Ask the Expert
- By Mike Painter
- Jul 01, 2009
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
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
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
the cost to replace the
This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of Security Today.
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.