Dollars and Sense

Wireless solutions help various security managers, integrators opt in

When Diablo Valley College in California converted its life science building to an advanced technology center, it upgraded the building's security without the need for hard wiring. Jack Shaffer, facilities project manager for the district, said the major remodeling project was more like a retrofit, with wireless locks fitting in nicely. He also said access control went even smoother because the integrator didn't have to pull cables to each opening.

"Initially, we installed the new locks on all the classrooms to secure high-dollar items, such as computers and projectors," Shaffer said. "Later, the technology department wanted to upgrade security on all the office and storage areas where they also stored equipment. All we had to do was bolt on another wireless lock for each door and enter it into the system."

Access control is managed by a Schlage Security Management System, a Windows- based software program, which lets the district link all its wireless locks in real time. The system resides in a central server in the district office.

"If someone swipes a card on campus, it shows up as an activity in the office 15 miles away," Shaffer said.

Calculating the Savings

Real-life installations prove that wireless solutions often have substantially lower installation costs than wired alternatives because wireless systems use less hardware and install between five to 10 times faster. Even in situations that might once have seemed impossible or impractical, retrofitting electronic access control systems is easy and affordable with wireless solutions.

Wireless locking systems provide the same online, real-time capabilities as wired systems and are compatible with most brands of access control panels. With wireless access control, access privilege changes and audit records are available on a common database located at the central control terminal, which simplifies data entry and management.

For instance, Tri-City Mechanical, a 512-employee design/build contractor in Chandler, Ariz., uses wireless access control locking systems to reduce false alarm calls at its 77,000-square-foot facility.

"People weren't locking the doors, and we were having numerous false alarm calls," said Ken Brown, building manager for Tri-City Mechanical. "We only needed access control on six doors so we did not want a complex system or one that would be costly to install.

"We decided on wireless because the facility was already built, and it would have been next to impossible to run conduit. Although the hardware is a little more expensive than hardwired units, the installation labor cost of wireless is a fraction of wired, so the tremendous savings in installation was worth it."

For outdoor applications, like vehicle and pedestrian gate access, wireless links will bridge up to 1,000 feet, eliminating costly trenching. As such, wireless systems are ideal for garages, parking lots, airports, utility companies and military bases. They are especially cost effective for controlling gates around a facility. Also, optional directional or gain antennas are available for distances up to 4,000 feet away.

Reduce Installation Time

Anyone installing a door access control application should consider wireless simply because a wireless locking solution takes 45 minutes to install versus an average of eight hours for a wired solution. This saves labor and material costs.

Mississippi State University's Ruby Hall is a three-story/160,000-squarefoot building that houses 400 freshmen. Because it would be too expensive to hardwire locks to each dorm room, wireless locks were installed on each of the 223 rooms.

Not only were the wireless locks less expensive to install, but according to Richard Tollison, the university's manager of data services, installation took 60 to 90 minutes per door versus one to two days for wired locks.

When Wireless Makes Sense

Since wireless systems are less invasive, they are ideal for difficult-to-wire situations and new construction projects. Importantly, they also retain the integrity of historical buildings and avoid the potential asbestos issues of older buildings.

Elevators are prime candidates for a wireless system. While traveling cables are routinely included at the time of installation, they are often ill equipped to reliably transport credential data from the cab to the elevator controller. Elevator shafts are harsh electrical environments and are often the source of datacorrupting noise that becomes induced onto the card reader data lines. This causes inconsistent performance, which often worsens over time as cable shielding decays due to continual movement.

Conversely, wireless solutions eliminate the need for the data lines in elevators up to 1,000 feet. In fact, they thrive in this environment and provide consistent, reliable data transport that doesn't wear out. With traveling cable installation costs ranging from $2,600 to $13,000 or more per cab, wireless alternatives can save thousands of dollars per elevator.

Multiple Technologies

Open-architecture designs allow for seamless integration of wireless solutions with existing access control systems and provide limitless choices when installing a new system. The result is having one access system for both traditional wired and wireless openings, one database to manage and one transaction screen to monitor.

Heartland Church in Indianapolis was founded in October 2001 and has been growing ever since. It draws 900 attendees for weekend worship services. The church renovated a former computer store to house a state-of-the-art 1,000 seat auditorium and childcare center.

"Our church is at a major intersection of Interstate 69," Pastor Darryn Scheske said. "The intersection has the second highest traffic count in the state, so security was a key concern."

Church officials needed to secure the auditorium to protect their substantial investment in musical equipment and other technology. As a result, Heartland Church called on Central Indiana Hardware, an Ingersoll Rand Security Center, for advice.

Eight doors throughout the church property now use the Schlage bright blue Web-enabled access control solution. Authorized users enter via proximity cards and Schlage proximity card readers.

The exterior door to the church auditorium and daycare center are hardwired to the controller because of its high throughput. This door also needed to have an exit device and handicap accessibility. Because wire had to be run from the door to the controller, it took a little longer to install the locking system.

For the other seven interior doors, the central Indiana team recommended using wireless access control, which seamlessly integrates into the system's access control panel, eliminating wire between the lock and the access control panel and providing a complete solution at each opening.

"It's so easy to use wireless in such an application," said Ron Couch, vice president of Central Indiana Hardware. "Not only were the readers installed quickly, we saved the church all the labor costs associated with a typical wired installation."

Robust Technology

Even in installations where conditions appear too extreme for wireless signals, such as areas near thick concrete walls with steel rebar, the capabilities of the system's 900 MHz transmissions are hearty.

The University of Albany's upstate New York campus is the second largest concrete structure in the United States, after the Pentagon. When the university wanted to upgrade and expand its magnetic stripe-based locking system, its thick concrete walls made it cost prohibitive to hardwire the campus after the fact. The university investigated many options and ultimately chose to go wireless.

"Wireless locks are a natural fit," said Brian McCarthy, University of Albany's system administrator. Ryan Webb, State University of New York card system administrator, added, "They make the most sense for replacement and expansion. There is an immense cost savings in both labor and time."

Wired or Wireless

What's important is that end users and their integrators don't need to choose between wired and wireless access control for their application. From a financial standpoint, it's quite easy to determine whether one should be promoting wired, wireless or a combination of the two for an upcoming job.

About the Author

Jennifer Toscano is the marketing manager at Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, Schlage Electronic Security, electronic locks.

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