Putting Wireless to Work for You Part 3: Access Control

While wireless transmission has been used in video surveillance applications for many years — long before the convergence of IP and physical security — its use for electronic access control data is relatively new. As wireless technology improved, hardware shrank and standards became widely accepted, its use as infrastructure for all kinds of security systems became inevitable.

“Wireless is very strong and getting stronger. The burglar alarm industry went through the transition five to eight years ago and now everyone is installing wireless,” says Tim McCarthy, product manager for Paxton Access, a provider of wireless and wired access control products.

Let’s take a walk through some of the fundamentals of wireless access control, including the technology, benefits of its use and things to be aware of when installing it.

Going Where Wired Cannot

The obvious point here is that wireless access control can be used in just about any place a wireless system can, with some exceptions. There is more to it than that, though. It’s where a wired access control system can’t go that makes this technology shine.

Many of you have probably run into a situation involving a gate located far away from any type of infrastructure/building/etc. You may have power, or you may not. Options for securing that gate are limited. Maybe you have an elevator needing access control. You could have a traveler cable installed, but that can be very expensive.

Wireless access control systems make both these difficult situations a little easier. Fortunately the technology has improved to the point where it is a very viable solution.

Another difficult application that can be a good candidate for wireless access involves historic or old buildings. For various reasons, including aesthetic preservation or dangerous building materials like asbestos, it may not be practical/legal/allowable to pull cable through walls, ceilings, etc. Wireless access control was made for situations like this.

Ingersoll Rand (IR) Security Technologies, another provider of access control solutions, both wired and wireless, has a unique twist on wireless access control in the form of a battery-operated, portable reader. This opens up some nonsecurity-related applications such as compliance reporting (showing up for mandatory meetings) and mustering.

“Mustering is another application perfect for wireless access control,” says Sean Leonard, marketing director for IR. “Typically, organizations must purchase specialized equipment that will allow them to get a record of all people that are grouped in an emergency [e.g. safety areas following a fire drill]. Wireless access control can be used to accomplish the same solution using current investment in access control and credentials.”

Like everywhere else in our industry, the application drives the solution. Whether that application is “traditional” security or something just a little bit different, wireless products give you an extra tool in your arsenal.

So let’s talk about some other benefits to be gained by going wireless.

Making Strong ROI, TCO Cases


In addition to simply being able to go places wired access control products can’t, another huge benefit to a wireless access infrastructure is beginning to become evident: low installation costs equaling faster return on investment (ROI).

In this tight economy, some customers are finding it easier to come up with the funding for wireless systems that can offer a greater bang for the buck and equal functionality as a wired system with a much lower total cost of ownership (TCO). With hardware costs running very close to other wired network-based products, the biggest savings are being realized in labor.

McCarthy and Leonard agree that the labor and materials savings with a wireless access control infrastructure offer a much more acceptable TCO. “For a wide range of reasons, every door access control application should consider wireless, if for no other reason than a wireless locking solution takes 45 minutes to install versus an average of eight hours for a wired solution. That produces savings in materials, as there is no wire to install, and labor, as workers are in and out within the hour,” says Leonard.

McCarthy adds, “The return on investment is immediate with the savings in labor. Additional savings can be obtained by using the wireless door lock with controller built inside that includes an internal proximity reader. The installation would require no cable runs at all. Another ROI opportunity is the removal of any possible damage to cables caused by other contractors or corrosion over time. In some cases, the ROI can be up to 50 percent over a wired solution.”

Some of the other benefits of wireless have already been touched on, but are worth repeating. Having to trench to get to a remote location is always an expensive proposition. If that trench has to cross a parking lot, runway or other hard surface, the cost can double or triple. Being able to install a wireless link across those surfaces instead of digging up and replacing them can sometimes offer much more value than just saving money.

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