What’s in the Cards for Access Control

New technologies and open platforms are dealing integrators a way to deliver what commercial customers are clamoring for: interoperable and integrated access control solutions. Find out what the best market bets are and how changes in credentials, card readers and control panels can give you a winning hand.


Pick Readers Ready for Migration

What is being seen with readers is based on what is happening with credentials. From the discussion on smart cards, it is very important your customer be prepared for smart card deployment, even if that customer wants to install proximity, magnetic stripe or keypad readers at present.

Integrators can help their customers by proposing multitechnology readers that combine the reading of the credential now being employed with smart cards. That way, when your customer switches over to smart cards, they don’t have to tear out all their old readers to install smart card readers. During the transition, they can use both their old credential and the smart card.

Another consideration is whether to provide your customers with credential readers that are open architecture. Doing so can potentially save customers money by using their existing access control system, if possible. Open architecture readers can let your end-user client use both their present software and panels with their new credentials. Then, down the road, if they change their software they can still use those readers.


Open Platforms, Simpler Software

The major change on the horizon for access control panels is that, instead of being technology-centric, they are becoming customer-centric. Today, we have panels for hardwired readers and separate panels for wireless readers. Some technologies don’t use panels at all. However, if these systems need to use other technologies, a panel is required.

Where there are systems using multiple panels for multiple technologies, there are multiple problems such as multiple databases and multiple software packages interfacing, which creates more problems. However, specifying open architecture readers and panels will help minimize such problems.

Another issue is most access control software is too complex for the typical commercial business. The system needed for a multinational, multicampus application is not the same as needed for a 50-person office. As a result, too many smaller systems are forced to use more complex, more expensive panels than necessary. We are slowly beginning to see new systems and panels being created for the small to midsize customer, where the bulk of sales are today.


Meeting School, Hospital Needs

Turning our attention to specific markets, during these tough economic times schools, colleges and hospitals have become even hotter access control niche customers.

As school lockdowns are being reported by news organizations more and more, interest in access control is becoming the driver for increased school security. In schools, integrators are focusing primarily on limited access to the main doors and then the various classrooms, as well as some special areas like the computer, A/V and the music rooms. The previous mindset of not allowing students to secure a classroom door is changing to letting anyone do so when threatened.

Historically, most security dealers have proposed standalone locks that may be locked by pushing and turning a button and are unlocked by key until the inside button is manually unlocked. They are also available with pushbutton locking, in which pushing the button locks the outside knob or lever until it is unlocked by key or by turning the inside knob or lever. The inside knob or lever is always free for immediate exit.

However, today most schools want to upgrade these offline locks to a fully networked solution so administrators can lock down the entire facility instantly, manage access rights quickly and decrease the security threats of unauthorized people.

With colleges, integrators typically start by covering exit doors, classroom doors, recreation buildings and residence halls. Contrary to schools, for some time colleges and universities have demanded their systems be built on an open architecture platform. This allows them to leverage their “one-card” solutions, which tend to be either magnetic stripe or
proximity, in order to provide safe and secure passage throughout the campus. Without question, they want to be able to provide centralized and instant lockdown.

Although all customers are concerned with costs, health-care users are especially focused on efficiency and workflow. They want to discuss alarm distribution, wireless access control, and other products and solutions that provide security – but in the least costly and nonintrusive manner. How the installation will be done is extremely important.

Besides mandated government programs, they are also integrators’ best prospects for smart cards. Smart card-based technology offers a way to significantly reduce hospital administrative costs while maintaining or increasing quality of care and customer service. It helps hospitals achieve better patient identification, securely storing various identity credentials (such as a PIN, photo or biometric) directly on the card and making it very difficult to forge or steal the credentials on the card.

Smart cards provide administrative efficiencies, cutting down the time for admissions by providing ready access to accurate, up-to-date patient information and linking a patient to their medical records to reduce medical errors.


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