy system by simply reversing traditional system architecture. With their solution, Sentry's Mobile Access Integration is easily performed with an innovative software upgrade at the host that can be deployed remotely. Simply put, they credential the door, not the person by providing a low-cost passive NFC wireless “ruggedized door credential” placed next the existing reader. The NFC technology that is built in the user’s iPhone, Apple Watch or Android mobile device then becomes the secure authenticator & power source enabling door access. The mobile devices’ NFC communicates with the NFC door credential and Sentry Interactive’s cloud-based access control software using the infrastructure with the existing door controller panel and brilliantly leveraging their software application while providing the same user experiences at a fraction of the cost, assuming that a cost-effective user experience is probably your goal?
Compare the cost of integration for existing access control systems.
When using Apple Wallet for access control, you’ll probably require a distinct Apple key for every building. Even if you use the same type of reader e.g. HID Signo readers in different buildings within the complex such as a university campus or hospital, each facility probably necessitates its own Apple Wallet integration. This most likely increases integration complexity and system cost. You might ask your servicing integrator, have you had prior experience or is this an installation by exploration? Either way I would suggest obtaining a fixed bid proposal to validate execution.
In addition, if you mix reader types such as HID's Signo and Wavelynx Ethos readers, managing the setup process can become even more complex. You’ll need to coordinate with these companies and the authorized integration partner.
Each integration should be qualified, vetted, tested, and approved by Apple. The additional cost for custom integrations may range between $10,000 and $20,000, and this doesn’t include labor costs for reader firmware updates and associated software.
The more building implementations you oversee, the higher the potential costs and complexities. Scaling can become inefficient, difficult to manage and expensive. You might consider a comparative solution like Sentry Mobile Access that offers as a streamlined and integrated solution for both Apple and Android users. Considering the core value for property managers is providing the same desired user experience their tenants and employees at lower cost and disruption. They can manage numerous buildings across the enterprise remotely, on a common system platform under a ‘single pane of glass’. Additionally, new facilities can easily be added and integrated remotely.
Unlike the complex and often expensive integration processes associated with Apple Wallet, or other replacement strategies, Sentry Interactive already seamlessly integrates with many major access control brands available on the market at a fraction of cost and time it takes for Apple wallet integration.
Estimated Apple Wallet & Implementation costs
Consider the following costs that aren’t always clear upfront. The example below should give you an idea when forming your budgets.
- Apple License: approx. $3 per user, per month
- Seat License: approx. $6 per user, per year
- New hardware+ installation cost: $1k+ per door (Hardware firmware upgrades, varies depending on the integrator and size of the job)
- Software SSO infrastructure (cost typically calculated per device)
- Facility credential management costs (varies according to provider)
Example: a company with 1,000 users considering Apple Wallet Implementation, based on US mobile market data we’ll assume that 53% will be iPhone users:
- Apple License: 530 users x $3/user/month x 12 months = $19,080 annually
- Seat License: 530 users x $6/user = $3,180 annually
- New hardware: 20 - 30 NFC enabled readers + installation cost: $1,000 per door =$20,000 - $30,000
In total, excluding SSO infrastructure costs and credential management fees, you're looking at a base fee of $22,260+ per year just for Apple Wallet integration for 530 users out of the 1000 that use your building with a further $20 - $30k in new reader hardware and installation cost on top.
That’s $42k- $52k in year one, a considerable amount to justify to just enable 53% of the users in your building access via Apple Wallet. Think about the additional cost of adding Android wallet to service the remaining 47% of users.
With an additional $22k per year of ongoing costs every year is a high price to pay for 530 users to have Apple wallet building access with digital employee badges. So, do your math as it relates to your facilities.
Sentry Interactive provides NFC mobile access for both iOS and Android users without the need for additional hardware installation or firmware upgrade costs therefore there’s no need to ‘rip and replace’ perfectly functional access control infrastructure just to provide a mobile access user experience for both iPhone and Android user.
Access control, like many security systems demands flexibility and variety to comply to unique individual requirements. This need for variety is evident when it comes to the users in the building as Apple Wallet estimates only services around 53% of the tenants, employees and visitors that a building has. In the US, 47% of building users use an Android phone*.
However, for international enterprises outside the US, the global preference shifts dramatically to as much as 71% of employees using an Android device**. Although the Apple ecosystem carries a powerful allure, its relatively smaller user base at a global scale suggests that for broad-scale adoption and practicality in access control, Apple Wallet might not be the most in-demand choice. Decisions must align with these user preferences to ensure widespread usability and efficiency.
Business is about options and different needs and budgets dictate different choices. The point being, you can provide the same user experience for your tenants and employees for less cost, why not? Get in touch with me today I’d love to hear from you and talk through your requirements and to discuss the other choices available that provide NFC mobile access for both iPhone and Android users without the need of a reader upgrade or replacement being required.
Author: Paul Kluttz
With 45+years of security industry experience with a variety global integrators and manufacturer’s, I have continued my career as an independent management consultant for products and channels specializing in new technology adoption and business development. I look forward to applying my experience to help new innovative technologies find voice and adoption with end users within the various channels that gain market share through innovation by focusing on connecting People, Products and Channels. Thanks for your time!
BeXar Technology Partners