Recent developments in door opening technology have empowered today’s security directors to play a neat trick. Walk into a building, any building—a corporate office, a hospital, a school. Now select a door, any door. Look at the assets behind that door. Voila: an opening technology is available to match the exact security risks and needs for that specific door.
This is pretty mind blowing if you think back just a few short years ago when the only options for securing a door—regardless of the assets under protection—were either a relatively expensive hardwired, online access control system or a simple mechanical lock and key. Medium security openings that fell in the middle of this spectrum left security directors with the difficult choice of under-securing or sometimes over-securing and over-paying for a door.
Today, you’ve got options in this world of ‘medium security’. And best of all, especially in our tepid global economic climate, they don’t have to cost you a fortune. It’s now possible to implement varying degrees of access control at each opening that mesh together and operate seamlessly with the enterprise access control system to create a fully secure facility. All of this is possible thanks to innovation in a place you may not have been expecting it: the humble lock.
To understand the capabilities of this new class of locks, it’s helpful to look to the past. For years, traditional access control systems consisted of a host computer connected to controllers that connected to electrified locking hardware. The host computer, usually located in a security office, serves as the brains of the system and links to the controllers through long runs of wiring often dedicated to the security system. Additional runs of proprietary wiring then connect a controller with hardware components on multiple doorways.
Lock manufacturers originally offered an alternative in the form of a PDA programmed lock. Sure, these locks were relatively inexpensive, but generally required proprietary lock software and lots of ‘sneaker power’, as guards had to run from door to door to get transactions or change access rights.
Technology marched on and wireless technologies enabled locks to communicate with panels wirelessly, which brought many of the features of online access control to a lower cost than a wired opening. Not only were these ‘wire free’ openings less expensive to deploy, they can work with the same enterprise access control software that manages the online wired openings. Some of the savings come from fewer wire runs to the door, and other savings come from the integrated designs of locks where readers, REX, DPS and locking devices were integrated into a single device with about an hour of installation.
The next evolution was to tie locks into the existing IP network infrastructure to lower cost even further by avoiding the need for proprietary hubs and access control panels. Using smarter locks (essentially the panel is in the lock) and standard Wi-Fi access points, access control can be added for roughly 50% of the cost of wired access control per opening. Other variations use the same IP-based technology as your VOIP phone. Power Over Ethernet locks give end users full, real-time access control with all the same features you get with traditional access control for about 75% of the cost and you still get to control the lock from your favorite enterprise access control system.
Of course, not every opening requires the level of security delivered by online connectivity. But there may still be a desire to frequently change access rights, control the hour each person can access the door and/or track the door access history.
The least disruptive way to achieve this level of offline access control is with an electronic cylinder that fits directly into the existing lock. The cylinder can be programmed to allow access only to specific key holders and can be interrogated to determine who opened a door and at what time. If key control is compromised by a lost or stolen key, the cylinder can be reprogrammed to shut out that missing key. This eliminates the need for replacing cylinders or reissuing keys to a large-scale building population. Electronic cylinders can be used in a very wide variety of applications including cylinders, cam locks, cabinet locks and padlocks.
Keypad locks also fit into the category of offline access control. Like electronic cylinders, keypad locks can be re-keyed electronically. Codes can be changed on the fly if there are any concerns about who has access to different areas of a building. Keypads also have a convenience benefit; not all applications require a key. If the primary concern is controlling traffic to a particular area—say a bathroom door in a commercial building—it may be inconvenient to keep issuing keys to people coming in and out of that building. However, a code can be issued that provides a low-level, but more convenient type of security.
The available options for controlling access to medium security doors is at an all time high. By combining components, leveraging existing network infrastructure, and emphasizing convenience features, modern technology has created a much broader set of products than $300 mechanical locks or $3,000 online access-controlled openings. This allows for the selection of the right product to provide the right level of security within a given budget.
Martin Huddart is Vice President of Electronic Access Control at ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions