Access control continues to evolve as a core element of professional security. From small systems to enterprise solutions spanning multiple locations around the globe, controlling access is central to the very concept of securing an environment. With the landscape for security changing as rapidly as new technology can be introduced, access control must continually become more integrated and scalable, providing users with new functionality that will improve overall situational awareness and security.
Further, beyond the important ROI of creating a more secure environment, new access control solutions are delivering financial benefits that are clearly identifiable as contributing to the bottom line.
The combination of solidly built hardware with an abundance of powerful software-based capabilities has made access control systems the focal point of an organization’s physical security system. From a single control platform, users can monitor the state of the facility as well as share data with other business operational and security systems such as those for video surveillance, visitor management, time and attendance, alarms, photo-imaging, badging, elevator control and building management. And, functionality is enhanced by ease of use. For example, systems with a flexible database structure can utilize existing personnel data to populate and program cardholder data fields, while active directory support enables real-time identity management, individualized identity-based door access, and the ability to generate specific reports for each screen view or credential holder. In many instances, users can get the information they need when it is most convenient for them.
Advanced access systems can also be custom tailored to meet specific customer or vertical market needs or mandated requirements. Solutions designed for correctional facilities can include integration with key control or guard tour systems. Systems designed for use in government facilities provide support for PIV I, PIV II, TWIC and CAC (Legacy, Transition and Endpoint) cards, as well as FIPS 201-compliant controllers configured to accept data formats from 18 to 256 bits to provide unprecedented versatility within the PIV II specification.
There are literally tens of thousands of access control systems installed across the country that still do a respectable job. Rather than rip and replace, many of these systems can be upgraded with new software while maintaining use of the system’s legacy cabling and equipment. One obstacle to this proposal is that numerous access control manufacturers have abandoned the ability to accommodate legacy controllers and wiring with their new software. Some of the newer providers’ software packages are not even compatible with their own legacy hardware. Fortunately there are alternative access control software solutions that are designed to be backward compatible with virtually any new and/or legacy controllers.
Backward compatible access solutions can also provide advanced architecture that enables access control systems to be offered as a managed service in facilities with multiple tenants. New access control software solutions make this possible with multiple client functionality capable of managing and controlling several systems on a single backbone.
Today’s access technology enables users to add the latest functionality available while maintaining their existing investment in access control infrastructure, and without having to rip and replace entire systems. In these instances, the system is typically composed of a series of controllers that have embedded software to control specific entrances. Essentially, the intelligence in the system is distributed to the access location entry points, with data sent back to a centralized location for system control. In this scenario, the controllers can be replaced and new remote interface cards installed so that all operations will be controlled centrally by an enterprise access control solution. The system can still use the installed readers – and more importantly, the existing wiring – which saves time and money.
With legacy access control systems that feature centralized architecture, all the system intelligence resides in the software. In most cases, these legacy systems are also most likely running on twisted pair cabling, which can be utilized by the new system. In some instances, the existing controllers installed throughout a facility can be re-engineered so they also do not need to be replaced, keeping the installed readers as well. This yields the highest cost-efficiencies as only the centralized software is being replaced at the head-end.
A well-designed and solidly engineered access control system is fundamental to any security strategy. With hardware and software that is backward-compatible along with open architecture to enable communications, a best-in-breed solution can be designed that goes beyond access to support multiple business operations and deliver measurable value to an organization.