Ask the Expert

Technology is moving at an incredible pace all around us, and the security industry is no exception.

New systems require experience working with not only cameras and card readers but also with information and networking technology. The successful setup and installation of today’s access control systems is likely to require the use of corporate bandwidth, along with a system integrator that understands the IT world.

ISSUE: What are some of the ITrelated issues a user might encounter when implementing an access control system?

SOLUTION: When choosing an integrator for an access control system, it is important that he or she meets with and receives backing from the IT department.

The IT staff tends to speak its own language, so it is important that the integrator have the certified personnel on hand to translate. Any access control project -- from a new installation to an upgrade -- will be much more smooth if the IT department buys into it from the beginning.

Generally, the issue with the IT department and access control systems is not bandwidth, since the amount of data moved by an access system is relatively small when compared to video transmission.

For access control, the issue is standards. Older, legacy systems may not work well with the new network tools used by the IT industry. However, new products are being developed that can make that integration easier. An experienced security professional should be able to determine the right products to use.

ISSUE: What are some of the newest trends in access control?

SOLUTION: A relatively recent innovation is Web-based access control. One big advantage of using this type of system is that it provides the ability to monitor and control remote locations from one or multiple central command centers -- virtually anywhere an Internet connection is available. This can create appealing cost savings, greater management efficiency and a secure, easy way to share information.

However, there are other effective ways of providing enterprise access control. One example is the trend of moving intelligence to the edge of the network. For access control, that means pushing some of the intelligence into the card readers at the door. Scaling this system from a few up to thousands of doors is much easier and does not require as much reconfiguration.

These new products may not offer the full range of features supported by current access panels, but edge readers fit into the way IT looks at the world in terms of network infrastructure.

Another recent trend is lock manufacturers building card readers directly into their locksets and creating IP-based locks that combine a card reader and control panel into one unit. The panels can work over a wireless network and may cut installation costs in half. While early in its evolution and not appropriate for all applications, this example of pushing intelligence to the edge of the network may be the IT-approved solution in many situations.

One development that is almost certain to result from the heavy IT involvement in security systems in general and access control in particular is the rapid movement toward open architecture. IT is knowledgeable with using products from various manufacturers, linking them and having them work as intended. In the past, that has not been the way top-tier access control manufacturers operate.

That will change. And maybe that might be the best thing to come of IT’s involvement in access control.

READER QUESTION: Recently we had a wireless access control system installed for our 27,000-squarefoot office/warehousing facility. Due to budgetary matters, we are being forced to move into a smaller, nearby building. Can we take our wireless system with us and, if so, what problems might we face?

SOLUTION: As always, the answer is maybe. The access control industry has come a long way from offering only traditional hardwired solutions to networkbased systems. In my experience, all systems have their own set of benefits and limitations. A wireless access control system is no exception.

Currently, access control systems can remotely control wirelessly integrated locking hardware or panel interfaces.

These systems have limitations, such as the distance between the transmitter and the receiving modules or the type of construction of any obstacle between these units. Depending on which software platform is managing your system, there could be limitations of access control functionality. These limitations are usually exposed in unique or special circumstances, but it’s something to consider.

Wireless locksets are typically designed based on the type of mechanical locking hardware being used. Therefore, there may be devices that can be reused in your new facility and some that may need to be replaced or modified.

The new facility may be very wellsuited for a wireless solution. A professional site survey will analyze your current system components and architecture, as well as provide you with an estimate to move your current system versus the cost to replace the system entirely.

This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Mike Painter is vice president of Salt Lake City-based Alphacorp. Painter has been involved with all aspects of the security integration business. He has created solutions in the security industry since 1992, designing and implementing integrated CCTV and access control systems using a wide variety of manufacturers.

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