Advancing Access Control


Designing an access control system for future growth is every bit as important as making sure it is backwards compatible. Whether deploying standalone electronic locks, networked and/or integrated systems, or high-level technology such as biometrics, provide solutions that can accommodate your customers’ changing needs.

The initial role of an access control system is to manage ingress and, in some cases, egress. When all is said and done, one’s baseline defense is at the controlled opening. Not only must you be able to keep the bad guys out, you need an access control system that easily lets the good guys in. 

Today, the options are innumerable. For instance, you would probably create a different access control system for a 12-door medical facility housing patient records and pharmaceutical cabinets than you would for a four-door business office. A small regional airport requires a different system than a major international airport hub. By itself, a door lets you in and lets you out. But, once a lock is put on the door, you now have an access control system.

You may not think of it as one, but a locked door is just that — a controlled access point. Only authorized individuals with a key are to be let through that particular door. Thus, the old standby — the mechanical lock and key — continues to be the most popular access control “system” in use today.

Indeed, most access control starts with a standard mechanical lock. Then, one day, there is a call for a little more protection for designated openings. To upgrade from mechanical keys, a customer determines that an electronic lock is the best option. They call for a device that will let them secure doors, manage lists of authorized users, and provide an audit trial from the lock to see who went where and when. 

Electronic locks can be standalone, connected to an enterprise’s network or hooked into their own designated network within the enterprise. In addition to electronic locks, there are many branches of the access control tree offering myriad solutions from simple to complex. When systems integrators consider the design of an access control system, often the planning begins at the control panel or head-end. However, as you will see, it is often more prudent to begin at the portal. 

Electronic Locking Systems Come in Many Different Flavors
Electronic locking systems can range in price to the end user from about $400 per door to as high as $3,000 per door (approximately $240 to $1,800 dealer cost) in a fully networked system. Between the strictly mechanical system and the totally networked system exists a wide range of electronic solutions that can be considered.

Some electronic devices provide economical solutions for increased security and convenience without forgoing aesthetics. In many cases, the electronic locks can fit the profile of the mechanical lock and be backwards compatible from an installation standpoint. 

For easy migration from the traditional mechanical or electrical locksets, there are standalone keypad programmable locking systems that fit a standard ANSI/BHMA cylindrical and mortise lock preparation, requiring only minor modifications to the door. They accommodate standard door widths without the need for spacers or shim kits.

For residential 13/8-inch door applications, residential door thickness kits are available. For retrofitting older, PIN code locksets, doorplates are available to cover door preparation scars left from the prior installation. Facilities with cylindrical locks, mortise locks and aluminum door latches can utilize one common solution to meet basic access control needs. 

If more automation is required, the customer may choose to graduate to a software-managed solution that can utilize credentials such as proximity cards, fobs or magnetic-stripe cards. The customer may also want these locks to automatically lock and relock at certain times of the day. 

At prices to the end user ranging from $300 to $1,000 per door (approximately $180 to $600 dealer cost), programmable electronic card locks are a solid choice for facilities with numerous users and access points. A step above the strictly mechanical pushbutton lock, keypad programmable electronic locks are standalone, microprocessor-based, battery-powered locks that provide increased customer value. 

With them, you can quickly program more than 100 individual user codes, right at the keypad. With these locks, facilities managers or the office manager can add or delete users in seconds. User codes are typically kept between three to seven digits and entered via the keypad by the user to gain entry. There is no external wiring required, and the locks will provide up to 80,000-plus activations or the equivalent of two to three years of use with common AA batteries. 

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