One-card access

A modular wireless locking system for residence halls is key to a campus-wide solution at the University of Virginia

The PIM also helps provide another very important attribute. If the network connection is lost or the server is unavailable, the lock and the Squadron controller retain a local copy of the patron access assignments. As long as the Squadron and PIM retain power, patron access continues as determined by the most recent patron assignments downloaded to the Squadron master. In the event that power is lost to the PIM or Squadron master, the AD-400 lock can revert to a configurable "cache" mode, which limits access to the last 1000 cards presented and allowed access through the door.

Immediate Lockdown

Usually, with WiFi, access control, decisions are downloaded by the host into the lock 5-6 times per day vs. 5-6 times per hour with 900 MHz solutions - a 10-minute heartbeat. Access control decisions may also be managed within the locks (as is the case with offline locks) to minimize communication from the lock to the host and conserve batteries. However, such limited (non-online) connectivity with the host limits the locks' ability to receive urgent commands from the host. For instance, even with a 900 MHz platform, a direction to immediately lock down could be ignored for 10-plus minutes.

The lock's "wake up on radio" feature works in parallel with the 10-minute heartbeat. Without waking up the entire lock, it listens for complementary commands every one to ten seconds and responds. Thus, ten seconds is the longest it will take to initiate lockdown of all our residence halls.

Beta Test Advantages

So far, we have been satisfied with our experience performing this beta test. As this is being written, the parts that are working are doing their jobs quite effectively. From our experience, we would advise other schools to be a beta test site for upcoming security products. It is a great way to get your "wants" injected into a product.

Some tips on doing this include choosing good partners, which we have with this opportunity. Don't hold back - the manufacturer really wants to hear your comments. Not only will the changes help your system, but the manufacturer will have a product attribute that is even more marketable. For instance, we have asked for several modifications, and some are under development. You typically can't get such "custom" work done any other way but in a beta test - plus, you do not pay for it.

Gary Conley is Facilities and Systems Engineer at the Office of Business Operations of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.