Edge Devices on the Network

The top 10 reasons to ditch proprietary communications

4. Proven technology.
How many systems are installed in the world that use that “AwesomeNet” RS-485 protocol that your access system uses: Hundreds? Thousands? What are the chances of your finding a bug that just has not been worked out yet? What are the chances of there being a security flaw that you do not know about? Now, how many people use Ethernet’s TCP/IP protocol every day?

There are huge advantages to using a proven technology. The bugs have been worked out. The capabilities and limits are known. The support infrastructure exists. The number of experts is larger. In all, unless your needs are bleeding edge, a standard technology is always a smarter choice.

5. Maintenance is easier.
Easier at a couple of levels. First, there are better tools. If a device is properly designed to work on a network, it offers services such as Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) which allow for the monitoring of status using standard network management software.

Second, if your devices are on the network, the IT department can help. End-users that have implemented network-based edge devices on their network are finding that they are getting calls from IT to let them know a device went offline but they have already fixed it. The savings from not having to call in a third party can be significant.

6. Speed is your friend.
Ethernet is fast — more than 5000 times faster than a normal RS-485 link. What can you do with all of that extra speed? It enables you to make the devices smarter. Cameras can store video or analyze it. Megapixel images enable you to replace multiple conventional cameras with one device — and with a better picture as well. Readers can have full databases of who is allowed through that door, and you can download those databases in the blink of an eye. Doors can have cameras and intercoms built into the reader. Readers can use cryptographics to ensure badges are genuine and unaltered.

You can also use standard encryption methods for all of your communications — methods that do not require going to each device with a laptop to load in the key. In short, speed lets system designers increase the number and size of the messages sent to edge devices. That opens up a world of functionality that could not be done before.

7. How many people in the world understand Wiegand?
How many companies in your community understand how to install and maintain the proprietary communications schemes used in your security system? A handful? Now how many understand how to install Ethernet? It should be clear which path will yield more competition and lower costs. It should also be clear which one will make it easier to hire people that already understand how to administer your system. Look at it this way: how many training courses are there to teach how to install Ethernet? Now how many are out there to teach how to properly install a Wiegand reader?

8. What else can it do?
Our edge devices should be able to talk to other systems. A camera seeing movement should be able to tell the HVAC system that a weekend visitor to the building needs air-conditioning. A reader should be able to tell the system that controls computer log-ins that an employee is now in the building. Today, these integrations can be done but they almost always require sending a message to the host, because the host is the only part of the system with an “open” interface to talk to other systems. This is true even if the host is located in another building or another state. Using network connected edge devices opens a world of integration and extra value that we just can not economically get to with conventional systems.

9. I thought you said you wanted open architecture?
For the last dozen years or so, this industry has talked a lot about “open architecture.” The common definition is a system defined by a true standard, where the data can be accessed by any authorized person or system without restriction or license to use. A lot of people simply define it as the ability to not get stuck with one vendor. How ever you define it, one thing is clear: open architecture requires a common, standard way of communicating between devices. Anything less, and you can not be “open.” Ethernet is open: fully standardized with tens of thousands of manufacturers across the globe that can communicate out of the box. It could be done, of course, by releasing the details of a manufacturer’s proprietary protocol, but how many examples of that can you name?