While it’s true that people have long had some freedom in selecting their types and brands of card/badge readers and biometric devices, there has been much less openness when it comes to software and controllers. This led to integrators and installers buying software and controllers from the same manufacturer, which limited their selection of other supported components such as card/badge readers, credentials and biometric devices.
While you could make an argument for buying the whole system from one manufacturer to ensure it all works seamlessly together, this strategy creates an environment with limited choice and flexibility. It locks the end-user into one platform for many years to come, preventing them from taking advantage of new technologies since those won’t be supported by their current proprietary platform.
A global access control user told me that his top priority was to select a system with an open platform so they would have choice and flexibility as their business needs changed. Like many other users, he had already experienced situations where products or companies ceased to exist and was forced to deal with the painful reality of having to completely replace the legacy system.
An open access control system: In a truly open, best-of-breed environment, you can choose the various IP-based access control components (software, controllers, card/badge readers, and credentials) from different manufacturers as long as those components are designed to operate on an open standards platform. These components would feature an API for easy connectivity, as well as integration with each other and other security systems on the network.
Restricted vs. Flexible
Another benefit of an open IP-based access control solution is flexibility. Many older proprietary access control systems have 8-16 door controllers similar to 8-16 channel DVRs that restrict video users in the analog world. Other traditional access control solutions start with two doors and expand in increments of two even if you only need to add a single door.
On the other hand, a main benefit of any IP-based technology is that users have the freedom to add one device at a time. Scalability doesn’t end there. In a truly open, IP-based environment, the technology can be applied to just a few doors in a single building or multiple doors across an enterprise, across a nation or even across the globe. Furthermore, an open platform means it is now possible for the controller from one manufacturer to work with the software from another provider to create more complex/advanced solutions.
What impact will this new technology have on security dealers and integrators? Well for one thing, integrators and installers will now be able to train their staff on fewer controllers. They can install the same IP-based access control hardware whether it’s for a small business needing just one or two doors or a major commercial customer with many buildings and doors. Over time, the install team will need less training and retraining.
In addition to simplifying employee training, the IP-based access control system can be managed, troubleshot and supported remotely over the network, just like the company’s other network-based security systems. For the end-customer, it means they can standardize on the same access control hardware for every installation environment and still customize it through software to the needs of the specific location.
How it Saves you Money
Now here’s the real clincher: an IP-based system is going to reduce your costs. First, by taking advantage of network topology you can eliminate centralized controllers and expensive point-to-point cable runs. This is especially true of new building installations that are usually pre-wired for IP infrastructure.
Second, by taking advantage of PoE you can cut back on the cost of installing local power supplies to the access control hardware. PoE has become commonplace for powering a range of IP-based devices, from IP phones, to shared printers, to network video surveillance cameras. Powering access control over Ethernet will become part of the mix.
Third, by taking advantage of existing IP infrastructure you can add doors to an existing IP-based access control installation without having to pull a new set of wires to the new access control site. Additionally, in places where it would be costly and difficult to introduce network infrastructure, you could use wireless connectivity to install an access control solution without disturbing expensive architectural or historically-significant building features.