“This holy grail device will bridge the gap between physical and digital access”
GET TO KNOW Jan Steffl, software developer at identity and security company Nexus Group, who is working on bridging the gap between physical and digital access. “This convergence will manifest itself in one single holy grail device – and the digital access business will consume the physical access business,” says Jan Steffl.
How would your colleagues describe you?
“They would probably say that I am well organized and structured, and that I am trying to continuously improve things.
“One colleague once said that I ask too many questions and that I revisit topics too many times. This comes down to my background: I am a physicist by education, and as a physicist you want to understand why things work the way they work – it is not enough just to see that they work. One can dissemble things to get the answers, but asking is a much quicker route.
“I currently have two colleagues in Nexus’s newly opened Prague office, which we plan to expand by hiring a few more people. I also have contact several times a day with the product development team in Nexus’s Stockholm office; we call each other, or use Slack and other tools,” says Jan Steffl.
Why are you working at Nexus?
“I joined Nexus because I want to change things – I want to contribute to real breakthroughs in the physical and digital access industries. Nexus has great potential and can move quicker than my previous employers, due to its smaller size and its great people with deep competence in digital access and public key infrastructure (PKI). I come from the physical access and telecom worlds, and they are moving really slowly.
“Ten years ago, at the end of my physics studies, I began working with SIM cards at Gemalto, since I needed some money to move before I joined the PhD program. The job turned out to be so much more interesting than my failures in the lab, so I decided to continue on that route instead, dropping my scientific career completely. Since then I have worked in various positions within mobile payments, and later, after joining HID Global, I also worked with mobile access solutions.
“I joined Nexus on May 1, 2017, and I feel that I have a good insight in the company and its potential, since I know several Nexus employees from my previous employments,” says Jan Steffl.
What are you working on now?
“Our team is working on the PC client software Nexus Personal Desktop. Together with the mobile app Nexus Personal Mobile, it makes it possible for our end users to access workstations and web services in a both secure and smooth manner.
“We are preparing several quite revolutionary new features, such as unlocking PCs over Bluetooth with mobile devices. We are not the first to do this, but the solutions on the market are not secure enough for enterprise use. Our solution could, for example, be used in hospitals, were medical personnel could walk around and easily and securely login to shared PCs without touching a keyboard. And then the PCs would lock themselves automatically when the mobile devices that had unlocked them leave the room,” says Jan Steffl.
What will be the next big breakthrough in the physical and digital access industries?
“The holy grail is to bridge the gap between physical and digital access, and to manifest this convergence in a single device, that is used to open everything. With this single device the user would get access to their home, office, computer, email accounts, cloud services, garage and car, and it will contain their passport, driver’s license, credit card, and things like that.
“This holy grail device will probably be the mobile phone, since everybody always has their phone with them. Wearables are an alternative, but people tend to think that wearables are pretty pointless, since they still need their mobile phone. So in the long run I think the mobile phone is the right device, and the development of hardware-based security features that will make it feasible is moving forward quickly.
“Innovation in digital access is also moving forward at a high speed, but the physical access part of the industry is not moving at all; it still pretty much based on single-way wires and low security credentials. The physical access business is making big money on old technology, and they are reluctant to change. I actually never think they will – I think the digital access business will consume the physical access business. We already see it happening.
“Our team is focusing on digital access, and how to bring it to the physical access area. Unlocking a PC over Bluetooth is just the first step,” says Jan Steffl.
Describe an ordinary day in the life of Jan!
“I recently moved out of Prague, from an apartment building in a crowded suburb to a house with a garden in a small town, so I am still building my new routines. I usually wake up with my kids between 7AM and 8AM, and then I go for short walk with the dog. After that I either drive 50 minutes to the office in Prague or walk to my study; I work from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“My mornings are usually dedicated to emailing and checking industry news, academic papers and new product releases. At 10AM, I have a daily sync with the team, either in a stand-up meeting in the office or on a Skype video call.
“After that I dive into more time-consuming problems and tasks. I code most of the time, but I also write some architectural stuff and answer requests for proposals, that is, documents from potential customers asking us to submit business proposals.
“I usually stop working around 6PM, and then I spend time with my family. When they have all gone to bed I usually have a work session consisting of reading or emailing. As I am a night owl, I rarely go to bed before midnight,” says Jan Steffl.
Published 27/6 2017