Emerging Trends in Access Control

Nov. 3, 2014
Wireless technology, biometrics including dual-factor authentification and the implementation of electronic access control on secondary (interior) openings are among the trends expected to continue through 2015

For those of us involved in the security industry, the best way to predict the future is to identify emerging trends. For most of us we do what is necessary to keep up with the competition and respond to our client’s requests. For those with the pioneering spirit, the spark of inspiration and the desire to succeed fosters entrepreneurial ventures and new solutions.

A little knowledge of the history of our industry is helpful, if for no other reason than to help us avoid past mistakes. A trend is defined by a combination of market demand, available technologies and solutions, and effective delivery solution.

I entered into the access control/security industry in 1976 in the design/manufacturing sector, broadened out into sales, then service and marketing, partially to satisfy my curiosity but largely to meet the demands of the job  and pay the mortgage. Back then the jobsite was the classroom and installation instructions were the textbooks. As a long-term contributor to The Locksmith Ledger while also being actively involved in various capacities within the security industry, I have a sort of global perspective.

When we decided to an article on emerging trends, I sent out the question: “What do you see as the emerging trends in access control?” Here is my list of emerging trends, followed by responses from some industry leaders.

Convergence of EAC from passive door control towards pro-active security functionality. The role of access control is expanding to functions which begin before the individual arrives at the door and involves more than the decision of whether or not to grant access.

Increased implementation in markets/applications: corporate, transportation, retail, education and transportation.

Improved multi-factor authentication: better technology.

Transitions in credentials; (prox, multi-tech, multi-application, smartcards, smartkeys, smartphones, biometrics). Early credentials were encoded by imbedded magnets, wires, and magnetic stripes. Embedded wires and magnetic stripes persist, but with the onslaught of cybercrime, we may be moving into a new era.

Integrating solutions: standalones, reader/electric locking device

Converging infrastructures: hard-wired, wi-fi, z-wave, RS-485 infrastructures.The various system components now typically bridge across protocols on very low power to achieve seamless interfacing.

Combining EAC with video analytics. Cameras have morphed into imaging devices processed by algorithms to open up functionalities which barely made wish lists before reaching fruition.

Running applications and devices over non-proprietary infrastructure, lowering installation costs but requiring enhance encryption. Earlier on, system elements highly proprietary and manufacturers were territorial about their technology. One company’s credential would work with only a certain reader. Management software came preinstalled on dedicated hardware. Then the industry shifted to open architecture using brand name PCs and network protocols. This brought down the cost of EAC drastically and dramatically increased potential. Fast forward to this era and companies promote their products by promising interoperability and open platform/ open architecture.

Tightening of system pricing as system features become more subject to codes. Building Codes are increasingly addressing requirements for systems and the qualifications for those installing them. The more they do, the fewer opportunities, as system designs will become boilerplate; bidding will become filling in the blanks with the lowest number, and only larger installers will be able to afford the training licensing and insurance requirements.

Zwipe: Dual-Factor Authentication

Zwipe biometric cards can provide the enhanced security benefits of two-factor biometric authentication without any changes to an existing access control system software or readers.

"All of the recent news reports about the mishandling and hacking of card information has made both consumers and institutions more leery of using a card only to verify the card holder. There is an increasing demand for an affordable way to use biometrics to authenticate the card holder without having to replace already-installed card readers and equipment. By placing the biometric reader on the contactless card itself and using the legacy smart card reader to read it, a biometric card meets both objectives,” commented Zwipe CEO Kim Humborstad.

Privacy has become a huge issue, along with concerns that biometric data could be stored and distributed.  “ Fingerprint data is captured by the on-card fingerprint scanner and is thereafter encrypted and stored only inside the card. No exchange of data is conducted with external systems. This provides secure template management since the fingerprint never leaves the card. It also eliminates user concerns with privacy issues. The card is unique to the user and only the authorized card holder can activate card communication with the reader," Humborstad said.

New features have been added on customer input gathered since the ISC West trade show, noted Robert M. Fee, Zwipe’s director of sales. These include:

1. Support any existing or new, HF or LF card platform including: iClass, 125kHz Prox, Mifare Classic, DESFire EV1, Legic prime and Legic advant.

“Sixty percent to 70% of the existing access control market is using 125kHz proximity RF technology from companies such as HID Global, Allegion, Farpointe Data, SecuraKey, and AWID. The new Zwipe Access will be 100% compatible with these legacy Prox systems,” Fee said. “Working with proximity readers now lets more end-user use biometrics on high security openings, such as a hospital pharmacy, IT server room or special research lab, without having to upgrade their proximity readers for biometric readers.”  

2. Replaceable battery: Standard coin cell battery can be easily replaced by the user.

3. New fingerprint sensor increasing quality of fingerprint enrollment and authentication.

4. Clamshell design allowing use of a lanyard for easier display.

5 Smooth backside for personalization of the card via a pressure sensitive label (employee name, photo, department, etc.)

6. De-enrollment of an existing fingerprint allows the card to be re-issued to a new employee (controlled by a license for security purposes)

ADI: Integrated Technologies

ADI Distribution is a largest low voltage distributors, offering products for security, life safety, fire, communications, networking home automation, tools and video.

Michael Flink President, ADI Americas offers his opinion to our trends question with:

Web-based access control solutions continue to be popular. Web-based access control allows dealers to utilize existing network infrastructure to save time and labor on the installation and the web interface eliminates the need for a dedicated PC, unless there are higher security requirements.

Products like Honeywell’s NetAXS-123 have been well received as they offer the scalability to easily and affordably expand the system one door at a time based on the customer needs.

The integration of video surveillance and access control has become more mainstream with the adoption of IP. Security professionals are able to provide a comprehensive security system for video surveillance and access control that allows users to get more out of one interface. More VMS systems, like Exacq, ONSSI and Milestone, are offering seamless integration of video with access control products.

Technology manufacturers have partnered up and invested a lot of time and resources to make sure the systems integrate properly, and the shared application programming interface makes it easy to write simple code for custom integration, which in most instances the vendors have already taken care of.

We are also seeing the integration of video surveillance and access control increasing more now in the mid-low end platforms, where in the past it was primarily in larger level installations. As technology becomes more economical, dealers are able to offer integrated systems to organizations of all sizes with different needs and requirements.

Wireless access control solutions are gaining more popularity. Using wireless networks, these technologies offer a less complex, easier to install and cost effective alternative to traditional wired access control systems. With the improvements in wireless technology and no need to pull wires to install these products, dealers are adding these solutions to their offering. Wireless access control offers the perfect solution for outside gated areas, plenum environments and retrofit installations.

Access control solutions that can be managed from a smartphone or tablet app have widely accepted by users. Users like to be able to see and control their system from their smartphone, and instant information delivered to the end user’s phone offers a great safety and security feature.

The use of smartphone interfaces and Near Field Communications for access control credentials will become an emerging trend across the market. Manufacturers are working on new technologies that offer these capabilities, and we will soon see keypads, cards and readers, and biometric solutions being replaced by products that communicate through smartphones. Users will embrace smartphone access control as it offers security and convenience.”

Allegion: Wireless

Rick White, ‎Vice President, Sales and Field Marketing, Americas at Allegion US. Provided his take on trends:

I think the greatest opportunity is expanding electronic access control beyond the standard applications of the perimeter. For instance, consider the president’s office, the data room, the utilities room, labs and other areas. 

Developed specifically for facilities that want to upgrade from mechanical locks and keys to electronic credentials for improved security and efficiency, new standalone wireless locks are ideal for interior office doors, common area doors and sensitive storage spaces at a fraction of the cost of traditional EAC. Programming is easy. All the administrator needs is a lock and a download a free mobile app. 

Since 90 percent of the openings in the market are still purely mechanically managed, just think how easy it would be to add two to four more doors per job by promoting electronic solutions. That could generate between a 15-20 percent increase in revenue without installing  more projects than before, without finding and winning any more customers and without driving to any additional sites.”

Clark Security: Access Control For Small Businesses

Clark Security (a division of Anixter) is a leading wholesale distributor of security products: door hardware, key systems, CCTV, and electronic access control.

Joe Rigby, National EAC Strategy Manager for Clark Security and has been with Clark since 1991.Here is his response.

 “Electronic access control is the fastest growing form of electronic security—both in innovation and demand. CLARK supports many brands on the leading edge of EAC that are creating innovative, robust EAC systems and technology that are more intelligent and less complex to install and maintain. They are also less expensive.  

This is good news for the general public. Thanks in large part to smart phones bringing awareness to security technology trends like biometric locks, people know that more secure schools, malls, hospitals, offices, and homes are literally within reach. The driving force behind this surge in security innovation is a tech-savvy and too often grieving public that expects and demands the security industry to provide smarter technology with more control—innovations that will curb the trend of public massacres that has escalated over the past decade.

This is good news for small business. In the past, large enterprises have been the ones who could afford electronic access control systems. As the technology improves, becoming more robust and less expensive, smaller businesses can afford EAC.

This is good news for the security professional.

As demand for electronic is shifting from large enterprises to the general public and small- to mid-size business, in the electronic industry overall the national average number of doors for an electronic system is also shifting from large office buildings with many doors to smaller buildings with 7 to 10 doors.

EAC systems are getting smaller to fit the demands of the smaller business owner. This shift opens up electronic access control business: installation work that once belonged primarily to integrators is now attainable to dealers who service small-to mid- business in retail, smaller office buildings, and the hospitality industry.

CLARK will continue to partner with our suppliers and security professionals to meet the demands of the market. This remains a mix of door hardware, key systems, CCTV, and, in rising numbers, electronic access control products and solutions. And we support these solutions with the technical expertise and security education to help locksmiths secure their communities and facilities, as we have for over 60 years.

Cansec: Fingerprint Readers Go Mainstream

Cansec is one of the largest and best respected independent manufacturers of access control. Their objective is to make installation and operation of their systems as streamlined as possible. Here is our response from Cansec President Fred Dawber:

“One of the largest trends I am seeing is the use of fingerprint verification readers - FINALLY!  No one has ever questioned the huge security benefit that biometric identification has over PINs and cards.  You can disclose you PIN and loan your card but you cannot loan your fingerprint or other unique biometric attribute.

Fingerprint verification readers have been around for at least 20 years in one form or another.  So why are they not in broad general use today in the commercial access control market?  There are four major reasons;

  1. They were too expensive

2.Their performance was unacceptable

3.They were not designed to play nice with standard access control panels

4.Template management was problematic

This is finally changing.  As more manufacturers enter the market, competition is driving the cost of these products down.

The sensors used in fingerprint readers keep getting better and, perhaps more importantly, the algorithms have become very sophisticated.  In addition, the raw horsepower of the embedded processors used in these devices allows these algorithms to run at incredible speed.

The net result of these advances is that these devices have become far more "forgiving" than they have ever beenThey will work reliably for the average commercial user, who is generally in a hurry and cannot be bothered with having to interact with these devices with the discipline which was historically required.

To facilitate upgrading from conventional prox readers to fingerprint readers, they are being made to fully emulate a prox reader including power requirements and support for LEDs and audible beepers.  This literally allows an upgrade from prox to fingerprint to be performed in five minutes.  No changes to wiring.  No changes to the installed access control panels.  No changes to the host access control software.

Lastly, proximity access cards such as iClass and Mifare which have secure read/write capability are now becoming widely used and cost effective.  This allows each user to carry their fingerprint template with them on their card rather than having it stored in every fingerprint reader they will be using.