Make Way for Wireless

Wireless access control is on the rise because of its stability and alluring possibilities for encryption. Using wireless devices, access control can now be located where it was not previously installable because of wiring constraints.

Wireless access control essentially works wherever the user wants it. It's great not only where the budget does not allow for wiring, but everywhere access control is considered desirable: control, conference, telecom, media and IT rooms, office doors, outside buildings, employee entrances and bathrooms. It can be successfully employed whatever the time and place the users desire to know who and when they want to control access-to regulate employees, faculty, students and visitors and how they move throughout buildings.

Meets codes with automatic egress

With today's access control, formerly separate pieces can now be incorporated into a single locking device. It's no longer necessary to provide for a separate reader connected with a separate locking device; no need for a standalone request-to-exit button or PIR for motion on the opposite side of the door. And today's access control meets all fire codes by providing automatic egress.

In the early stages there were questions about reliability. This time is long past. There have been improvements and advances in wireless communication since its early inception so distance restrictions have been widened and communications on a private or an open network are now encrypted. The system now sends out "heartbeat checks"-signals to make sure the wireless device is in place and everything is communicating correctly, receiving and transmitting messages and staying online in proper communication.

In fact, not only wireless lock communication but the whole security industry has been broadened, with all kinds of improvements in the wireless aspect of access control. We now have wireless-communicating CCTV; and wireless-communicating fire alarm devices have proved their reliability and continue to receive widespread acceptance by the Authority Having Jurisdiction.

Installation and testing comes of age

Wireless was once considered difficult to install, but that was because the tools were not there to make sure the devices were put in the proper locations. Today it's very easy to install. There are a number of checks within the equipment, and manufacturers provide their own testing products to make sure the wireless device will communicate with the wireless receiver and 'talk' on the network.

In fact, everybody I have dealt with in my career and am dealing with now thinks access control is a great deterrent as an addition to CCTV. CCTV is a good visual for future follow-up but it does not lock down or prevent people from entering a restricted or controlled area. Access control assists in preventing an incident from happening: keeping unwanted people out of an area, protecting sophisticated equipment and intellectual property to secure the company's or institution's assets. If something does occur the system provides an audit trail, whereas with a mechanical system you will never know.

In addition, the wireless system offers all the capabilities to describe the situation. Is the door locked, open, open for a reason, was there a forced entry or has a door been propped open? I have never dealt with anybody who thought their access control system wasn't valuable to them.
Know the system's transmission range

Installing the access control system definitely requires a firm that knows what it's doing. Every system has a transmission range within its guidelines. The user must adhere to this, or add repeaters or additional gateways. Always make sure the systems integrator has the capability and expertise to do this upfront and is in a position to work closely with the company's or institution's IT departments to understand what other wireless communicating devices are within range.

A site survey and a full test should be done by the systems integrator before installing any device. Every location where wireless devices are wanted should be thoroughly investigated and documented on plans for devices and receivers to optimize the signaling. The site survey should also consider other wireless devices such as networks for wireless computers, telephone systems, alarm systems and CCTV. This important upfront work assures there will be no harmonic overflow to create problems with other wireless devices.

Every situation has its own requirements. Sometimes wireless, sometimes wired is best for specific access points. For a highly secured door a wired system may be better, with wires and reader wires installed in conduit, a backup for life safety issues and automatic communication with a burglar alarm and/or CCTV system tied in.

A wireless system may be better in areas where wire cannot be run for aesthetic reasons or the area is highly secured or wiring is simply not in the budget, but you do want to control public and perhaps employee access. This is where the wireless or standalone virtual locking system may be most appropriate for the situation.

Michael J. Mahon is senior vice president for Salto Systems and has more than 25 years of security industry experience. He is an ASIS member, a participant of NACAS and NACU in the education area, and has served as an instructor for the Institutional Locksmiths of America.