The Evolution Of Access Control

Institutional locksmiths share their views on standalone locks, electronic access control and wireless systems.


Being responsible for multiple function buildings, some active 24/7, the reasons for using mechanical or electronic numeric code locks vary with the application. We started using an electronic numeric code lock shortly after their release. The first electronic locks were not much more...


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Of the three that are currently available, one requires a long term contract, with a minimum purchase of hardware per year, including a nominal licensing fee per lock. The second requires purchase of the basic software, and a larger licensing fee if you choose not to purchase the hardware through them. The third had no up-front fee, but required a monthly fee per lock, based on volume of communication traffic between the lock, their servers, and your control stations.

This is a whole new world of business for the typical locksmith, as it was for us or any facility that has not been involved in access control, video surveillance and other aspects of an integrated security program before.

All the software we looked at provides much the same capabilities. These include, but are not limited to: time zones, auto unlocking, audit trail capabilities, and power level reports. Some have alarm reports for when a door is held open too long, excessive activity with one card or code, or if a non-authorized card is used to attempt entry.

The power level alarm or report is handled somewhat differently by each manufacturer. One shows a colored graph, to indicate the power level at that time it is queried, another only will show when the power drops below the level you select for the alarm to be tripped. No matter which is used, the report is valuable in that you should be able to schedule battery replacement without having to resort to an emergency response.

All four are tied into the internet/intranet system via a hardwired transceiver. It can be called a portal or gateway, and you will probably find other terms used for the same item. This is where the connection from hardwired to wireless occurs.

Three have their own dedicated portal/gateways that would require running lines back to the telecom/internet closet for communication and power source. In at least one case, there is a option to connect via a Power Over Ethernet (POE) line, which only requires one line be pulled instead of a cat5 or cat6 bundle (cat or category, 5 and 6 is a term used for a bundle of fiber optic, and other lines that are dedicated for use with high quality communication equipment, and is stipulated for use by these systems). The fourth uses the standard wireless Portals/gateways, used for laptop computers and other standard WiFi technology.

Having your Information Services technician involved from the beginning is vital to the success of implementing this system. First you will want their advice on a server, or web server, it is a computer dedicated to hosting and controlling the software and wireless locks. All your communication will run through it, so it will typically be supported and backed up by the I.S. department. They will also be the ones to make sure the control stations [the computers where you or whoever is put in charge of entering the information that gives the lock the authorization to allow a card to enter or not] are connected to the server. They will also come in handy in placing the gateways for maximum efficiency and reliability.

While the system is reliable, things can happen, and having them on board from the beginning allows them to better understand how the system works, and where they can start to look to resolve the problem in the shortest amount of time.

Each locksmith needs to research each available product to determine the best needs of the facility. If you already have standalone numeric or badge reader locks in use, are you happy with them?

Does that manufacturer offer a wireless version? Can you use the same software to program both the wireless and the standalone versions? From our experience one does, the other three don’t. Is it important that these locks have the capability to operate if the wireless system goes down (three do, the other doesn’t).

Is your facility or customer considering a move to an electronic access control system? It is worth your time to compare a traditional hardwired access system, with wireless, battery powered locks. Depending on needs, traffic flow, codes, and building construction, the wireless system may be the least expensive and the most practical option.

You may choose to have an integrated system, or a traditional hardwired system, based on your needs and preferences. No matter what you might choose, wireless is an option worth a good long look.

FORE MORE INFO

Here is a partial list of manufacturers offering WiFi locks.

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