Five Sources of Savings Using IP-Based Readers

Nov. 1, 2013
IP-based door access control systems provide better security and ease of management at a much lower cost than earlier technologies.

There is always a tradeoff between security and costs. Since organizations can’t afford to place an armed guard at each door 24/7, they rely on video cameras, access control systems and intrusion alarms to stand watch. While card readers have been in use for decades, new IP-based access control systems can lower initial costs and improve the level of security.

Traditional door access control systems use centralized control panels with traditional card readers at the doors.  In a multi site installation, these readers are wired back to a central control panel. They also require running a separate power connection to each of the door’s ancillary hardware devices and accessories like the lock, REX button, door open sensor, etc.

Over the years, however, more intelligent IP-based devices have been developed that embed the intelligence (business rules/permissions) in the card reader, eliminating the need for control panels. They also use the existing Ethernet networks for both power and data connectivity, providing a more flexible and scalable security system installation.  

These advances lower the cost of ownership in five ways:

#1. Lower Equipment Costs

Traditional card reader systems required a high initial capital investment for equipment and wiring. The organization first had to purchase a control panel and then a card reader and a controller for each door. Each panel was limited in terms of the number of doors it could manage. Adding one door over that limit required purchase of an additional control panel. Each door also required running both power and data connections to the control panel and to separate power supplies.

IP-based door access technology eliminates the control panel and specialized wiring. The IP reader/controller simply hooks into the organization’s existing network using a standard Cat-5/6 Ethernet cable. These devices use Power over Ethernet (PoE), which means power is supplied by the network switch via the Ethernet cable, eliminating the need to hardwire into building power. 

Instead of using specialized control panels, the credential database is entered into a computer (for multiple door installations) and into the reader-controller itself. With embedded intelligence in the reader-controller, it can make decisions at the door without going into a degraded mode when communication with the server or the network is lost, thus creating a system that has no single point of failure in its architecture.

#2. Reduced Installation Costs

Traditional access control systems involve installing two separate devices –the reader and the controller – at each door, in addition to the costs of installing the control panels. Perhaps the biggest installation cost, however, is running both a power cable and a data cable to each door.

With IP-based readers, there is a single device to install at the door and there is no need to run building power to the door. Since the IP reader and door electronic hardware are powered by the network through the Ethernet cabling, it only requires a connection to the nearest network PoE switch.

“Most companies have already made a fairly significant investment in their network infrastructure,” says Michael Radicella, CTO and founder of ISONAS Security Systems.  “It only makes sense to use the existing network instead of installing a separate, proprietary system at additional cost.”  

Established in 1999, Colorado-based ISONAS Security Systems designs, manufactures and distributes the patented panel-free, IP-based security access control system called PowerNet.

An IP-based system such as PowerNet can eliminate as much as half the labor costs for installation. Additional savings comes in the form of using Cat-5/6 Ethernet cables, at a cost of about $.30 per foot, instead of traditional 18-2 or composite power wiring which can cost a dollar or more per foot.

Installation costs vary, based on the prep work required for the mounting panel enclosure for an old-style panel based system, the distance from the central box, the type of walls and ceilings, and other physical considerations in the building.

With multi-building or multi-campus installations, the costs of traditional systems are much higher because of the need of specialized hardware to connect the buildings, but with IP-based control systems, the data can run over existing network connections.

#3. Ongoing Management of System Operations 

Any door reader system requires normal administrative maintenance – adding new people, removing people, grouping people, schedules for different groups. By linking with other employee directories on the network, . IP-based systems can speed and simplify the process of managing day to day changes.

Many organizations with over 20 employees utilize Microsoft’s Active Directory as a central point/single source to manage employee contact data, locations, and access to the network and applications.  When an employee is hired, fired, changes location or changes job duties; their access is automatically changed accordingly.  IP-based door control systems can be designed to update access permissions in real time as they occur in Active Directory.

For example,ActiveDirectoryBridgesoftware from ISONAS automatically synchronizes Microsoft’s Active Directory with ISONAS’ Crystal Matrix access control software.

“ActiveDirectoryBridgeallows you to assign personnel to groups and give them permissions for both physical and logical access,” says Radicella. “So now instead of having to manage the access control system’s permissions separately, Active Directory becomes the single source for maintaining access control permissions, which cuts down on the time and cost of management.”

WithActiveDirectoryBridgefrom ISONAS, data doesn’t need to be entered twice, eliminating double work and chances for error.

Perhaps more significantly, it enhances security by immediately reflecting any access changes. If someone is fired, as soon as that data is entered into Active Directory, their access card and/or keypad code will be deactivated in the ISONAS system in real time. You don’t have to worry about updates being entered too late after the separation event—which can lead to unauthorized access..

#4. Integration with Other Systems

IP-based access control systems allow the implementation of deeper, richer security systems, particularly through their integration with IP video systems and intercoms.

“Until a few years ago, video management systems and access control systems were completely separate, often proprietary, and required separate wiring and installation, management software and multiple maintenance contracts” says Radicella.  “With an IP-based network device and software, it is much easier to integrate video management and access control systems offering a ‘Best of Breed’ approach to unified systems.” 

By connecting intercoms to IP cameras, for example, based on visual verification of an individual’s identity, an employee in a remote location can manually release the door. The audio connections go through the camera and find their way back to the safety station that's running the video management software.  When the call button is pushed on the intercom, the safety station is notified by an alarm sound, and the safety officer can see and talk to the person at the door.  That safety officer can then unlock the door by pushing a button on the computer screen and record the event in the access control system. 

#5. Scalability

Finally there is the matter of scalability. IP systems are ideal for meeting changing needs as new card readers are added, offices are leased or built, and companies complete mergers or acquisitions. Expanding the access control system is as simple as installing the reader and hooking it into the network and, occasionally, installing an additional Ethernet switch.

Since IP systems can be installed anywhere there is a network connection, multiple buildings at the same or remote locations can be connected over a LAN or WAN and easily communicate to the central control software on a computer in one of the buildings.

With this type of system, a business can scale up from one to 1,000 doors per single server by simply adding new readers as needed at a predictable cost per door using the same single cable installation. This takes much of the complexity and about one-third of the cost out of the decision to install or expand a door access system.

For more information, contact ISONAS, Inc., 4720 Walnut St., Suite 200, Boulder, CO 80301. Telephone: 800-581-0083. Web Site: