Access Control Goes Wireless

The security industry has been transitioning into wireless for decades. The earliest wireless devices were remote controls for garage openers. Then burglar and fire alarms went wireless. This was a major milestone.

With the age of personal computing evolving at full throttle, Wi-Fi then hit the market and the security industry gradually evolved to use this wireless Internet-based technology.

The term gradually is relative. We all know that improvements in technology occur quickly today.

The evolution of the standalone access system from a purely mechanical device to an integrated system took a few decades. That is, it was about that long from the time the first mechanical pushbutton lock was introduced to when professional electronic standalones appeared. And they have are being constantly refined and improved.

We write about standalones all the time in the Locksmith Ledger because they are excellent devices, and philosophically aligned with the locksmiths, more so perhaps than any other electronic security product. Now a number of major manufacturers are introducing or offering standalone, wireless systems, making installation much easier on the locksmith since running wires is no longer part of the picture.

Wireless Standalone Access has to meet the same performance issues as any other security product. Considerations include:
Reliability: Will standalone wireless access provide the performance levels currently available from conventional standalones and networked solutions? What are the issues regarding signal drop out?
Battery Life: Will standalone wireless access be able to overcome what was once a major end-user concern which was excessive battery replacement?
Scalability: How easily will a standalone wireless access product fit into a variety of applications: from a single door deployment to an enterprise wide solution able to integrate with hardwired components and databases?
Security: Can standalone wireless provide an adequate level of encryption and ability to overcome signal path disruptions? This issue is especially critical in real time communication functions such as a facility lockdown.

Ingersoll Rand has offered a wireless access control product for several years. AlarmLock has long had wireless printer interfacing for their Trilogy Standalone. And SARGENT Lock, part of the ASSA ABLOY Group, has introduced its wireless product as well.

We present a thorough product overview offered by each company. Then we try to identify the potential issues and purchase reluctances the locksmith might encounter while presenting these products to their customers, and provide the answers you’ll need to satisfy your own criteria for professional security management, as well as provide bullet points for you to offer your prospects.
Locksmith Ledger interviewed three major players in the standalone wireless market and asked them about their new products: 

First, Locksmith Ledger questioned Lester LaPierre, director of business development, electronic access control, ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions. Following are Ledger’s questions and LaPierre’s answers.

What are your wireless access control offerings?
We offer the SARGENT 10 Line cylindrical lock, 8200 Series mortise lock and 80 Series exit device Studio Collection and Coastal Series designer levers with MicroShield™ antimicrobial hardware finish.

What are the advantages of SARGENT’s wireless products?
Using a building’s existing WiFi infrastructure, the Profile Series v.S2 provides complete access control functions in online and offline operation. The v.S2 consolidates all components in one device - mortise or cylindrical lock, or exit device, plus card reader, door position switch, request-to-exit sensor and access controller. Unlike some wireless access solutions, access control decisions are made instantly at the door via the integrated access controller capable of supporting up to 2000 users and storing up to 10,000 transactions. This approach provides faster transactions, eliminates reliance on the wireless infrastructure for access decision making, and improves reliability with fewer components and wiring terminations involved in the transaction. Should a v.S2 lock go offline, the only door affected is the one on which it is installed. If a competitor’s wireless panel interface goes offline, it could affect as many as 16 doors.

Benefits and features include:
• Better security - real-time alarms indicate forced door, unknown card and door held open
• Increased uptime and faster transactions – integral controller with 2000-user database and 10,000-event audit trail provide instant transactions and eliminate the latency and potential failure points commonly found in competing wireless locksets
• Dual-phased Data Security – open-standard encryption techniques such as WEP, WPA and LEAP provide advanced wireless network security. In addition, the 128-bit AES encryption key changes after each exchange to further protect credential data and to secure commands such as “access granted”
• Reduced costs – Elimination of wire runs and integration of components into the lockset drastically reduce hardware and labor costs

Are they scalable?
Utilizing open-standard 802.11 b/g technology, network coverage is as simple as adding an off-the-shelf WiFi access point and tying it to the building’s Ethernet network. In fact, since each device contains its own database and controller, some customers install the products in remote buildings and control them from a common location utilizing their enterprise’s wide area network

What is the nature of the software interface?
SARGENT v.S2 products are designed as open architecture solutions to work with any access control system software package. A software developer’s kit has been distributed to over a dozen access control system manufacturers. Digital Horizons Systems demonstrated their system working with SARGENT v.S2 locks at ASIS in Atlanta, and several more will be announcing their offerings in the very near term.

What hardware/software is required to deploy your wireless product?
Simply install a SARGENT v.S2 lock on the door you want to control access to, install an off-the-shelf wireless access point from a store like Office Depot for $60, connect it to the building’s Ethernet network, and configure the access control software in the host computer to control it. There are no wireless panel interfaces, no reader interface modules, and no dedicated access controllers required.

Upon what technology are they based?
802.11 b/g open standard WiFi infrastructure. SARGENT v.S2 products utilize the same 802.11 b/g standard WiFi network infrastructure used for wireless network access for computers. This results in lower infrastructure costs versus other competitors as wireless access points are readily available through most office supply and retail stores for about $60. What’s more, many customers already have this infrastructure in place for computer networking, so they can simply use it for SARGENT v.S2 locks without the need for additional investment.

For what markets are they intended?
SARGENT v.S2 products are designed for any retrofit or new construction application where wiring is difficult or impractical, or where the cost of traditional wired online access control is prohibitive. By integrating credential reader, lock hardware, and access controller into a single device, both installation labor and hardware costs are radically reduced and enable end-users to achieve real-time alarm monitoring and centralized system management for near the price of offline systems.

What differentiates your wireless from your competitors?
SARGENT v.S2 series locks and exit devices operate on open-standard 802.11 b/g WiFi infrastructure. Other systems utilize proprietary infrastructure which magnifies the cost of deployment. In addition, decision making is done in the lock for immediate transaction response versus the controller-based or, even worse, host-based decision making of other systems.

Competing wireless offerings are much more complex in terms of hardware infrastructure, which include reader interface modules, access control panels with dedicated power supplies, and proprietary wireless access points that control multiple doors. If any of these devices fail, or even if a wire termination inadvertently loses contact, multiple openings can be rendered inoperable.

By contrast, each SARGENT v.S2 lock contains a 2000-user database and 10,000 event transaction log that can function independently from the access control host system, even in the event of a network, extended power outage, or host system failure.

SARGENT v.S2 locks utilize dual-phase data security that utilizes open-standard encryption techniques such as WEP, WPA and LEAP to provide advanced wireless network security. In addition, credential data are protected and commands such as “access granted” are secured from the door to the access control host computer with 128-bit open-standard AES encryption keys that change after each exchange.
SARGENT v.S2 locks are battery-powered devices that utilize six, off-the-shelf AA batteries as opposed to proprietary battery packs that cost over $35 per pack.

Locksmith Ledger interviewed Jennifer Toscano, marketing manager, electronic locks - open architecture, Schlage Electronic Security. Following are Ledger’s questions and Ms. Toscano’s answers.

What are your wireless access control offerings?
Because every application is unique, Schlage offers a wide range of solutions including mechanical locking hardware, standalone programmable locks, software managed solutions, hardwired networked solutions and wireless network solutions.  The Schlage VIP lock provides a hard-wired, networked solution that incorporates the door position switch, credential reader, lock, and request-to-exit into a single device.  In addition, Schlage bright blue provides an access control solution that is designed to manage Schlage wireless, VIP, and credential reader solutions.

Schlage wireless access solutions provide the ability to manage a large number of access points and users without the hassle or cost of running a hard-wired system. They combine a credential reader, electrified lock, door position switch, and request-to-exit into one device.

Products in the Schlage wireless family include solutions for mortise and cylindrical locking applications, exit-device trim, wireless reader interface for credential readers, portable readers, as well as gate and elevator access solutions and other accessories. Schlage also provides the convenience of multiple credential options, including proximity, smart card, and magnetic stripe.

What differentiates your product from your competitors?
First, Schlage wireless products provide a proven solution with tens of thousands of units installed and working for years. And, Schlage wireless products are built upon the robust foundation of our proven Schlage mechanical locking platform. Our open architecture design means that Schlage wireless can be interfaced to virtually any access control system. In addition, this provides the ability to mix wired and wireless technologies in a single access control system. 

Our solution utilizes a dedicated, 900 MHz infrastructure Our 900 MHz frequency enables better signal propagation. This allows:
•           Data transmission signals to travel further
•           Ability to penetrate thicker walls and other barriers
•           Long range communications in line-of-sight applications
•           Improved performance in outdoor applications

What are the advantages of wireless access over standalone and networked?
Schlage wireless access solutions provide the advantages of a networked access control system, without the wires. As such, wireless solutions are recommended for the following types of applications:
•           With a large number of users or openings
•           That require varying levels of access permission
•           With frequent user changes/turnover

The benefits of wireless include:
•           The increased security of real-time system management.
•           The ability to activate and revoke access privileges and schedules from a single computer.
•           The ability to manage who can gain access to which openings in a facility, and when they can access those openings.  

Schlage wireless access systems install in a fraction of the time it takes to install a hard-wired networked access control system, in some cases up to 90 percent faster. The reduced installation time and wiring requirements translates into significant savings for the customer. Schlage wireless elevator kits enable access control for elevator applications without the need for costly cable-runs in elevators. In addition, our wireless gate kit enables parking lot and gate access without the need to trench across the parking lot.

For what markets are they intended?
Schlage wireless access solutions can be utilized in any application where users wish to eliminate wiring and provide a cost-effective solution. Schlage wireless solutions can be utilized in both existing structure renovations and new construction projects. In some applications, like historic buildings, gate applications or elevator access control, hardwired solutions may be impossible or cost-prohibitive. Schlage wireless solutions provide a cost-effective solution for these applications and more.

Are they scalable?
Yes. From controlling access via a single opening in an office to managing thousands of openings across a college campus, Schlage’s approach to wireless solutions provides unlimited scalability. Users can utilize Schlage wireless solutions to retrofit into virtually any system. Further, a facility can mix wired and wireless openings in the same system and manage them all with a single database.

What is the nature of the software interface?
Schlage bright blue and Schlage SMS can manage Schlage Wireless Locks, VIP locks, and credential readers. Schlage also has a number of business partners that have incorporated an interface to Schlage wireless into their access solutions, making it even easier to incorporate wireless solutions into facilities using their access control software.
These partners include: Interflex, CBORD, Blackboard, Lenel, NexWatch (Honeywell), Galaxy Controls, InfoGraphics (GE), Apollo, Delta Controls, Heartland Campus, Pacom, and Maxcess. In addition, Schlage wireless products are designed to be open architecture products. As such, they can be easily interfaced into virtually any access control software on the market today.

What hardware/software is required to deploy your wireless product?
In addition to the selected access control system and associated access control panel, a wireless lock and panel interface module is required to deploy Schlage wireless solutions. We also have wireless test kits available to enable integrators to test signal strength and system design prior to installation. For longer distance applications, we have several antenna options available to increase signal distance.

Upon what technology are they based?
Schlage’s wireless locks are based upon the leading, proven mechanical locking platform of Schlage.

David Saltzman, marketing & events coordinator Napco Security Systems, was interviewed about Alarm Lock’s new wireless products.

What are your wireless access control offerings?
In 2009, we are introducing two products initially: cylindrical models DL6100 PIN Code and PDL6100 PIN/Prox version, with three different Gateways to communicate to our locks - WiFi, POE and Ethernet with AC adapter and DL Windows software.

What differentiates your product from your competitors?
Our wireless systems will be compatible with our DL Windows software and backward-compatible with existing Trilogy locks installed at a customer’s facility. The new release of DL Windows software will be available from our website, FREE of charge. This will allow the same software to manage both our standalone and new wireless locks on the same account or over multiple accounts. End-users will be able to seamlessly add locks to their existing/new systems. Consumers may choose to use both stand alone and/or wireless locking options all on the same database or account within a facility.
We will put in place a global lockdown feature from the convenience of your PC and/or lock, allowing all locks to lock/unlock within a matter of seconds. Our wireless locks will also feature flash memory which will enable locksmiths and/or end-users to update new features to their firmware to the locks that have already been installed.

What are the advantages of wireless access over standalone and networked?
Alarm Lock’s Trilogy Access Control Systems are extremely affordable and perform similarly to a hardwired system but at a fraction of the price. Our battery-operated access control locks automatically unlock/relock by schedule using our DL Windows software. These standalone products have a real time clock allowing schedules to be created daily, weekly, monthly or yearly without ever having to go to the door. Alarm Lock’s security solutions dramatically lower your maintenance costs, cutting out the need to hire personnel to manually unlock/relock your doors.

Our Trilogy Networking Wireless locks save your business time and labor costs. It eliminates the steps of having to send someone to the door to program each lock and run wires from the lock to a central station. Our new wireless locks will communicate over your existing network using our Gateway module and allow locksmiths and/or customers to program users via DL Windows from the convenience of a PC. Each system networks up to 2,000 locks and also features emergency lockdown and passage mode capabilities in which case your network of wireless locks can be locked down from a PC or any lock within the system. This feature is ideal in the event of a workplace invasion or security breach at a school. 

For what markets are they intended?
Alarm Lock’s Trilogy Networking Wireless locks are ideal for businesses that are looking for access control solutions that costs much less than a traditional hardwire system while providing their facilities with similar features. Our wireless Trilogy locks are battery operated and come with performance enhancing functions including scheduling, audit trail and HID Prox capability. Just like our standalone locks, wireless Trilogy easily installs in less than an hour, replacing mechanical lock prep.

Since our wireless locks can be managed with DL Windows software on the customer’s own network, end-users can control multiple locations remotely from a PC.  For retail locksmiths, they can generate recurring revenue by servicing their customer’s systems remotely. For end users, they can manage large facilities such as college campuses from their security office, lock shop or IT department without having to send someone to each door to physically program locks, i.e., add/remove users or retrieve audit trail records.

Are they scalable?
Yes, our new Trilogy Networking Wireless locks will come in PIN code and PIN/Prox versions. Each system can network up to 2,000 locks, grant access for up to 5,000 users and provide 35,000-event audit trail. These two models will have a wireless range of up to 75 feet and be managed via DL Windows software.

What is the nature of the software interface?
Customers should first download our DL Windows software from our website onto their PC. Our Gateway module then gets plugged into an existing network. Once our Gateway locates your locks, you may begin the programming process.

What hardware/software is required to deploy your wireless product?
To deploy our wireless products, one must have our DL Windows software, one or more Gateway communication modules and our DL6100 and/or PDL6100 wireless networking locks.

What differentiates your wireless from your competitors?
Trilogy is well-known in the door technologies industry for being a leader in standalone access control. We offer more solutions than any other company in the category and the same will hold true for our wireless locks. As we become more involved with distributors, locksmiths and end-users with our new wireless product line, more features and solutions will be offered to meet the demands of this burgeoning market.
Alarm Lock is committed to supporting the needs of both new and existing installations in the field. We regularly upgrade our software which can be downloaded from our website FREE of charge. Our DL Windows software is backward compatible to existing Trilogy standalone locks which means that locksmiths and/or end users can manage all of their locks under one system.