Standalone Card Reader Systems Bridge the Gap

Oct. 1, 2007
New access control solutions like the Dortronics EZ-Access Card Reader Entry System provide higher efficiency than basic locking systems, bridging the gap between the electro-mechanical locks and the Fort Knox-caliber systems

Access control is often considered the first line of defense when it comes to protecting and securing a facility. Whether it's a security guard standing sentry in the lobby, turnstiles with biometric card readers, a locked side door or a barrier gate in the parking garage, controlling the entry and exit points in a building can help to maximize the security of a building, its assets and most importantly, its people.

Basic technology often provides the best solutions. Access control also often implies a sophisticated and computer managed multiple-door integrated security system suitable for protecting Fort Knox . More common however is a standalone (i.e. not continuously connected to a host system) access control system which allows authorized individuals to get in and out of a building or an area within the building. Some of the most frequently used devices in this category include key locks, mechanical pushbutton locks and electronic locking systems.

Bridging the gap between the electro-mechanical locks and the Fort Knox-caliber systems are the stand alone card reader entry systems, which secure anywhere from one to ten doors. The card reader entry systems can usually also provide audit trail capability and some integration potential with CCTV and alarm systems. A brief description of each of these technologies, including values and vulnerabilities, s follows:

Key Control

Keyed locks are the most basic form of access control and may include mortise cylinders, rim cylinders, padlocks, cylindrical lock sets and tubular lock sets. These mechanical devices are used primarily to delay, discourage or deter theft or unauthorized access, and can be installed in virtually any kind of door with a minimum of effort and expense. Problems can arise when the integrity of the locking system is jeopardized through lost keys or lack of accountability in issuing keys and/or determining who has access to which areas.

Keyless Mechanical Locks

A step up from the key lock is the mechanical pushbutton lock which, rather than using a key, requires a person to push a series of numbered buttons to unlock the door. Also known as a cipher lock, this method eliminates the problems with missing keys or having to change locks and the device is easy to use. Changing the code is also a simple procedure and should be done on a frequent basis to avoid general familiarity with the entry code and thereby negating the effectiveness of the lock.

Keyless Electronic Locks

A similar but more reliable and effective method of pushbutton locks is the programmable electronic locking system. Like the mechanical pushbutton lock, this solution is ideal for facilities where there are a limited number of access points, or for situations where control of a specific access point is required, such as a server room or quality control test area. The programmable electronic locking system is a micro-processor based, battery-powered system which relies on an electronic keypad with a series of numbered pushbuttons, or a touch-sensitive pad, connected to the lock release mechanism via a control unit inside the entrance way.

While usually effective as a standalone system, programmable electronic locking systems do not offer audit trails unless individual codes are assigned to each employee. Again, widespread familiarity with entry codes can lessen the effectiveness of the system when used primarily for security purposes.

Standalone Card Reader Systems

Card reader entry systems are probably the most convenient and multi-functional option available for applications with multi-users and a limited number of access points. The intelligent card reader compares the data on the card with pre-programmed data and entry or exit is granted or denied by the actual card reader at the reader location. To open a door, the card is typically inserted into a slot, swiped through a groove or placed in proximity to a sensor. The coded area of the card is then read by the system's reader and if the code is an authorized one, the processor will direct the lock to open.

Added Capabilities

Step Up Value

Card reader access control systems offer more ease of use and system integrity than keyless or keyed locking systems because users can easily be programmed in or out of the system. Standalone systems such as the Dortronics EZ-Access Control system product can be programmed using a programming card or master code entered by the keypad, without need of a computer or software. This product can also be programmed using a computer and the optional EZ-Logger Software which allows the date and time to be programmed into the door controller to provide a date and time of activities for audit trail purposes. For additional convenience, the transaction logs can be viewed with standard office computer programs such as Notepad or Excel.

Taking a step beyond basic card reader capability, entry systems which can be integrated with existing alarm or CCTV systems provide an economical integrated physical security system for small scale applications such as branch locations, small business environments, satellite health clinics or restricted areas within a facility. Compared to networked systems which also feature audit trails and system integration capability, standalone card reader entry systems are a fraction of the cost. Some of these standalone systems, like the Dortronics EZ-Access Control system, can be upgraded to a full featured online system by reusing the 26-bit Wiegand reader devices in a compatible networked access control system.

Secure and Flexible

Card reader systems are available for use with magnetic stripe cards, barcode cards and other all-in-one types of identification cards. The proximity card, using RFID technology, is perhaps the most commonly used card because there's no contact between the card and the reader, making the process quick and convenient. RFID cards, while inexpensive, are also difficult to duplicate which helps to ensure the integrity of the system.

While some card reader systems are designed only for internal or weather-protected doors, those with weather-sealed readers can also be used in exterior applications such as parking garages or for controlling access via gates. Depending on the application, either prox cards or keypad codes can be used in these installations.

The EZ-Access Solution

Dortronics' new EZ-Access Control entry system provides a win-win solution for small businesses and the installing locksmith and security system providers who will install them. The system controls two independent doors with one reader each or one door with one or two readers for in/out control and is field configurable – ideal for small business applications across different business categories like retail, professional offices and service companies – even schools. The EZ-Access door controller has a capacity for 2000 active card holders and each reader can have its own set of valid cards or the cards can be programmed to both doors automatically.

For full system functionality, secured EZ-Prox cards, key fobs or the Dortronics #8160xWG heavy-duty keypad can be used to gain access. The two-door controller is equipped with two heavy-duty SPDT 10 amp relays, one for each controlled door or gate. For added versatility, a low voltage open collector output can be used to trigger external relays for system integration with CCTV or alarm systems.

So now there are more options for small business owners and facilities with limited access/egress points to implement a cost effective door control system with access control technology configured specifically for their needs. Plus, there's an opportunity for locksmith and security systems installers to further expand the scope and profitability of their businesses.

Bryan Sanderford is national sales manager for Dortronics Systems, Inc., web site or telephone 800-906-0137.