Think Beyond the Perimeter

Exploring the benefits of bringing the security and convenience of electronic access control to interior openings

Technologies continuously evolve to become better, faster and more efficient. In turn, users become smarter, quicker and more productive. Innovations are created or reimagined to improve customer satisfaction, either filling a void in the marketplace or solving customers’ problems. Sometimes users don’t even realize that void exists until the product becomes part of daily routines— then it’s expected to do more, leading to another evolution.

Electronic access control is no different. Traditionally, it was found around the building perimeter and high-security openings, primarily due to costs of wired access control solutions. Today, intelligent locks are found on interior doors for a variety of applications that stretch beyond security.

Integrating Solutions

Thinking back, when hardwired devices first grew in popularity, the superior function was security. Secondary was the efficiency they offered facility personnel, especially in larger buildings with more than 50 of employees accessing the main doors each day. It simply made sense to use a credential to avoid key turnover and mange access rights. Then employees began to experience the benefits. With large groups entering the building at the start of the day, entrances either needed to be left unlocked, leaving doors vulnerable each morning, or each person needed to find the correct key on their keychains to grant themselves—and potentially the small crowd waiting while the door is manually unlocked— access to the building. The credential improved security and flow control with a single swipe.

Even after electronic access control became the norm for main entries, users didn’t think twice about pulling out a mechanical key to access their interior office door.

Like other technologies, access control evolved and so have customers’ expectations. Now that users have experienced the benefits of electronic access control on main exterior doors, they expect these systems to do more.

Evolution beyond the Perimeter

Perimeter security is an essential step to protecting a facility and its assets. It’s one of the first tiers of defense in a layered security approach. With the costs of wired electronic access control, end users were more selective when determining which openings to secure electronically. When it came to electronic access control, interior doors were a nice to have, but not a must-have. Telecommunications and electric closets were considered high-security areas, and they were next to the main systems, which helped keep labor costs low. In some cases, the human resources and president’s office would also be wired to protect sensitive information.

Then wireless locks were introduced, which significantly reduced the costs for end users. As electronic access control became more affordable, end users could connect more interior openings throughout the building.

Today, the demand for electronic access control in the interior has increased. In an office environment, there is sensitive information stored on laptops or at desks throughout the facility. The need for a lock and key is there, but now that employees have experienced the convenience of swiping a credential, the demand for electronic access control in the interior went up quite a bit. As with other technologies, now that customers adopted these systems and reaped the benefits, they expect them to do more. The employee who once never questioned the mechanical key is now swiping a credential at the front door and wondering why he cannot use that same card to access his office.

A similar case can be made for educational buildings. In K-12 schools, the main entrance and secondary entrances should be incorporated into an access control system. This gives the school control over their perimeter, a critical layer in school security. With the right hardware in place, this school can easily lockdown the entire perimeter. This is great, and once schools see this benefit, they realize the same can happen inside the building. Wireless locks can also be connected to effectively lockdown the classroom layer in the event of emergencies. The demand for security and convenience has grown, and electronic access control is no longer just a nice to have on interior doors. As an industry, we need to think beyond the perimeter.

Expanding Interior Opportunities

The evolution of electronic access control reduced costs for end users, which is actually an advantage for integrators’ business. I’ve heard concerns that this evolution has reduced investment opportunities. However, it’s the opposite. While an IP architecture eliminates the need for wiring and extra hardware, the reduced costs mean customers can expand access control to more doors than before. They’re able to connect more doors in the same cost parameters as one traditionally wired door.

It goes beyond upfront expenses; the ability to provide incremental value to new and existing customers is advantageous to growing business. Integrators are now positioned to enhance both security and convenience for customers, which will help solidify their relationships and expand future opportunities.

End users need a trusted partner to navigate the increasing number of technologies available, and successful integrators will go beyond the sale to educate and offer expert advice. In many cases, customers have not been exposed to the multiple connectivity options in the market. Start by educating on the different architectures available and the target applications for each. Connectivity isn’t a one-size-fits all application in most cases. Properties can blend the types of architecture to reduce the overall infrastructure cost. A high-traffic opening might need real-time communication, while interior office doors don’t. Real-time connectivity to a wireless lock via a gateway is better suited for openings where lockdown capabilities are needed, whereas doors that need basic user access management may opt for Wi-Fi connectivity. The latter isn’t real-time, but provides daily momentary communication and access control.

Different architecture allows for greater adoption of locks on interior doors as they can be mixed and matched to meet the needs of each opening. What are the needs of the facility team? Do they need real-time monitoring? Or is it more important to see who or how many people accessed a space? It’s all about balancing the needs for security with convenience as well as the expectation to adopt new technology.

It’s important for properties to evolve with the technologies to keep up with market demands.

We’ve already started to experience the demand for a one-card solution. Switching between credentials—electronic or mechanical—is an inconvenience. Consider multifamily or mixed-use properties. Ten years ago it wasn’t uncommon to have a key that accessed the front door of an apartment building and other to get into the residence. Some even had a third credential to access a parking structure. Today, a single fob can grant access to all of these spaces. And soon, the fob will be a thing of the past. Users will want to do everything from their mobile device—a trend we’re already seeing grow in popularity, especially among younger generations.

Eventually, convenience will trump security at many interior doors. Intelligent electronic locks platforms are being used for new applications, and this change isn’t dictated on security needs. For example, The Juilliard School implemented a reservation system to overcome scheduling challenges for its practice rooms. Connecting wireless locks to its reservation module improved room utilization and efficiencies for students.

As an industry, we need to think beyond the perimeter. Integrators are in a prime position to guide customers through connectivity choices to find an optimal balance for improved user experiences.

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Security Today.


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