Access Control: How to Attack Retrofits

Nov. 5, 2014
Aging or obsolete access control systems are on the rise, representing an opportunity for integrators

Thousands of your customers have legacy systems installed and are facing future decisions about which path to take. If they are unhappy with their current system and are ready for a change, they are researching security systems and options that best meet their needs now and in the future.

Offering them a retrofit solution gives them another option. Rather than keep an old system where parts are or will become obsolete, or do a complete rip-and-replace, a retrofit solution enables your customer to use much of their existing infrastructure, reducing the overall replacement cost. The customer should be able to reuse their current card readers, cards, power supplies, cabinets and wiring infrastructure.

Retrofits offer an opportunity for ongoing work over a period of time. Large customers with multiple locations will want to plan out and phase in their retrofit, and may upgrade slowly to minimize disruption to their business. This means they will purchase product and installation services from you month after month until the install is completed. You can also up-sell Professional Services assistance to organizations that need support throughout the upgrade path.

“Offering a retrofit solution is generally a tremendous opportunity to acquire new customers, or earn more of an existing customer’s business,” says Kurt Kottkamp, president of Enterprise Security Systems Inc., a Charlotte, N.C.-based integrator. “It is also a unique opportunity to earn their trust, because of the risk involved in changing systems.”

Picking a Partner

Consider the following three things when choosing a vendor partner to drive your retrofit strategy:

1. Pick your vendor wisely. Choose a retrofit solution from a reliable manufacturer with a solid history and commitment to their customers. Companies that manufacture its own hardware and software are preferable. When vendors rely on a third party to manufacture hardware, they leave themselves open to takeovers, sales and lack of product control. You need a manufacturer that will do what they say they are going to do, especially when it comes to the database conversion of the old product to the retrofit system. Any miscommunication or confusion can cost an integrator credibility, time and serious money.

2. Stay up on the trends. Keep a beat on manufacturer news so you can continuously align your go-to-market strategy and target end-users for retrofit solutions.

3. Know your marketplace. This will help you gain market share and grow your business. If a competitor’s customer has learned their current security system will no longer be supported in the future, it is an opportunity to present your cost-effective retrofit option — solving their problem in an affordable manner while gaining a new customer.

Case in Point: DCH Medical Center

A great example of a successful retrofit project is DCH Regional Medical Center — a 583-bed Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala. When the facility’s security team learned their current Casi Rusco Secure Perfect security management system would no longer be supported, and there was no clear upgrade path, they did not know what to do.

In response, Shane Sanders, DCH Assistant Director of Engineering Services, contacted their systems integrator, Birmingham, Ala.-based Gorrie Regan for a solution. Scott Wilson, Gorrie Regan’s Vice President, recommended AMAG Technology’s new Symmetry SR-Series Controller solution — a retrofit solution that enables customers to upgrade legacy systems without needing to completely rip out the existing system. It would save money, limit downtime and provide a solution that can grow with the hospital.

“Our initial security budget was rejected because it was too high, so we researched the system and it fit our budget and needs,” Sanders says.

While the Symmetry SR Controller system provided an upgrade path for the facility’s outdated Casi system, the hospital facility was still able to reuse its 40 existing magnetic stripe card readers and the existing wiring infrastructure, saving thousands of dollars. “We swapped out the old Casi Micro 5 boards and retrofitted the existing enclosures with the SR Controller boards,” Wilson says.

Gorrie Regan also replaced the Casi edge devices with AMAG’s EN-1DBC Power over Ethernet controller and installed Symmetry M2150 Intelligent Controllers. In the end, the medical center was able to maintain its existing user database, which eliminated the need to re-enter users. In addition, the security team found that when they had to enter users into their database, it was much easier with the new system. “The security staff finds it easy to use,” Sanders says.

Building on the System

With retrofitted access control as a backbone, it is an opportunity for integrators to offer additional products and services. At DCH, for example, they moved to update and add more security technology throughout the facilities, including communications, video surveillance and panic button systems. Here’s a quick look:

  • Intercoms: The medical center installed a Viking intercom system that is tied to into the head end system via alarm points. When a doctor presses the intercom, it rings a security staff phone number and the security staff opens the door. The reader at that door has an alarm input so a false open is not reported back to the Symmetry system.
  • Control Center: A full security staff carefully monitors the pharmacies, emergency room, women’s center, pediatrics, the medical intensive care unit and trauma surgical floors. They monitor all external entrances and automatically lock down everything at night except for the ER and main visitor entrance. All employees and contractors are required to wear a badge.
  • Video: The facility uses OnSSI’s video management system and has 255 cameras positioned inside and outside the building. Interfaced inputs and outputs are used to call up video on the monitors, prompting quick action from security guards when necessary.
  • Biometrics: A fingerprint biometric reader sits at the physician’s lounge door and provides doctors an easy way to enter the room. Cards are not needed and doctors enjoy the convenience of not needing a card to enter.
  • Panic Buttons: Located in the emergency room, pharmacy and cash office, they are directly tied to the video management system. When a panic button is pressed, an alarm sounds and the video switches to full screen on the monitor for easy viewing.

Kim Rahfaldt is Public Relations Manager for AMAG Technology. To request more info about the company, please visit