The Near-Term Future of Access Control

What is the future (and future importance) of access control? A lot is going on; manufacturers, integrators and users will definitely become more network-savvy as they mine the exponentially increased capability that is in the cards.

Where is access control heading in the next five years? A major trend today that will continue into the future is convergence of access control and other security systems as network devices: components on a network. Access-control technology products will become more and more compatible with networking and other technology, taking on elements of infrastructure organizations and systems.

Today’s access control technology has benefited greatly and will continue to benefit from advances in computer technology. For example, as computer motherboards get smaller and less expensive, access control panels will follow the same trend.

The Value of Standards

An important continuing trend is “standards-based” products. Products conforming to standards are essentially commodities. This benefits end users by providing interchangeability of parts, and the resulting competition tends to keep a cap on costs. The card and reader industry has already gone the standards route, and the market reflects these benefits to the consumer.

Access control panels are still proprietary to their specific manufacturers, but the standards-based trend is expected to apply here, too. Future panels for software applications will conform to standards so a user or integrator can buy panels from one supplier and access control hardware from another supplier, and they will work together. This is a challenge for manufacturers but a benefit to the customer in terms of convenience and value.

Networking for Productivity

Networking is another productivity trend. Access control panels enabled with network productivity become part of the real devices on the network.

As a result, access control is no longer a separate system installed with separate wiring. It is a fully integrated solution that can be managed by the IT department. That group is already becoming more and more involved in specifications, purchase decisions and support of access control, as it is with other security systems within the organization.

The result is greater value to the end user. With security as a network component, there will be no worry about separate infrastructure, wiring and service. The IT department provides the infrastructure for the security system, just as it does for the organization’s communication systems.

As an added benefit, it will be much easier to expand a system that is part of the network. IT can usually manage the task itself, or with minimal help from specialists or contractors.

Intelligent Network Devices

Separation between devices is blurring. Readers now have functionality that used to be assigned to panels, and panels may include integrated readers. Physical security devices are becoming intelligent network devices. They communicate better with each other, and they are essentially “plug-and-play” on the network. No special interfaces or special know-how are needed to make connections — a worthwhile saving of time and money and extra convenience for the end user.

Reduced Integration Time

The move toward standards-based plug-and-play intelligent devices means that integration is not the complex challenge it used to be: an important advantage for integrators as well as end-users. As manufacturers continue to deliver network-capable and network-intelligent systems and equipment, integration time will continue to be reduced.


One of the challenges of conversion is that integrators must become more and more network-savvy. They have to collaborate with the end user’s IT department for installation and troubleshooting. This is a challenge, of course, but also an opportunity as the integrators work more closely with their customers’ IT staff.

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