Choosing a wireless electronic access control solution

An overview of the advantages of both networked and standalone systems

Both networked and standalone door reader/mechanisms are often Grade 1 locks -high-strength locks for high-traffic areas. They are available in both cylindrical or mortise configurations, and the card reader inside the door mechanism is typically proximity technology. In the near future, smart card technology will be more widely available. Additionally, the door reader/mechanisms are available in different finishes and configurations to address aesthetic concerns.

Installation Concerns

Installation problems for the door reader/mechanism in both types of systems are common. For example, wires can be pinched or shorted when the device is installed improperly. To address this issue, door reader/mechanism manufacturers require certification training.

Issues that typically arise when installing networked wireless access control systems have, for the most part, been based on the problems associated with the network itself. There can be issues related to the installation of the WiFi nodes, receivers at the data-gathering panels, programming the panels or nodes and wireless transmission issues that have nothing to do with the actual wireless access control door reader/mechanism itself. For example the distance between the door reader/mechanism might be to far away from the receiving device for the wireless signal to reliably communicate; or, the wireless door reader/mechanism might be placed close to a source of Radio Frequency (RF) noise that interferes with the transmitted signal.

A manufacturer-trained certified technician would be aware of the types of RF problems that can negatively affect the wireless unit.

Also a good practice before installing a number of the wireless door reader/mechanisms is to pick a typical location and verify reliable wireless communication. The manufacturer's sales material may indicate a distance of, for example, 300 feet. This distance is based on "free air space" - which does not guarantee that distance in a specific environment. Medal studs in sheet rocked walls, HVAC ductwork, etc. will affect the distance the wireless signal will travel.

Choosing the best locations to incorporate an electronic access control door system requires a holistic view of the desired access control systems operation, maintenance and system usage. A well-designed and installed electronic access control system needs to appear seamless to the end-users while providing solid security.

Choosing a wireless electronic access control door reader/mechanism requires some study of the products available and establishing a need to use a wireless device. Not only is it important to consider which device is most aesthetic and where it might be used, but issues of updating card holders, receiving access logs, replacing batteries, incorporating these devices into a larger system and the users potential issues/benefits are all part of the evaluation process.

Robert Pearson holds a BSEE and is a Registered Professional Engineer. He has been an instructor at George Washington University teaching "Integrated Security Systems" and "Corporate Security Management," has written numerous articles for various technical magazines and has recently published a book entitled "Electronic Security Systems." On a day-to-day basis he oversees design, project management, and maintenance of security systems for multiple sites. Mr. Pearson is a member of A/E National Standing Council for ASIS International.