Eight Myths About Intelligent Doors

Demystifying the IP-based technology

There are a lot of people out there who claim to be able to predict where the security industry is going. I can say with 100-percent certainty that these clairvoyants do not have a clue. But, it is equally true that there are a number of people who think that nothing needs to change — and that view is just as flawed.

This brings me to access control and the use of intelligent doors. An amazing number of people are wandering around spouting reasons why they believe the concept of moving the intelligence in an access system to the “edge” is flawed and things should stay just the way they are. Not to say that some of the first-generation products we are seeing in this space don’t have issues, but the concept is spot on. And it’s about time something new came along. In a world where our phones play movies, our cars obey our spoken words, and our surveillance cameras recognize threats in high-definition, it is a little embarrassing that our access systems are based on the same architecture that companies were installing in the 1970s.
So what do we hear from the grumblers? Here are the eight myths that surface most often:

1. IP-based systems are more expensive.
In fact, the truth is just the opposite. The wiring is standard, cheaper and there is less of it. There are significantly fewer terminations. Special power supplies and UPS hardware can be replaced by standard network power that IT often already owns. “We are seeing a 10-15 percent savings on an access system built around edge devices,” says Clark Harbaugh, account manager for Systems Group Inc., a Dallas-based integrator. “That assumes our Dallas labor rates. In some parts of the country, the savings would be a lot greater.”
Many times, people will tell you that IP access devices are only cheaper if you ignore the cost of the network. “We have found that most networks have the spare ports we need,” Harbaugh says. That is capacity the company has already invested in and there is no business case for refusing to use it.

We also often hear that it is just common sense that a 16-reader field panel in a closet would have to be cheaper than 16 individual units at each door. Well how’s this for common sense: In the electronics manufacturing business, volume is highly correlated to cost. So in the long run, which will be cheaper; high-volume, standardized door controllers, or low-volume, proprietary field panels? Which path would your company be better off investing in?

And here is another thought about those big field panels — what is the cost of the 17th reader? “What we are really starting to see are enterprise customers using our DirecDoor controller to add a door or two to an area” says George Martinez, director of Product Management for GE Security.

2. Who would want to take the network outside the building?
Well no one, actually. It could be done, but the costs to protect it are high. That’s why most vendors of intelligent door hardware have a solution that allows the controller to be mounted inside the protected space near the door, while the reader goes outside. For most interior doors, the issue is moot, as networks are widely available throughout even the unprotected areas of the building. If you can get to a telephone or a copy machine, odds are you can plug into the network. “We agree there are cases where putting the controller on the protected side makes sense, and that is why we have our Edge Plus,” says Tom Heiser, vice president of Market Strategies for HID Global. “But we also believe that when a customer thinks through the real risks for an interior door, they will see a place for a simpler solution.”

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