Expanding Your Role in Access Control

There are four basic components to any access control system: access device or reader, locking device, egress device and power supply. While some manufacturers offer kits containing the three components, most security professionals use individual pieces...

This switch can be found in the form of a key switch, keypad, card reader, electronic key or biometric device.

Card readers break down into insertion, swipe and proximity styles. Additional proximity credentials include a key fob and disc sticker.

Locking device: Locking devices can be mechanical, electric or a combination of both. With an electric strike the mechanical lock is released with the activation of the electric strike. The strike can be combined with a knob or lever lock, a mortise lock or an exit device.

Electro-magnetic locks are popular because of their simplicity, silent operation and ease of installation.

An option to an electric strike is the electrified lock. Kits are available to convert common exit devices from fully mechanical to electrified devices. Other electrified locks are available in almost any style make and finish.

If you have a unique or special lock application, there are companies that specialize in converting your mechanical hardware to an electrified version.

Egress Device: The third component of the system is the egress device. Although not a part of every access control system, the egress device may consist of an exit button, motion sensor or other device that will cause the door to unlock. Note: Always check with your AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) to be sure you are meeting all fire and life safety codes and requirements. Some require redundant switches or must tie into the fire alarm panel. If in doubt, start with the local fire department for information.

Power Supply: The fourth component of the system is the power supply. Depending on the hardware being installed, this can range from a simple plug-in transformer to a separate cabinet with control boards and a battery backup power supply.

Some special power supply components are only available from the manufacturer, but most electrified locking hardware – especially electric strikes – is moving toward providing field selectable 12v or 24v, AC or DC, fail-safe or fail-secure status.

Additional system features such as latch monitoring, door position, forced door and motion detection can be covered with different options and components from a variety of manufacturers.


The big difference between standalone and component access control systems was always the wiring argument. The standalone requires no wiring between units while the system requires continuous wiring between each component.

The additional cost of the wiring itself and the labor to run it usually adds up to a significant portion of the total job. The benefit is centrally controlling all doors with user data and audit trails.

Standalone locks in a multi-door application require data and audit information to be exchanged on-site at each door instead of being managed from a central station.

Wireless systems offer the best of both worlds by providing a system that can be centrally managed and controlled without the need to run separate wiring to each door.

Check out companies such as BlueWave Security (www.bluewavesecurity.com), Schlage Wireless (www.ir-swa.com) and OSI WAMS (www.omnilock.com). Wireless systems allow you to install separate hardware at each door and control access and audit functions from a central station.

Variations exist in the different systems; power to each lock may need to be supplied locally or can be fed through the Ethernet cable with POE (Power over Ethernet).


Like any other product or service you offer to your customers, you'll need to promote access control as one of your specialties. Your advertising, truck lettering, business card and showroom are all ways to get the message across.

Your showroom should feature several mounted, fully operational working samples to display the features and benefits to customers at the counter or to pick up and take with you to a job survey.

Always make sure these samples are clean, in good condition, have strong batteries and work as intended. A non-working, dirty sample will leave a bad impression of the product.

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