Using Access Control Hardware for Additional Software Applications

Planning ahead can prevent harm to people and the bottom line

As access control systems have become more prevalent in business environments, companies are looking to leverage this technology to deliver additional solutions at less expensive costs. These solutions may be replacing outdated, computerized systems and manual processes, or providing a more integrated environment. The ubiquitous nature of access control readers presents the opportunity to produce a myriad of applications. The range of companies using access control systems spans from small businesses, with as few as 30 employees, to much larger, international, corporate firms.

Working with some of the more popular access control companies, QUE Accounting has delivered systems to track employee, visitor and vehicle date, time and location. These raw time events have been used to specifically create time and attendance, visitor management, gated community access and resource usage systems.

In addition, QUE has provided system integration services that integrate external systems, such as payroll and Microsoft Active Directory, with access control to keep the different systems in synchronization.

Time and Att endance Applications

Time and attendance applications take time punches from employees and create gross payroll hours after applying a company’s payroll work rules and regulations. The advantage of the QUE Time and Attendance is that it works with AC systems, using one ID card and one set of hardware readers. Generally, a pair of readers, one “In” and one “Out” are used to emulate a time clock.

As an employee records his/her transaction, it is transmitted and stored in the AC vendor’s database. From there, the data is extracted by QUE, on a timely basis, and is converted to a time punch record stored in QUE. The actual time derived from AC is not modified, but a secondary time stamp is created for time that is adjusted by the applied work rules. These rules include such things as rounding and evaluation of missing punches. Calculated hours can then be transmitted to a number of payroll systems, including those built in-house.

Since the QUE system is only limited to the number of employees and locations that can be handled by AC systems, customers range from large dispersed organizations, like pharmaceutical companies and school districts, to centralized locations, such as hospitals and small, privately-owned businesses. Other applications based on the time and attendance foundation include:

  • Job costing applications that may or may not use additional AC readers. If they do, the reader’s location is used to identify a work area, or in the case of an assembly line environment, the time span an individual works. The time span may be linked to a job order schedule. All employee hours on that line at that time can be linked to a specific job order.
  • Employee monitoring systems that can be as simple as determining the whereabouts of an individual at a given moment or as complicated as tracking an individual’s movement throughout an organization. The person’s location can be used for plant mustering, producing a “Who’s In” report, or immediately identify whether a person is on site. In the case of plant mustering, additional intelligence in the QUE system is used to identify which muster stations are linked to which employees. A quick, visual display easily determines who has not arrived and where that person last logged.

System Usages

The following outlines some practical uses of the QUE system within the security industry.

Visitor management. Although VM is similar to TNA in that it tracks people’s activity, it usually includes a direct interface with the AC system, creating, modifying and assigning badges to visitors. Visitor badges may be assigned from a pool of AC IDs. As each is used, the visitor’s name is recorded in the AC system and assigned a default access level. When the visitor leaves the premises, the ID is returned to the pool and is then reassigned as needed.

In the case of gated communities, the system is generally used as the single source of entry to both the AC and VM systems. As a resident is entered into QUE, certain data is sent down to the AC system in order to create or modify a cardholder record. This seamless integration can be done for visitors and vehicles as well.

Usage tracking applications. The ability to track and control facility usage is a much-needed application for some entities. A primary example is a parking garage in which a person is tracked when they enter. These transactions are recorded in AC and are used to determine usage for billing systems. A large military base in Alaska uses the system for this purpose as well as using the built-in parking lot assignment for recreational vehicles (RV).

Day care security. In order to attract clients, day care centers often need to provide a high level of security, which usually encompasses an AC system. The AC system not only provides facility access but also is an important repository for information in case of an unwanted event. Having a system that can alert parents of late arrivals and early dismissals can help alleviate the tensions that can occur in a given day.

In addition, when children are picked up, an actual picture of a child and parent or guardian is displayed for the clerk to do a visual authentication. Watch lists can be created to bar unwanted visitors, such as a spouse who has lost custody, and all transactions can be reviewed for organizational purposes.

Integration. Since we currently live in a world with disparate systems, some integration is required for proficiency. When a new employee is hired, for instance, typically paper work has to be sent to security so that a badge can be created and access levels set. This process is fraught with errors and can be time consuming.

QUE has developed a number of processes that integrate different systems to remove the bottleneck. The SI applications created are executed on a scheduled basis and include error checking and a complete audit trail for activity.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Gerald McHugh is the founder and current managing partner at QUE Accounting.

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