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Seos: A rundown on HID Global’s software-based credential technology

The Seos platform from HID Global is one of the premier credential technology options available to universities. It combines advanced encryption, high reliability and fast operation, and as a software-based credential technology, Seos is independent of underlying hardware. This offers form-factor flexibility, supporting use on mobile devices, smart cards, wearables, tags and more.

Seos can be leveraged for a wide range of applications beyond physical access control, including secure printing, cashless vending, parking management and secure network login.

For most campuses considering a move from older ID technologies to a more secure credential, the contactless smart card is the obvious choice. For both higher education and other markets, the choice has coalesced around a small number of options.

“In the real world we’re only talking about a few technologies in this space,” says Tim Nyblom, End User Business Manager for Higher Education, Physical Access Control at HID Global. “HID’s Seos and MIFARE DESFire are the main credential options in this race.”

When a campus selects and invests in a solution using Seos or DESFire credentials, they are making a commitment that is important to understand.

Open solutions are top-of-mind for security professionals. They want to know they’re getting the best options and flexibility for their investment both today, and far into the future. HID has made a point to provide this openness that modern security professionals demand.

“Our strategy involves offering flexibility in a way that enables campuses to upgrade technologies in the future using the readers they’ve already installed.”

In addition to its Seos solution, HID also offers the SIO (Secure Identity Object) data model on DESFire cards for leading security and privacy protection.

For mobile deployments, customers can choose between BLE and NFC to meet their needs and vision of the future. HID further extends its focus on openness for the higher education space with an Apple Wallet option.

Finally, the value of openness is underpinned by the dependability of the provider. HID has been a leader in the access control space globally for many years.

“Our stance at HID is really about offering the most choice and the most flexibility,” says  Nyblom. “Out of the box, you can hang one of our Signo Readers on the wall and it will support a huge range of technologies including Seos, DESFire, and a variety of other legacy technologies if the campus is still using those.”

“This variety is not just limited to the credential technologies themselves but also the means to communicate them via mobile devices, with support for both Near Field Communication and Bluetooth,” he adds. “Our strategy involves offering flexibility in a way that enables campuses to upgrade technologies in the future using the readers they’ve already installed.”

Building an advanced credential environment

Choosing a credential technology can be a sensitive decision for universities. Often the decision between technologies like Seos and DESFire comes down to manufacturers, existing campus partners, or third-party vendors that have ties to a certain technology.

When it comes to credentials, the stance from HID is that Seos and DESFire are both great solutions, and the company provides both options to its clients.

“When Seos and DESFire are being discussed for security and credential upgrade paths, clients often don’t know HID supports both options,” says Nyblom. “If our campus client wants DESFire, then HID fully supports that. HID designs, builds and sells more DESFire cards for physical access control than almost any other card manufacturer.”

Still, he explains there are advantages to opting for Seos.

“With Seos, you’re not tied to a chip or silicon manufacturer. Since it’s a software-based application, you can put Seos on a card, a phone, or a wearable,” says Nyblom. “Looking forward, when you talk about DESFire or NXP, that’s chip-based. You need a chip in a card and a reader to communicate in a specific manner.”

“Seos isn’t a niche, proprietary solution. It’s sufficiently strong, private, and fits into the Apple ecosystem and Apple Wallet without modification.”

That distinction is one that Luc Merredew, Product Marketing Director, Physical Access Control at HID Global, believes will be important in the years to come.

“When you have a chip-based solution, you’re going to tend to be restrained by that. You may or may not be in a position to do mobile, for example,” says Merredew. “Seos is completely the same implementation on a card as it is on a mobile device. There’s not a separate version of Seos that goes on the phone, it’s all the same.”

As Merredew explains, an NFC read on a physical Seos card reads and interacts in the exactly the same way as a Seos mobile credential.

“Seos isn’t a niche, proprietary solution,” Merredew says. “It’s sufficiently strong, private and is well-designed to the extent that it fits into the Apple ecosystem and Apple Wallet without modification.”

Seos on campus

For individual institutions, future solutions and credentials need to ‘play nice’ with the other systems deployed on the campus.

Seos boasts all the necessary factors for meeting both current and future needs for transaction and access control providers on a college campus.

“Institutions typically roll out Seos in a card form factor and, in a growing number of cases, also offer the Seos mobile credential,” Nyblom says. “These campuses typically deploy HID physical access control readers and HID OMNIKEY readers for point of sale and privilege control environments.”

Nyblom says HID has something to offer every campus. “We believe our Seos credential offers the best path with our commitment to innovation and choice, but we are open when it comes to making the best selection for our customers, and that means we support DESFire as well,” he says. “Our readers work with virtually any of a campus’ existing ID technology and provide that same strong path to the future.”

Next steps for Seos

Every university likely has a rough idea of where its credentialing ecosystem is headed. At the very least, universities need to be considering what’s coming over the next 5-plus year period.

“Technology changes, and HID’s aim for Seos, is to offer the flexibility to be used on different things that come down the road, without being tied to specific chips,” says Merredew.

He offers the example of Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology. Access control systems using this new technology can recognize and authenticate a user as they approach the door. There is no need for the user to present the credential as the system finds it automatically.

“We’re protocol, device and operating-system agnostic. That gives you a tremendous amount of flexibility both now and in the future.”

“There’s no doubt that UWB will be prioritized going forward,” says Merredew. “It might not be something you need to plan for in 2020, but I wouldn’t want to choose a solution that didn’t have it in its future road map.

Merredew points to the FiRa Consortium – an initiative that HID is spearheading alongside fellow sponsor members Samsung, Bosch and NXP — as an example of the application of the UWB standard.

Crystal-ball predictions aside, there is a clear intent from HID going forward. “We’re protocol, device and operating-system agnostic,” says Merredew. “That gives you a tremendous amount of flexibility both now and in the future.”

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