What’s in the Cards for Access Control

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 stri
pe 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.

Turning Connectivity Into Revenue
Integrators should be familiar with the solutions covered thus far. It’s what customers want to do, if not now, in the near future. Even those now implementing standalone electronic locks want to ultimately be able to upgrade them to a network status. They look forward to eventually incorporating emergency lockdown, WiFi, network on a card, mesh networks and all the other new technologies that are being discussed in the media and at tradeshows. And they want to do so without complications.

Putting access control management on the Internet is another solution helping many integrators gain more sales, especially with smaller and midsized customers.

“The management of Colorado vNet wanted to be able to program their door locks with a computer and not have to tour each door, as with standalone locks,” explains Brett Newton, installer with F&C Door Check and Lock Service of Fort Collins, Colo. “That’s why we suggested a Web-enabled access control system, a perfect fit for this type of application.”

According to Newton, this lets his customer access, monitor and manage their system from any computer running a standard Web browser. The plug-and-play design makes configuration easy and the embedded application eliminates the need for special software or a dedicated PC.

“The system application is embedded on the control panel, which is network-ready and connected easily to Colorado vNet’s existing network,” Newton adds. “Once installed, authorized users at Colorado vNet could use any networked online computer to access and manage their system.”

Providing a Total Door Solution
As electronics play an ever-increasing role in managing a building’s entrances, the added initial investment will be more than justified by the increased economic value that the so-called total opening generates. With the advent of open architectures, networking of intelligent openings improves building systems’ efficiency by having the openings link electronically to current building systems.

Access security and egress safety features are being combined into systems that also generate data for asset tracking or personnel scheduling. These and many other applications are reshaping the role of the opening, and providing solutions that can be “dollarized.” The resulting economic benefits are making electrified solutions more easily affordable by generating a much larger payback.

From a building owner’s or facility manager’s viewpoint, thinking of the opening as an engineered system instead of a collection of individual components provides the ability to gather data that can be “mined” in many different ways. This is in addition to making installation easier, lowering its cost and increasing up-time. For instance, the ability to manage and control staffing becomes much easier and increasingly more accurate.

For dealers and integrators, such thinking leads to increased sales.

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