Advanced College Access Control Solution Lives on the Edge
November’s issue of SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION includes an exclusive case study of an advanced integrated video surveillance, access control and other systems solution being deployed at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) in Charlotte, N.C. My conversation with the integrator, Security 101, was very extensive and so this is the second of two blogs offering additional insights. In this installment, Aaron Alexander, owner of the Security 101 branch in Charlotte, reveals some additional details regarding the CPCC project.
Why were the technologies chosen for the CPCC project selected? Why did they win out for you? And also, do you tend to use those on your other projects?
Aaron Alexcander: We do. We tend to use AMAG on our other projects. I sat with the consultant and he asked to see three different products. I brought three different competing products in. When we started looking at what we were trying to accomplish, the limitations of each particular product, and the look and ease-of-use of the interface, we felt that AMAG, myself and the consultant both felt that AMAG was going to be the best fit at the university. Granted, this was a public bid. Besides AMAG there were two other products that were spec’d. I chose to use AMAG, being a partner of theirs I felt that was going to be the best solution here, and they were willing to work with us.
Did price of funding figure much into that or was it really down the line the capabilities of the solution?
Alexander: I’d be lying if I said it didn’t.
You try to get a happy medium.
Alexander: Absolutely, being a public bid I knew that it was the lowest-qualified bid, so it had to be one of the three. Knowing the pricing models of all three products they chose, I’m not going to say everyone knows everyone else’s prices, but I wanted to make sure – I felt that AMAG with the single-door controller, that they produced themselves, so we weren’t going to deal with production issues on that side; we already knew they had enough in stock; and being in control of the software. So manufacturing the hardware and the software, I felt that was going to be the best fit.
Could you describe in detail some of the key design elements of what’s been deployed at CPCC?
Alexander: This campus is unique. Being that this project was driven by IT, this is the first campus I’ve walked onto and the first job we’ve done where every access-control location that we put in, they ran two cables to each location, two Category-6 cables. The reasoning for that was one was for access control, and one was to add a camera in the future. The old-school way of doing access control, and it’s currently out there – the norm is what I’ll call it, is put a panel in one location and run your cables from there. What’s the problem if that panel breaks? Your whole building goes down. Everyone is locked out, obviously not locked in but everyone is locked out. You’re now using the key system. Using edge readers or edge devices, like we have here, if one controller goes down you can still get in at one of the other doors. That design element, from an IT standpoint, one single point of failure. That breaks, just that, and we’ve got everything else working. That’s very unique here and that’s one of the things I’ve really enjoyed.
Another great thing about working on this campus is the IT staff is top notch. They’ve been involved. A lot of times the projects start with security, and then IT gets pulled in kicking and screaming because they’ve already got a full case load of things they have to handle, and now security is making them take care of something else. By IT driving this project, there was no question about buy-in. There wasn’t any call and leave a message and not get a call back. It was we called and they were picking up and working with us immediately, which when my guys are onsite, it is such a great fit to have a good IT staff working with the VLAN, setting up DHCP scopes, all that type of stuff, and helping us iron out some of our issues, which was great.
What were the biggest challenges of this project and how did you overcome them? Were there any headaches or maybe you went a different direction?
Alexander: The doors on this project were very difficult. When a door was put in, in 1960, and the brands they have on the other buildings weren’t even around then, so you look at a door and you have to figure out how am I going to secure this door? You look and go, “There’s no way to secure this door, as is.” That’s where we had to change direction. We had to talk to the university and say, “This door doesn’t have crash bars or anything that we can electrify. This door is not shutting.” When you have a guy walking around with a key, an officer walking around with a key to shut a door, he can put his hip into a door to get it locked. You can’t do that with access control. The latch retracts. If it’s not falling in the frame, it’s not going to lock. So as we were going through, we were finding door issues mostly on the older buildings. The newer buildings were definitely – we were adjusting, we were able to adjust the doors and not even bring the facilities in on the newer buildings. But on the older buildings, there were definitely door issues that needed to be addressed.
Did you learn anything in particular from this experience that’s going to help you moving forward, in similar projects?
Alexander: Absolutely, I don’t think there’s a single thing we do, whether it’s a two-door installation or like this of 250 that you don’t learn something. I definitely have gone more toward the edge devices. In the past I was doing a mix of both. Seeing how quickly we can install an edge device, we’ve even gotten to the point where we can prep it in the office. You know from a standpoint of an edge device that it’s going to go within a certain amount of feet of a door, 90% of the time. You can prep that in your office, do your whole can, your wiring inside the office. When your guys are in the field they’re not sitting there with a screwdriver and hands above their head on the ladder. It’s just four screws, fish your wires down, move on to the next door. Ease of installation and speed of installation has really improved.
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