The Big Opportunity
Making the case for access control
- By Isac Tabib
- Oct 03, 2016
Let’s face it. Times are changing—and rapidly. It is all around us. We
now have cars that drive and park themselves, pilotless aircraft that
take off, fly and even land on a moving aircraft carrier, smartphones
with countless apps that can do practically anything and so much
more. Technological advances have allowed online retailers to commoditize
nearly everything, thus reducing the classic retailer’s profits—and door
hardware is not exempt from this revolutionary formula. For most business owners,
locksmiths included, these changes have been evolving while they are focused
on running their businesses in the same way they have in the past. The question
becomes: is this sustainable?
CONSIDERING DESIGN AND INSTALLATION
Being in the electronic security integration business for many years, I have had the
opportunity to be the security integrator for many small and large projects. From
designing and installing access control and CCTV systems in a small medical center
with six reader doors and four cameras, to having hundreds or even thousands
of reader doors and cameras in locations such as: JetBlue Terminal 5 at JFK International Airport, Westchester County Jail, the New York Times headquarters,
Hearst Publishing headquarters, 330 Jay Street NYS Supreme Court, and countless
other locations. For all of these projects, we contracted with many locksmith
companies, since, after all, each of those clever readers and its associated software
needed an electrified lock to do the job.
Historically, regardless of how much time we spent on engineering and delivering
an access control project, the customer’s perception of its functionality boiled
down to a simple question: Did the door unlock properly?
When thinking about that question I first realized, that despite their good
knowledge of locking hardware and life safety compliance, most locksmiths do
not take advantage of the market opportunity they have, installing access control.
Think about it, every electrified lock needs an access control system.
There are likely more than a dozen reasons why this is the case, I will briefly
focus on a few:
- The need for basic electronics knowledge.
- The need to have basic IT knowledge and skills.
- A lack of access control products that are resilient, simple to install and maintain.
You may want to take a mental note of the opportunities and needed steps, so
that you can provide your customers with a complete, simple access control and
CCTV system. These will improve your bottom line.
One of the most accessible opportunities for the average locksmith to capitalize
on is the existing-system market. Electromechanical locks, by definition, fail.
There are moving mechanical parts within the locks and for various reasons, many
unpredictable, they break. When they do, it is naturally the locksmith that gets
called for the repair, and herein lies an opportunity. Providing solid security system
design, excellent installation and on-going service, are the antidotes to being
FIXING A TROUBLED SYSTEM
Recently I was called upon to work with a locksmith to fix a troubled access control
system in one of the buildings of a large, multi-site customer. The customer was
complaining about numerous issues like: Access doors that did not unlock, doors
that had trouble locking, random “access denied” messages, unauthorized tailgating
into the facility and frequent “system not working” messages. These issues were taking
many resources, including multiple days and costly additional dollars, to rectify.
After spending time at the facility to evaluate conditions, it was determined there
needed to be an action plan and provide an upgrade solution.
Basic electronics knowledge: Wiring. When thinking about an upgrade of an existing
system, we always try to preserve as much of the present infrastructure as possible, adding and upgrading as needed.
One of the largest labor investments
(and costs) is the existing wiring. At the
card access door, it is relatively simple to
identify and repair wiring issues.
However, at the access control system’s
“head end,” wires are normally
already terminated inside the system
controller enclosure. These wires are
typically too short to make it to a new
controller destination for a system upgrade.
For this reason, installers often
use telco type “chicklets” to splice the
old wires to the new controllers. Doing
so only exacerbates the situation.
The end result is a cabinet loaded with
many intermingled wires that are not
only difficult to identify, but worse yet,
even harder to service in the future. In
this building, the original installer also
added a local power supply in the ceilings
near each door, making the system
upgrade even more involved and complex
as we had to find each, examine
and determine what was happening.
Instead of using an inferior and unsupportable
“chicklet” approach, DIN
rail mounted Phoenix connectors are
typically used. With the use of Phoenix
connectors, wires from the new controller
are terminated in an orderly form on
one side of the connector. At the time
of the cutover from the original system
to the new access control system,
existing field wires are terminated on
the other side of the connector. This
allows for a neat and orderly installation,
easily serviceable at any time (by
any technician), as each of the wires are
identifiable and accessible for testing,
troubleshooting and repair.
A tip I learned a long time ago is to
take the time to fully document the job.
We memorialize device locations, wire
types/runs, controller locations, assigning
color-codes, IP addresses, details
and the like. The more detail, the better
for our future in servicing the system
and keeping the customer happy.
Documenting the system is easy using
CAD, not to mention easy to store,
update and maintain. If you are not
using CAD, then at a minimum, take a
piece of paper and create a “stick figure”
of the building, show door locations
and anything else you did, as this
will make much easier for you and your
technicians to service the system into
Basic IT knowledge: the use of network
controllers and software. In this
case, we actually had an easy choice to
make. Since the customer was a large
multi-site type with an existing, high
quality integrated access control and
CCTV platform, we simply utilized the
customer’s platform hardware and controller
requirements. This plan benefitted
the customer greatly.
There was no need to purchase,
manage or maintain another piece of
software. This saved the customer a
minimum six months of time and numerous
“committee” resource hours, the
headache of another construction-like
project that would impact much of the
building, not to mention carrying a high
cost. Based on knowledge of the system
and IT infrastructure, we were able
to immediately offer relief by bringing
this building online with the others in
the customer’s networked access control
system. The building became a part of the customer’s existing “enterprise” access
control system, allowing for use of
a single system-wide access card.
Employees and contractors of this
facility can now travel between this and
other buildings throughout the enterprise,
carrying one master proximity
card containing their authorized user
credentials. System administrators have
control across the enterprise. The impact
of cost savings and control to the
customer are huge.
The “user list” integrity was immediately
enhanced, as system administrators
were able to add/delete users and even
automate credentials for new or terminated
employees, from a singular centralized
database. It is worth noting here,
it does not make a difference whether an
access system is comprised of two doors
or two hundred doors, the same rules of
proper product selection, design, installation
and documentation apply.
Most locksmith are very familiar with
proper locking hardware selection and
the associated life safety code requirements.
Security integrators typically are
not as familiar with available electrified
door locking hardware and tend to use
magnetic locks everywhere. Magnetic
locks, or “maglocks”, are easy to install
and require no prior installation planning.
I get called to evaluate many installations
and am not surprised to see
maglocks installed on hollow metal or
wood doors that have been prepped for
an electrified mortise or cylindrical lock.
I often see maglocks installed on
doors that are in the path of egress,
despite the fact that emergency egress
hardware has already been installed prior.
There are many reasons and sound
opportunities for the local locksmith to
both correct and profit from the use of
proper electrified locking hardware for
customers, not to mention save lives.
As you know, correct access control
door installation also requires a door
contact, otherwise known as a Door
Status Monitor (DSM). The reasons
are many, including benefits from
“Door Forced Open” and “Door Help
Open” alarm notifications, to “Normal/
Unused” transactions, and “Door
Relock” features. The relock is an important
feature. Most default timers
for valid card reading in controllers is
an average of eight seconds.
Most people take roughly three to
four seconds go through the door. That
leaves a period of four seconds in which
the door remains unlocked, allowing a
person to tailgate and enter the premise
without presenting a valid access card.
The use of the DC/DSM is what signals
to the processor (system controller)
that a door remains open, thus causing
an alarm, based on programming.
Remember the complaint our customer
indicated regarding unauthorized facility
access—a door contact paired with
a REX device is a simple way to dramatically
reduce the tailgating problem.
Remember, when using a DC/DSM,
it is mandatory to also use a Request to Exit (REX) sensor, for which many
types are available.
As for the REX, especially when
pertaining to maglock doors, we are all
familiar with the single gang plate and
green button marked EXIT. Users have
to push the Exit button in order for the
door or gate to unlock and allow them
through. Other than the button’s color
and text, for life safety and code compliance,
one must consider the type of
switch behind the green button. The
use of a momentary Single Pole Single
Throw (SPST) switch connected to the
system processor ‘REX input’ is prohibited.
At this site, we replaced all SPST
switches with an all metallic, pneumatic
REX device, the S106 series with DPST
(N/O and N/C) pneumatic time delayed
switches, made by DeltrexUSA. As required,
the N/C set in series with the
maglock power wires and the N/O contacts
to the processor REX input. This
assured positive fail-safe door unlocking
as well as enhancing the relock feature.
POWER AND FIRE ALARM
When dealing with a “home run” cabling
installation, it is important to
use centralized, battery backed-up lock
power supplies mounted next to the
controllers. This is an imperative solution
that offers an efficient alternative
to those supplies installed at random
locations in the ceiling and by the door.
Imagine the labor time required to find
and service these locations, not to mention
the time needed to figure out which
goes to each door location.
Ceiling mounted power supplies
are costly, hard to maintain and typically
do not include battery backup
power. In this case, many doors, some
of which were perimeter type, were
outfitted (incorrectly) with a maglock,
ceiling located power supply and no
back-up batteries. A simple power failure
caused card access doors to unlock,
compromising the building’s security.
Additionally, most installed “over the
door” power supplies lack the required
fire alarm release interface from the
building fire alarm panel.
THE FINAL CONFIGURATION
The described case has detailed only
some of the various items considered
in order to upgrade the access control
system at a customer’s facility. The
goals were to make it a functional and
compliant system, while reducing high
maintenance costs for the customer.
An onsite service coupled with remote
support via the network allowed a
quicker reaction time within minutes
to most issues. This results in a highly
functional system delivering the value
the customer had envisioned, and ultimately
making for a happy and well
satisfied customer. For us, a happy
customer is a guaranteed repeat customer,
who also willingly recommends
us to other opportunities. You see—it
really does pay to do a good job.
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Security Today.