Beefed up and ready to go

Electronic access control systems are another critical part of the move to integration and convergence. Some 80+ percent of SD&I readers, according to recent studies, are involved in installing access control. And these systems too are more robust, secure and even more affordable.

Get on with integration

“Ethernet networks are now going directly to the ‘door level,’” said Tony DeStefano, director of Integrated Security Sales of the Schneider Electric Building Solutions Group (formerly TAC America), Secaucus, N.J. “In many cases, there is just no need for a separate security network. Even electric power can be provided with power over Ethernet (PoE) devices, thus eliminating the need for additional dedicated power source, which can drive down the cost of the system by 20 to 30 percent.”

“The result is that a convergence of physical and logical access control systems is coming of age,” said Daiva Wood, manager of Strategic Products, Access Control for ADT Security Services, Boca Raton, Fla. “This allows for things like ‘smart cards’ that will do more than just allow entry, but will allow for logical asset access, as well.”

Beth Thomas, senior product manager for Honeywell, Melville, N.Y., said systems have gotten to a point where information is more robust and security or facilities managers know who is in a building at any certain time. “Let’s say an organization wants to keep its building available for employees to work during off hours but it also wants to reduce utility costs by automating its HVAC and lighting systems. The access control system can trigger the automated building maintenance systems to illuminate populated areas and control the temperature,” explained Thomas.

Another offshoot of integration, said Wood, involves the sharing of databases. “If an employee or contractor logs in at a certain location (say, in Boston), and then appears at the same time logging in somewhere else (like San Diego), then the access control system will automatically identify that as a problem. Similarly, access control systems are now starting to interface with other data repositories like human resource systems, so that as soon as an employee’s HR status changes, his level of access is also immediately updated without the company having to change his status in two different systems.”

Intelligent readers

Another trend is improved biometric readers. This technology is not new but it has become more affordable and reliable, especially fingerprint and vein readers. “Biometrics offer another powerful layer of security,” Wood continued. “A badge is something you have, a personal identification number (PIN) is something you know and a biometric credential represents something you are. The more of those things that a system requires of a user seeking access, the more secure the system.”

Iris scanners will also begin to acquire a larger share of the market, too, according to DeStefano. “There are places where fingerprint scanners just are not practical, like in high-risk labs where the employees’ hands remain covered with gloves or body ‘space suits.’ Those are the places where iris scanners make sense,” he continued. “Readers are becoming more intelligent, too. Bi-directional communication allows users to both send and receive messages to and from servers, so that when certain persons sign into a facility, the reader will display any messages that are waiting for them. And readers will have real-time video available, so if a user swipes a card and fails to gain access, a security system operator can visually confirm that the person seeking entry matches a photo on file, and then allow access.”

A final industry trend may be monitoring. As electronic access control systems become more complex and Web-based, it makes sense for a lot of companies to leave the administration and monitoring of them to the professionals, commented Wood. As with every other aspect of 21st century life, technology will only become increasingly integrated into electronic access control systems. Contractors who embrace these changes and stay current with this new landscape will be best poised to serve their clients and increase profits.

Russ Munyan is a freelance writer in Olathe, Kansas. He can be reached at