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Costs, usability, and support among access control challenges

Video is often most valuable after an incident has occurred rather than as a proactive agent

Access control can sometimes get overshadowed by video surveillance

Technology is shifting rapidly in the access control market, but another obstacle is the need to communicate the value of the technology to users. Specifically, access control can sometimes get overshadowed by video surveillanceas it competes for a share of the customer’s security dollars.

From a pure security standpoint, electronic access control is better suited than video surveillance to keeping people and locations safe, either by deterring, presenting or immediately reporting an incident, contends Richard Goldsobel, vice president, Continental Access.

“The value of video to provide information and diagnosis is undeniable,” Goldsobel acknowledges. “However, video is often most valuable after an incident has occurred rather than as a proactive agent. Given the choice, the vast majority of end users choose video over access control. There needs to be a better understanding of the proper balance between the systems. It is an industry education and marketing challenge.”

Another challenge for access control is to embrace and leverage new mobile devices and other consumer-driven trends. “We will see a strong push from the quick acceleration of technologies in the consumer space,” says Jeremy Krinitt, general manager of Frontier Security. Mobile devices will continue to impact how security solutions are used and managed, he adds.

In many cases currently, mobile systems have a limited feature set. “The key to the accessibility and seamless operability that end users want is for manufacturers to make the same features available in the mobile version of the product that are available in the fixed version,” says John L. Moss, CEO of S2 Security.

“We’ll also see a strong push to make information [provided by access control systems] more relevant to users of a solution,” says Krinitt. It is critical that each solution help to focus the user on items that require immediate attention. Krinitt compares the challenge to a similar trend in the video market. “Use of banks of video monitors showing views from multiple cameras is largely being scrapped in favour of a single monitor that brings up video when it warrants the operator’s attention,” he says. The same approach should be applied to access control and other areas of monitoring and response as well. “The elements in the management of an alarm can be assisted by technology to provide a more prompt and effective response,” says Krinitt.

Historically, it has been difficult to cost-justify additional doors, but new wireless electronic locks are providing new opportunities
The more doors that are access-controlled, the better

Costs are another challenge for access control. “End users can’t afford everything they would like to have,” says Greg Love, vice president of sales, AMAG. “The market needs to meet that challenge by offering products that can grow with the customer, letting them start small and then build on the system.”

“The market also needs to work on ways to lower the cost-per-door of access control installations,” says John Smith, senior channel marketing manager, Honeywell Security. Edge-based devices and use of power over Ethernet (PoE) are ways to do it. One PoE cable to each door reduces labour and material costs inherent in multiple wire runs. Wireless formats also lower installation costs. “Now we drop the price of the door, lower the installation costs, lower the amount of wire,” he says. 

Here are some other challenges for the access control market, as mentioned by suppliers:

Technology support at the reader

Technology shifts at the reader level can be a difficult pain point that requires visiting each reader to update firmware and can prove costly to the customer, says Jason Ouellette, product line director, access control, for Tyco Security. Moving forward, technology and standards such as the open security device protocol (OSDP) for readers will support the distribution of firmware updates for physical access control systems so that these updates can be controlled from the server, thus reducing cost, installation time and speeding up delivery of enhanced solutions to the customer. (Another supplier, AMAG, uses a 20 milliamp MultiNode Current Loop Protocol [MCLP] to provide bi-directional communication at greater distances and send a data stream to the reader.)

Incorporating new features

When adding new capabilities to a platform as complex as an access control solution, how that capability is implemented is as critical as the capability itself, says Krinitt. When presented with a new feature, customers might find that it does not meet their specific needs or is a significant challenge to use in day-to-day operations. When a feature is added to a solution, it makes a great addition to the checklist. However, there is also a need to understand the user and how they use the solution, Krinitt notes.

Ease of use by “casual” users

The need for security is increasing globally, yet customers are more cost-conscious than ever when it comes to their security system and their business as a whole. In many cases, the security system administrator also has many other tasks to perform in addition to security, says Ouellette of Tyco Security. The combination of these everyday realities creates a need for simple, quick-to-install and intuitive solutions that do not require a lot of training or support and can be used by an administrator who perhaps does not use the system on a daily basis, he says.

Adding more doors

From a dealer’s perspective, the more doors that are access-controlled, the better. “But how do we get more wallet share at a customer’s site?” asks Smith of Honeywell. Currently, maybe a front and back door or maybe a few office or server room doors are controlled, but little else. Many important doors, whether storage rooms, R&D labs, conference rooms, the president’s office, etc., are not being controlled (except by mechanical locks). Historically, it has been difficult to cost-justify additional doors, but new wireless electronic locks that can communicate with an access control system are providing new opportunities.

How do organisations prevent
the compromise of electronic
access control systems and
related devices from hackers?

Need for tighter integration with video

End users want to use integrated video as metadata for personal identification. Tight integration of access control and video enables security to easily identify a person when access is granted or denied without going to a separate user interface, says Moss of S2 Security.

Threats from cyber-terrorism

The convergence of physical and logical security makes cyber-terrorism a growing concern, says Moss. “How do organisations prevent the compromise of electronic access control systems and related devices from hackers?” he wonders. Moss says all organisations should assess risks and develop a security policy. At a basic level, emphasis should be on preventative measures such as backing up data, securing the network with passwords and firewalls, and using up-to-date antivirus software to regularly check and eliminate problems. Organisations should also educate their employees about threats such as phishing and other cyber-attacks. Limiting users and logins to critical systems, as well as connecting virtual networks to physical systems, can reduce vulnerabilities, says Moss. Larger organisations have the resources to proactively monitor their vulnerabilities and current and emerging technologies to address new concerns. Problems should be reported immediately. At a broader level, cooperation among national security, law enforcement and even hackers can help identify issues.

Implementation and management

Solutions should be designed to take the guesswork out of implementation by integrators, says Krinitt. Integrators are often dealing with a wide variety of technologies and may be concurrently supporting multiple access control platforms, as well as other hardware and software solutions. Simplified installation may not receive much attention in the industry, but it does have a significant impact on end users. “If you have ever had an integrator show up to implement a solution and be unable to do so on the first visit, then you’ve experienced the impact of this challenge,” he says. Beyond not meeting the expectations of the end user, the problem also undermines the integrator’s goals to provide effective service to customers.

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