New Opportunities for 1-4 Door Access
Security systems contractors not currently involved with access control might want to take a second look at this market and learn the components of simple access (doors, identifiers, controllers and software). These self-contained systems, which handle from one to four doors, typically function in standalone environments and are accessed by only a single computer for programming and reports.
Simple access control is frequently used by smaller companies to limit access to their facilities, eliminating the need for a guard as well as the cost and headache associated with key control. Thus, these kinds of systems present an opportunity that security systems contractors should seriously consider.
Despite being small in size, one- to four-door access systems offer features and versatility that are truly exciting and are the steppingstones to larger access applications.
Doors Are Protected Via Controlled or Free Egress
To control access, a door must be modified in some manner to provide signals to the system to let it know whether or not the door is open or closed, prohibiting passage of unauthorized people.
The signal is fairly simple; a door contact tells the controller whether or not the door is open and generates an alarm if the door is forced open without the access control system clearing someone. This contact may also be used to determine how long a door is open, preventing free entry to an area by propping open a door. Additionally, it can limit the amount of time a door can be left open in cases where it is acceptable to prop a door open for a period of time (such as a loading dock).
Doors can be protected by controlled egress or free egress. A controlled egress door requires permission from the access control system to allow someone to enter or exit through the door. This type is used where entry and exit must be logged or where areas on both sides of the passage must be controlled. Care must be taken to allow the door to open freely from the inside in case of power failure or fire alarm system activation.
Free egress doors are more common, as they allow people to pass freely from the secured side of the door to the unprotected area. The inside of the door has a free exit door handle, which can’t be locked from the inside. A request-to-exit device (either a manual push button or automatic device) to shunt the door contact or otherwise tell the controller that passage is permitted prevents false alarms.
Either type of door requires a mechanism to secure the door, such as a magnetic lock or electric strike. For one- to four-door systems, it is common to either hire a locksmith to install the electric strike or magnetic lock, or request that the building owner (or general contractor) perform this work outside of your contract.
Currently, Card Readers, Keypads Are the 2 Most Popular Identifiers
To identify people who are permitted access to the secured area, some sort of mechanism is needed to differentiate them. While there is a world of options available, by far the two most common are the card reader and keypad.
The keypad is the least costly, requires no other expense (such as cards) but is the easiest to breach. It is very valuable as a supplemental device to verify ownership of a card, but on its own, it is too easy to circumvent and has no way of verifying that the person entering is the person who owns the pass code.
A card reader, either magnetic stripe or proximity, is the most common and a more secure method for entry. Magnetic stripe cards are the least expensive but must be slid through a card reader, which causes some mechanical wear and tear both on the card and the reader. While proximity cards do not have the mechanical element and are considered more durable, they can cost much more than magnetic stripe cards.
Smaller System Controllers Don’t Require Complicated Software
The door and identifier elements are pretty much the same regardless of system size. The controller used really defines the access control system, and here too, the available technology is allowing greater sophistication in what used to be considered entry-level systems.
In fact, the small controller is often the building block used in larger systems, with the only real differentiator being the software.
Complex Features Can Be Applied to Simple Access
The evolution of smaller access control systems has pretty much followed in lock step with their bigger siblings. However, when first looking at specifications for these systems, one can’t help but wonder why the manufacturers put all of these capabilities in their products. Does a single door system really need the ability to handle 5,000 users? Will a four-door system need to expand to 128 doors? Isn’t this overkill?
Manufacturers have chosen to add this complexity to small systems because software features are easy to add. Also, these additions allow manufacturers to keep up with the competition. Even though a small system typically has only 25 or so users, if one company can support 100 users, more than likely, its competitor will respond by supporting 1,000 when it does its next upgrade.
But there’s a tremendous side benefit to this feature creep – it opens up new markets for access control systems that represent a tremendous opportunity for the integrator.
The anti-passback feature is a good example of leveraging the controller for use in new applications. This feature counts the number of people entering and exiting a portal and compares it to a predetermined number.
At a parking lot, for example, this can be used to count the number of cars that come and go, triggering a gate operator that allows each car through. When there are no more spaces available, the gate arm no longer opens and a “parking lot full” sign is illuminated until a car leaves the lot. Reports can be generated to allow the owner to track the busiest times of day and the numbers of cars parked each day. In this case, an access card may not even be used, but the intelligence of the system is a requirement for smooth operation.
Sophistication helps with traditional applications as well. Suppose a retail store adds an access control system and eliminates the traditional lock. When the store is closed, employees need to use their cards to gain access, but the system can easily be programmed to allow free entry to the store by unlocking the front door during normal business hours. But what if there’s a snowstorm or the manager doesn’t show up to open the store in the morning?
A feature called First Man In requires an access card be read by the system during normal business hours to unlock the front door. For example, a retail employee can enter using his or her card at 8 a.m. and the front door remains locked. At 9 a.m. when the store is supposed to open, the employee goes outside and swipes his or her card again, which unlocks the door until closing time when it automatically locks.
Access control systems also play well with other systems. Kantech, for example, promotes the fact that its systems integrate with all major alarm systems. This allows the user to arm the alarm system when leaving and disarm it when arriving, without knowing the alarm system access code. By integrating systems in this manner, a business can ensure that an employee who is authorized to arm a system when leaving at night cannot disarm it in the morning or on weekends if this isn’t part of their normal work routine.
Health Clubs Need 1-4 Access System That Support 100s of Users
One feature that sometimes baffles security systems contractors is the vast number of users systems are capable of supporting. A health club, with its large number of users, yet small number of doors, is an excellent application for this feature.
Members are issued ID cards, which are also access control cards that only work during the club’s n
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