Access Control & Identity: Got a Problem?

Wireless locking systems are great problem solvers at schools

The flexibility of using wireless access control locks was leveraged by Colorado Mesa University (Grand Junction, Colo.). When renovating its oldest classroom building, the university had to move its offices to temporary buildings. To secure the temporary offices, Locksmith Preston C. Ellis used Schlage AD 400 wireless locks to simplify installation. Once the renovation was complete, he used the locks on other buildings.

Wireless access control is also being used at Colorado Mesa’s Hamilton Recreation Center and El Pomar Natatorium. Here they solved a different problem. When the natatorium was built, conduits were not installed for access control and, like at the University of New Hampshire, the amount of concrete made it impossible to add them later. Instead, wireless access devices and trim were easy to install without wiring.

Mississippi State got creative with the use of wireless technology campus wide.

“I use wireless everywhere on campus,” stated Richard Tollison, manager of Telecom Data Services for Mississippi State University. “That’s the only way I install access control anymore.”

Like most security and IT administrators, Tollison started off slow, installing wireless access locks on a dozen or so hard-to-wire doors. But, then, he also installed a handful of wireless portable readers at their baseball stadium so students could bypass the ticket box and go directly to the bleachers. Now he’s so confident in wireless access technology that he’s installing it on every door needing access control. That includes brand new construction, not just retrofit and difficult-to-wire applications.


Increased security plus fast lockdown

According to Gary Conley, University of Virginia, Facilities & Systems Engineer, Office of Business Operations, in Charlottesville, Va.: “We wanted a Grade 1 ANSI spec locking system with dual credentials—something the student had, their magnetic stripe ID card, plus something the student knew, a personal identification number (PIN)—to get into these halls and their rooms. The locks needed to be online and wireless so that we could create immediate lockdowns, yet eliminate the labor and hardware costs of hardwiring.

“With the 900 MHz solution, our entire access control system knows when someone is at the door. The lock/reader captures information such as request to exit, door position and card data and immediately sends it to the host in real-time.”

In the system, the lock/reader’s PIM (Panel Interface Module) seamlessly integrates to CBORD access control panels via RS485 protocols, eliminating the need for any reader interface modules. The CBORD Squadron V1000RX multi-door controller is wired to the PIM400, which communicates wirelessly with up to 16 Schlage AD-400 wireless locks. The AD-Series unit is battery operated and the database is updated in real time. The student’s card, once swiped, is read, sent to server and the server comes back with a pass or fail. If it’s a pass, the door unlocks.

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.

According to Conley, immediate lockdown cannot be a heartbeat away.

“This issue is major with wireless access control,” emphasized Conley. “Usually, with WiFi, access control decisions are downloaded by the host into the lock five to six times per day versus five to six 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.