Access Control

“WE LIKE TO LEVERAGE the benefits of wireless,” says Paul Ahern, president of Cypress Computer Systems in Lapeer, Mich. “Wireless lets you keep more of what could be spent on installation in your own pocket. Instead of having your customer’s money go to someone else for trenching, electrical, cabling or other labor overhead, it all gets spent with you, usually leading to more of your own product being sold.”

Wireless systems let customers achieve wired system benefits without the cost of hardwired systems. Installing wireless typically is faster than implementing a traditional hardwired solution. When wanting to retrofit older buildings with new access control systems, a wireless solution may be the only viable option you can use. Also, wireless readers are not limited to doors — wireless solutions exist for exit devices, gates and elevators. Wireless systems work with most of today’s access control systems.

Existing ID credentials will work with the new wireless solution. Access privilege changes and audit records are available at the central control terminal, all from a common database, which simplifies data entry and management. This also eliminates the need to go door to door to upload changes and download records, making wireless locksets a good alternative to offline, standalone locking systems. In addition, all wireless transmissions are typically encoded and may use AES128-bit private keys for heightened security.

Popular Applications That Scream for Wireless

According to Ahern, the most popular uses of wireless are in those situations where companies decide to extend the perimeters of their facilities. “With a wireless access control system, you can easily extend their solution up to 10,000 feet,” he says. “That’s almost two miles!”

Ahern says Cypress access control specialists recommend wireless for connecting to parking lots; extending the access system across the road, railroad tracks or river; creating temporary reader installation at a construction site; and where it is simply undesirable to trench, cable or pull wire.

“We are seeing wireless devices used the most in K-12 education spaces to secure individual classroom doors,” reports Rick Caruthers, executive vice president, Galaxy Control Systems. “It seems that the overall cost of a wireless reader now allows users to consider doors for access control that were otherwise considered cost prohibitive.

“The main concerns we find are controlling visitors, securing perimeter doors and creating emergency lockdown,” adds Caruthers. “We also find that wireless locks are making it more affordable for school systems to consider devices for each classroom door where, in the past, typical locking hardware proved to be too costly. Wireless also benefits dealers and integrators themselves. The number of doors installed increases due to the lower cost of a wireless device versus a traditionally secured door and the extra components and labor needed to install it.”

Education is also a good market for Kastle Systems of Falls Church, Va., as well. The company targets the school market and has developed an integrated security solution for educational institutions that employs the latest advances in technology, including wireless access control. “Wireless access control provides better cost, convenience and aesthetics than many wired solutions. Plus, you are eliminating the old metal keys for more advanced access cards,” emphasizes Nikhil Shenoy, director of product marketing for Kastle. “Anywhere that you find a lot of doors within a contained suite or space, wireless could be a better alternative than wired. We use wireless tech on interior rooms in commercial real estate settings, whether it is the door to a bathroom, office, copy room, mechanical or communications closets, or meeting room as it reduces the cost and labor of wiring traditional carded systems. Wireless is a great solution for resident doors in multifamily buildings. For instance, we just finished a 375-resident door, multifamily wireless project in New York City.”

“Where we get the ‘oos and ahhs’ with wireless is with our handheld wireless mobile readers,” adds Ahern. “They are used to read credentials in applications where it just would not be practical to use a fixed reader. Whenever we offer one to a prospect who uses it for the first time, we always get a big smile.”

According to Ahern, the top prospects are places where an organization wants to check IDs of people in trucks and buses, verify staff attendees at training centers, create an access point away from buildings or establish emergency assembly points and muster stations.

Entry is basic to access control systems at marinas both small and big. For instance, the Blue Water Yacht Club in Sausalito (Calif.) uses its system to control a vehicle gate, dock gate and two restroom doors while a Miami Beach (Fla.) marina uses its system to control many dock gates, restrooms and parking garages. The Port of Everett (Wash.) consists of a hodge-podge of legacy systems that have been integrated into a security system with in excess of 60 access points in an area greater than 3.5 acres that features links up to a mile apart.

Spread Spectrum Vs. WiFi Access Communications

There are two major wireless technologies used in access control systems to send information from/to the door to/from the system computer that runs the access control software: spread spectrum and WiFi. In the first, a 900MHz or 2.4GHz spread-spectrum communication module, along with the card reader, is installed to a panel interface module (PIM) and, from there, onto a hardwired source network. The second method is 2.4GHz/802.11 WiFi, in which communication goes from the card reader or sensor directly to a WiFi antenna and onto a network.

If lockdown is a major need, be aware. 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 spread-spectrum solutions. Also, signal propagation and strength through building walls is stronger for spread-spectrum signals versus the shorter wavelengths of WiFi signals.

Typically, if a WiFi system is installed in a building, additional WiFi antennas will likely be needed to support an equal number of wireless locks or sensors. In WiFi systems this can mean additional installation costs by assuring antennas have closer proximity to the readers to ensure reliable operation. In addition, independent WiFi locks require unique IP addresses. Thus, there is greater involvement with the IT department and, all too often, extra internal fees get charged for each IP address. With spread-spectrum solutions, a single IP address manages 16 or more doors or openings.

In most cases, integrators use interchangeable contactless proximity or smart card readers to migrate from standalone, offline locking to a networked access control system by installing a spread-spectrum communication module. After linking the reader to a PIM, perhaps via a range extending repeater, the user is able to initiate emergency lock/unlock commands throughout the facility when needed and change access rights from a central location.

“We do not have a preference as to whether spread spectrum or WiFi is being connected to the access control system,” says Caruthers. “However, we do find that there are features that are not supported in the WiFi versions of many of the wireless locksets, so we advise our installing dealers keep this in mind when offering a wireless solution to their customers.”

“All of our controls are based on TCP/IP Ethernet, so if we were to do a wireless setup it would be over WiFi,” says Dan DeMerchant, president of Highpower Security Products in Meriden, Conn. “Plus WiFi is so flexible. We have used WiFi over a directional antenna to cross a busy main street to another building because running a wire would have been impractical. Another situation was at a college where we had to interconnect several buildings.”

In a twist on the classic spread-spectrum or WiFi communications, Nortek Security and Control Vice President Access Control John LaFond suggests that, often, the access system can instead use a 433MHz long-range ID solution that is hardwired into the access control system and sends signals up to 500 feet. Using a Wiegand output receiver to accept signals from a transceiver carried by the user, access to doors, gates and other secure points can be completed with a simple push of a button. For short-range reads, the transceiver also contains a proximity chip.

“One of the more interesting uses of this system is at the psychiatric ward of a hospital,” says LaFond. “Formerly, employees had carried panic buttons which they used in case they were attacked. But the panic button just sounded an alert. Nobody knew who was being attacked or where. With the long-range transceiver, the nurse automatically identifies who she is and where she is. As importantly, only people that carry these receivers can get into these wards, keeping unauthorized people out and away from any possibility of harm.”

The applications for long-range reading are varied. A popular use is at gated communities such as at the main gate of the Kolea at Waikoloa Beach Resort on the big island of Hawaii. Those entering the main gate in their car use a 433MHz transmitter that is read by a Farpointe long-range receiver integrated into a linear gate entry system via industry standard Wiegand protocol. However, combining technologies, some houses on the property also use proximity cards with keypad readers connected with 900MHz wireless for access from the street and directly from the beach.

Wireless Literally Opens Doors for Integrators

According to Shenoy, “Installing wireless interior door locks reduces metal key and lock management, plus the same Kastle card can be programmed for use throughout an apartment building or across multiple office sites. Digital management means more opportunities to control doors, manage visitors, eliminate metal key copies, understand usage patterns and, overall, offer a more secure and more convenient environment.”

With wireless, one can come up with some very creative solutions.

“We were working on a large medical facility that had a requirement to secure individual patient medication at each bed and control access to these cabinets,” says Caruthers. “With the new cabinet wireless locks, we were able to deliver a custom-build, wall-mounted cabinet equipped with a wireless lockset and use our access control system to restrict access to these cabinets and also provide a detailed audit trail of this activity.”

“The bottom line is that dealers and integrators need to consider wireless whenever the customer wants to extend the connection of their access control system,” adds Ahern.

Article Provided By: Security Sales & Integration

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