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Remote Access Management for vacation rentals

The growing nature of IoT has provided the affordances for the access control (cyber-physical devices) to be easier than ever in all perspectives of view, making the unlocking experience in the real estate market to the next level. It is integrated with the home automation system that uses the wireless protocols to provide the necessary services. There are many possible application scenarios in the vision of “Smart Home” (e.g. Heating, ventilation, etc.), but this delegated service of smart access control provides both the comfortable security and usability for the physical property while making it simple and easy to understand.

Peer-to-peer exchange of service plays an important role in community-based online platform hospitality provides. According to the Forbes study, Airbnb is the leading investment company in providing the rental-based hospitality services, apart from Airbnb,, Expedia, HomeAway, TripAdvisor, etc. also provide the online platform based vacation rental services. Airbnb online platform works on the principle of property sharing, where the property owners share their property or homes in return for the payment. One of the main challenges these companies face was how to provide or manage delegate access remotely to the property that peer (customer) rents from them. When it comes to access sharing it should take place in a secure, private, and convenient environment.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the development of pervasive systems has given feature-rich way in implementing the automated way of managing access to the shared properties. The security is the primary concern since the physical property can easily be prone to theft and mishandling when it goes under the control of a bad guy. The older way of granting access to the rooms and properties – e.g., locks with pin pad and centralized third-party smart locks – have some kind of drawbacks such as property privacy, or security issue. With security as a non-compromised view, IoT combined with the blockchain for remote access control management finds the winning solution. In this potential solution, interactive API fills a secure gap between the IoT infrastructure and the blockchain network. Thus, the architecture includes a combination of blockchain, IoT devices, and web technology to build a smart access management system.

There are already deployed access management technologies exist in IoT, they work based on the centralized access control system, traditional client/server paradigm.

Why Blockchain in access management for smart locks

There are billions of connected IoT devices around the world shaping internet usage. When there is such a dense network of IoT devices deployed, managing them in a secure way is a challenging task. Although the access management techniques are available in the IoT, they are based on centralized systems, which has some technical limitations to manage in a global environment. To tackle this situation blockchain-based IoT systems come into action to manage the configuration of IoT devices in the space of data access control in smart contracts.

Blockchain is the distributed ledger technology (DLT) that supports digital asset called a Bitcoin cryptocurrency. To be simple it is digital information (the “blocks”) stored in a public database (the “chain”). Each block has its own “Hash values” along with the hash of blocks before it. In order for the next block to add in the blockchain network, it tests/trusts the blocks when it qualifies the “proof of work” test. Nowadays blockchain potentially helps some of the IoTs security and scalability challenges. The integration of smart contracts into the access management system powered by IoT and blockchain has the following benefits,

  • Reliability: Before granting access to the property it verifies the guests and the renting conditions.
  • Scalability: Management can handle multiple IoT devices from different constrained networks adding it to a single blockchain.
  • Mobility: architecture can be used in isolated administrative systems. All the domains have their own freedom to manage their connected IoT devices.
  • Accessibility of information: Since the IoT systems in this application of smart locks works in the manner of distributed systems, so as the information.
  • Transparency: Access permission is transparency while it hides the location of the IoT devices and how a resource is accessed.

IoT in Smart lock

At the ground level of smart access management system IoT plays a crucial role. Remotely managed door accessibility also known as the physical keyless entry devices can be leveraged with the help of the IoT-enabled sensors in many possible ways. This technology allows not only the remotely managed access facility but also with the help of other sensors and technology such as cameras, PIR motion sensors, and voice-activated smart assistance with Alexa skill, mobile phones/web API, etc. could make the entire system alive with the real-time responses. According to this report, one out of four households in the US would equip their home with the smart lock within 2020. When IoT supports the smart locks, it offers automated features like turning on/off your lights, adjusting your thermostat, and trigger the security system in situations like unauthorized access.

Smart lock or smart access management system is the part of evolving IoT, it becomes indispensable to the businesses like Airbnb, and many more vacation rental companies as well as for the private owned property/houses. When additional sensors like motion detection and cameras are integrated with the access management architecture, it could act as a monitor system to confirm the visitor’s identity. At the field, Embedded Control Unit (ECU) IoT kit with wireless sensors supported by blockchain network over a gateway and Remote-Control Unit (RCU) which acts as APIs with GUI at the user level are the two main components to be included in the access management technology.

Embedded control unit – It acts as a central processing unit for all the IoT sensors at the field working in the distributed paradigm. These sensors use communication standards such as 4G/5G (satellite communication), WiFi, Radio Frequency Identification RFID, Bluetooth, Near Field Communication (NFC) to interact with the ECU.

Remote Control Unit (RCU) – Smart door lock for access management in the rental business is a peer-to-peer service that would possibly enable the users to control the state of the lock system (access system) with their smartphone. RCU is a software tool implemented on the user’s smartphone to provide the GUI (Graphical User Interface). This interface is used to send and receive the information to the field devices (IoT sensors) only when the user is authorized by the blockchain network. There are various APIs used to share the access or digital keys such as Keycafe, DigitalKeys, every door.

Until now, the smart lock solution has been focused on the physical abstraction that performs specific tasks and monitors using sensors. More research is needed to develop and deploy the decentralized authentication and access management system with the high transparency and reliability built on the top of blockchain networks, that could remotely be in action that could not only be used to open the door but also be capable of configuring the indoor environment through sensors.

The development of such a system is to avoid the need to meet personally to check-in/out and exchange the door key or access codes in the businesses i.e., like Airbnb. The decentralized system is capable of providing access as well as stepping ahead in providing security and privacy to all the parties involved. Privacy means exclusive access to the guest, at that time even the property owner could even be unable to have access to the property. That is being handled by the smart contract in the blockchain. This design was not only focused on the community-based online platforms for hospitality services but also could be extended to the gym or school lockers, self-storage facilities, office access control, etc. This architecture could be integrated in the future with the IoT devices to manage the smart space.

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