Access Control Systems
Access control as we know it in the security industry, is a process designed to limit access through doors and other portals such as gates, turnstiles, and barriers.
This is done by person, by vehicle, or asset, by day, by hour, by minute, and can be used to manage access and other registration needs such as Time and Attendance, Visitor Management or Asset Tracking.
Components of an Access Control System
An access control system typically comprises of the following components:
- Cards and Readers
Access control uses a variety of cards/tokens which are uniquely numbered to identify a user. These cards/tokens are read by a reader. Access control readers come in many forms (with or without keypad for PIN). Newer versions also include a Biometric component.
Cards and Readers
There are basically 4 types:
- Insert – Example: ATM
- Swipe – Example: Gas station
- Passive Proximity – The card is waved in close proximity to a reader.
- Active Proximity - The “tag” is passed through an active RF field and is read at a distance – Like FastTrack for toll roads in a car.
- The access controller is the decision maker for the reader(s) that are connected to it.
- There are many types of controllers, that can support anywhere from 1 to 64 doors. Going beyond the controllers reader limits requires additional controller(s) to the system.
- Most controllers have a history of being proprietary – Once you purchase that controller, you will need to use that manufacturer for the life of the system.
- Newer third generation “Open” controllers are now coming on the market.
- The leader is Mercury Security, which has one or two door controllers that can expand with sub-controllers.
- Other suppliers have in parallel, developed smart locks that do not need controllers, and communicate directly with the host via wireless or POE.
- When you can keep a customer’s existing hardware and prevent an EOL scenario, the customer is able to retain a large part of their initial investment.
- Not all access control sales are new, and most sales are retrofit (up to 60% in some markets). By eliminating an EOL scenario, you can value engineer a solution to maximize the customers existing installed investment.
Access control is now often combined with other services. These might include Video Management, Fire and Security Alarm Monitoring. This capability is often referred to as a Security Management System (SMS) for short.
These “hosts” have become more sophisticated as the speed and processing capabilities of these “PC’s” have grown, and their services now may include integration to other non-security related services – such HR/Personnel Management, Cafeteria Management, a Library system, Time and Attendance/Payroll or perhaps an external Parking System.
Today with the advent of “cloud services” the client/end user can now minimize their capital investment by using cloud services.
This negates the capital investment of on-site PC’s and networks and uses offsite “host services” to manage the system.