Genetec's Synergis Master Controller (SMC) - an intelligent IP  door controller
Genetec's Synergis Master Controller (SMC) - an intelligent IP door controller

Addressing longstanding customer demand for non-proprietary access control solutions, the Synergis Master Controller (SMC) from Genetec is a controller that allows users to modernise their security operations, migrate to an IP-based access control solution, while leveraging their networking infrastructure and existing equipment and wiring. The SMC is a key component of Synergis, Genetec’s IP access control solution, which facilitates real-time monitoring of access events and alarms, as well as cardholder management and reporting. When used within Security Center, Genetec's unified security platform, the SMC becomes a catalyst for organisations to evolve to a unified approach for security management. Genetec customers can seamlessly blend their IP video surveillance, access control, license plate recognition, and intrusion monitoring needs within a single unified platform.  "For some time, we'd been wanting to move to a unified security solution for access control and video, but could not afford to waste the significant infrastructure investment we had already made in our access control installation,” states Dick Hamann, Vice President Information Technology and Resources/Chief Information  Officer, Seminole State College of Florida. “What we really needed was a solution that could leverage and take control of our existing equipment. When Synergis Master Controller was brought to our attention, we decided to set up a pilot site to test it in one of our buildings. The SMC exceeded our expectations; we were impressed with how easy the migration was and how well it performed. The success of this pilot essentially clears the path for us to fully migrate the rest of our facility, while also enabling us to take advantage of Security Center video to build a unified system." To help customers speed up deployment time, reduce costs and ensure that their security investment will be protected for years to come, the SMC features native support for non-proprietary access control hardware from Mercury Security and HID Global.  Supported interface modules include the VertX V100, V200 and V300 from HID, and the MR52, MR50, MR16IN and MR16OUT from Mercury. The SMC supports 32 downstream modules, connecting to up to 64 readers, as well as being able to monitor hundreds of zones and alarm points. Both Mercury and HID modules can be supported on the same SMC. Thanks to advanced security functionalities, SMC users can implement greater levels of security to protect their workforce, visitors, and assets. To ensure the highest level of security, communications between the SMC and Synergis software are authenticated and encrypted. Using the SMC's and Security Center’s threat management capabilities, users can quickly respond to changing security conditions and alter the behaviour of their security system accordingly.  Users now have the power to restrict or override physical entry to a specific area, building, or across an entire organization, or can trigger a full lockdown at a moment's notice. As a true IP device with two on-board Gigabit Ethernet ports, the SMC allows users to efficiently leverage their corporate or security network and reuse much of their existing access control infrastructure such as readers, credentials, compatible interface modules, and wiring to transition into a fully IP-based access control system. “Above and beyond offering additional hardware options to our customers and freedom of choice, the SMC will also make it easier and less costly for users wanting to modernize their legacy access control system and move to a unified security platform," says Jimmy Palatsoukas, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Genetec. Genetec also offers its customers access to a full line of enclosures and power supplies, as well as several pre-wired enclosures with the SMC, power supply, HID, and Mercury modules. These off-the-shelf and pre-wired kits help reduce wiring and hardware deployment time. To further simplify the installation process, advanced options available with the SMC allow customers to configure their access control software, doors and SMC units prior to actual installation. DHCP support and an advanced controller discovery tool virtually automate the enrolment process. Maintenance activities such as upgrades and troubleshooting are made easy thanks to an intuitive web interface.

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Access control controllers - Expert commentary

Why security customers should buy products and services from SMBs
Why security customers should buy products and services from SMBs

In 1973, a brilliant economist named E.F. Schumacher wrote a seminal book titled ‘Small Is Beautiful:’ taking an opposing stance to the emergence of globalisation and “bigger is better” industrialism. He described the advantages of smaller companies and smaller scales of production, highlighting the benefits of building our economies around the needs of communities, not corporations. In almost every industry or market that exists in the world today, you're likely to find a difference in size between companies. Whether it’s a global retail chain versus a small family-owned store, a corporate restaurant chain versus a mom-and-pop diner or a small bed and breakfast versus a large hotel chain — each side of the coin presents unique characteristics and advantages in a number of areas. Disparity in physical security industry Customers are drawn to products and services from large enterprises as the big names typically imply stability This disparity very clearly exists in the physical security industry, and differences in the sizes of product manufacturers and service providers could have important implications for the quality and type of the products and services offered. All too often, customers are drawn to products and services from large enterprises, as the big names typically imply stability, extensive product offerings and global reach. And that's not to say that these considerations are unwarranted; one could argue that larger companies have more resources for product development and likely possess the combined expertise and experience to provide a wide range of products and services. But the value that a company’s products and services can bring isn’t necessarily directly related to or dependent on its size. In an age where the common wisdom is to scale up to be more efficient and profitable, it’s interesting to pause and think about some of the possible advantages of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Typically, “small” companies are defined as those with less than 100 employees and “medium” with less than 500. Providing social mobility  Schumacher argued that smaller companies are important engines of economic growth. Indeed, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of 36 member countries that promotes policies for economic and social well-being, SMBs account for 60 to 70 percent of jobs in most OECD countries. Importantly, SMBs provide resilience in that there are often large economic and social impacts when big companies fail. Smaller companies are better for regional economies in general, as earnings stay more local compared to big businesses, which in turn generates additional economic activity. SMBs are also better at providing social mobility for disadvantaged groups by giving them opportunities and enabling them to realise their potential. Smaller companies are often more innovative, bringing to the market novel technologies and solutions such as Cloud, analytics, AI, and IoT New companies introduce new technologies There's no denying the role of start-ups when it comes to innovation. In the security industry, many new technologies (e.g. Cloud, analytics, AI, IoT) are first brought to the market by newer companies. In general, smaller companies’ products and services often have to be as good or better than others to be competitive in the marketplace. They are therefore often more innovative, bringing to the market novel technologies and solutions. And these companies are also more willing to try out other new B2B solutions, while larger companies tend to be more risk-averse. Customer service Aside from the quality of products and services, arguably one of the most important components of a security company’s success is its ability to interact with and provide customers the support that they deserve. Smaller companies are able to excel and stand out to their customers in a number of ways: Customer service. Customers’ perceptions of a product’s quality are influenced by the quality of support, and smaller manufacturers often possess a strong, motivated customer service team that can be relatively more responsive to customers of all sizes, not just the large ones. A superior level of support generally translates into high marks on customer satisfaction, since customers’ issues with products can be resolved promptly. Flexibility. SMBs have a greater capacity to detect and satisfy small market niches. While large companies generally create products and services for large markets, smaller companies deal more directly with their customers, enabling them to meet their needs and offer customised products and services. And this translates to adaptability, as SMBs become responsive to new market trends. By having a pulse on the market, smaller companies have much more flexibility in their supply chain and can adjust much faster in response to changing demand. Decision-making. Smaller companies are much more agile in decision-making, while larger enterprises often suffer from complex, tedious and lengthy decision-making processes. Communication is easier throughout SMBs, as smaller teams enable new ideas to flow and can solve problems faster. Job satisfaction Employees working for SMBs connect more directly with the company's goals and objectives, which in turn increases motivation and job satisfaction Employees working for SMBs connect more directly with the company's goals and objectives, which in turn increases motivation and job satisfaction. SMBs are also generally more connected to local communities and participation in community activities leads to a greater sense of purpose. Additionally, SMBs have a much smaller impact on the environment, which is increasingly becoming an important consideration for today’s employees and customers. Though Schumacher's book takes a much deeper dive into the large global effects of scale on people and profitability, the general impact of a company’s size on its products and services is clear. It’s important for all players in the security industry to remember that the commitment and dedication to product quality can be found in businesses of all sizes. Ensuring safety of people, property and assets Large manufacturers may catch your eye, but small business shouldn’t be forgotten, as they can offer end users a robust set of attributes and benefits. While all security companies are aiming to achieve a common goal of providing safety for people, property and assets, smaller businesses can provide extensive value when it comes to driving the economy, innovating in the industry, providing quality employment and offering superior customer service.

Five cyber security threats your enterprise must address
Five cyber security threats your enterprise must address

By now your organisation should know the drill. To keep your enterprise safe from unauthorised access you take the basic precautions: create strong passwords that are not re-used and are updated frequently, use updated anti-virus software, employ host and network-based intrusion detection and prevention, data encryption, etc. etc. However, complacency has no place in cybersecurity. Hackers are working round-the-clock to outwit your most ardent security professionals. Here are a few specific vulnerabilities that require immediate and constant attention to stay safe in a hostile security world. Protect against burst attacks You may be aware of DDoS, or distributed denial of service attacks. In fact, Cisco writes that these online attacks — where high-volume traffic floods a system’s servers, making web traffic extremely slow — grew 172% in 2016. But in the last few years, Cisco documents how "burst attacks", a type of DDoS attack that floods traffic in short bursts at random times over a prolonged period, has skyrocketed. They claim that in one study, 42% of the companies faced a burst attack in 2017. Burst attacks change vectors throughout an attack, making it difficult to create a signature to block the attack According to Radware, on-premises DDoS protection needs to adapt to counter these often less than one-minute attacks. While the majority of these solutions detect burst attacks, they write that "most of them limit the rate of bad (and legitimate) traffic to a certain threshold, resulting in a high level of false positives." One big challenge is burst attacks change vectors throughout an attack, making it difficult to create a signature to block the attack. They recommend adopting two key solutions: 1) a behavioural DDoS protection system that utilises machine learning algorithms to identify the patterns of burst attacks, and 2) measuring the degree-of-attack (DoA) surface, which looks at the bandwidth or rate of a specific type of traffic and the percentage of a given type of traffic out of the entire distribution of traffic. If an attack rates high in both the bandwidth and percentage parameters, then it gets a high DoA surface score, showing that a burst attack likely occurred. Prioritise network infrastructure Nefarious actors have been exploiting both enterprise level and small/home office and residential routers For companies with in-house information technology staff, network infrastructure usually gets plenty of attention. Proper configuration, maintenance and security are often key considerations for infrastructure due to its importance to the business. What about smaller entities? Do you have a small switch or router you either purchased or leased from your internet service provider? If so, when was the last time you updated it? In Alert TA18-106A, the United States Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) shares information dating all the way back to 2015 on how nefarious actors have been exploiting both enterprise level and small office/home office and residential routers and switches. If you haven’t changed passwords and updated the software/firmware on these devices yet it should be near the top of your priority list. Hide sensitive web pages from search engines Search engines are an easy first step for someone looking to exploit your environment. They can conduct searches of your known web presence, looking for pages which might not have been meant for the general public but are still accessible. Using robots.txt pages can be excluded from search engine crawlers. Entrepreneur.com suggests checking out a tutorial from SEObook.com to learn more about how you can do this. Keep in mind this will only deter the most basic attackers as more sophisticated attackers will conduct manual searches. Update passwords on your IoT devices Data at rest is important, but data in transit is just as important to encrypt, particularly sensitive information It is shocking how many IoT devices are used in our daily lives, such as security and video conference cameras, cars, and smart sensors, but also contraptions you probably forgot are now connected to the internet, such as garage doors, appliances, etc. Tom’s Guide gives a good list of the many things you should remember to update. Use encryption to protect data in transit Encryption your data at rest – when it is stored somewhere – is incredibly important. However, your encryption efforts should not stop there. Data in transit is just as important to encrypt, particularly sensitive information. This could include communication between your websites and applications or even just communications within your company. Unencrypted information is at risk to an eavesdropper on your network. To prevent the data from being usable to potential eavesdroppers, ensure you are using encrypted connections such as HTTPS, SSL, TLS, FTPS, etc.

How to optimise mobile access control authentication with smart devices
How to optimise mobile access control authentication with smart devices

Considering how much the modern smartphone has become a common everyday tool and cultural icon, it’s hard to believe it has only been with us for a relatively short space of time. The first Apple iPhone was launched in 2007 and yet in a little over a decade the smartphone has become as essential as our keys or wallet. From its conception as a multi-faceted communications device, it has morphed into something far more integrated in our daily lives. Services such as Apple Pay, Android Pay and PayPal have seen the smartphone become a credible replacement for cash and cash cards, but equally, it is possible to replace access cards and keys as well.Smartphones can easily receive authentication credentials remotely and access can be confirmed or denied instantly The ability to accurately authenticate an individual and the applications this offers for security purposes, is something that the security industry needs to continue to embrace and further promote to our customers. Considerable advantages Most security professionals understand the potential benefits of using mobile device authentication, with flexibility being the key advantage. Smartphones can easily receive authentication credentials remotely and access can be confirmed or denied instantly. Equally, smartphones already contain many secure options to ensure they are only used by the authorised user – fingerprint and face recognition, as well as pattern authentication and PIN, being prime examples. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of awareness amongst some security operators, customers and the public of these exciting benefits. Potentially there may also be some reluctance, in certain quarters, to trusting a mobile device with physical security. A lack of trust in seemingly ‘unproven’ technology is not unusual, but the security industry needs to demonstrate reliability along with the considerable security and convenience benefits of using it. Trusted part of security network Many smart devices already securely bind the mobile device with the right person by using 2-factor authenticationMobile device security needs to earn its trust, in much the same way as any other new ground-breaking application. In fairness to the doubters, it’s not hard to imagine how much of a risk a badly protected mobile device could be to any secure network! There are two key obstacles that smartphones need to clear before they can become a trusted part of the security network though. Firstly, that they are secure enough to be trusted as part of a security network, and secondly that they can reliably identify an authorised user in a real-world environment. Many smart devices already securely bind the mobile device with the right person by using 2-factor authentication. For example, this could combine a PIN code with the fingerprint or face of the authorised individual. In areas with particularly high security, you could also implement a wall-mounted biometric reader (fingerprint, facial recognition or iris scan) to add a further level of protection and ensure there is no wrongful use of the mobile device. Security tokens or access cards are typically rigid in their programming, only allowing access to certain areas Security by location With its many and varied functions, undoubtedly one of the most useful systems on any smartphone is its GPS location tracking. It’s also a perfect tool to assist with security systems interaction.A benefit of using smart device authentication is the cost savings over operating traditional tokens Consider any secure facility – it will feature different levels of access. This can vary from a humble canteen and break-out areas, right through to secured doors around potentially dangerous or highly sensitive areas - such as plant rooms, or even a nuclear facility! Security tokens or access cards are typically rigid in their programming, only allowing access to certain areas. A smartphone, however, can be granted or denied access depending on the location of the request by the individual – GPS literally adds a level of extra intelligence to security. Personal items Using QR codes seem to be a simple but reliable identity and access control authentication option Mobile devices tend to be guarded and protected with the same concern as your money or your keys. Many of us literally carry our mobile device everywhere with us, so they are relatively unlikely to be misplaced or lost – certainly in comparison to a key card for example. Also, think about how often you use or hold your smartphone – some estimates suggest 2,600 times each day! With that level of interaction, you’ll be aware very quickly if it’s been misplaced, not least because of the inconvenience and cost to replace it. This level of personal connection makes it perfect for use with security systems. Cost savings Another obvious benefit of using smart device authentication is the cost savings over operating traditional tokens. No more plastic badges, access cards, lanyards, printers and consumables used to administer security. This is something the security industry really needs to shout about! It will come as no surprise to hear that smartphones are exceptionally common too. Figures suggest that in 2015 there were nearly 41m in use in the UK and this is predicted to rise to 54m by 2022. With the UK population being just over 65m, that is a very high percentage of people already carrying this technology. Using a resource that people already have, and which is highly secure, makes unquestionable financial as well as practical sense. GPS location tracking is a perfect tool to assist with security systems interaction Integrated technology Agreeing on common and shared open protocols has unfortunately been one of the stumbling blocks for the security industry in adapting to a predominantly smartphone authentication approach. NFC (Near Field Communications) technology in mobile phones and smart devices has failed to be the universal success it promised.Not everyone has an iPhone, but it is such an important segment of the market for customers Mobile technology trends have dictated to the systems that use it. Apple’s earlier (Pre iOS 11) decision to restrict the use of NFC to Apple Pay on its devices has had a profound effect on the implementation of NFC in other applications too. Not everyone has an iPhone, but it is such an important segment of the market that other manufacturers are wary of how customers will be able to use any new technology. We have seen a much bigger focus on using Bluetooth Low Energy technology on mobile devices instead. With providers such as HID Global, STid in France and Nedap in the Netherlands now concentrating on developing Bluetooth Low Energy readers and mobile credential applications, this seems like a highly credible alternative. Along with NFC and Bluetooth Low Energy options, there also seems to be a lot of interest in using QR codes as simple but reliable identity and access control authentication. These can easily be displayed on a screen or printed if necessary, giving great flexibility over the type of technology that is used in the future. Upgrading existing security systems There are strong arguments for many businesses to continue using MIFARE+ systems if they suit operations well We are steadily seeing the signs of smartphone authentication replacing the cards and tokens we have been familiar with. However, many consumers still want options rather than to just be railroaded down one path. A business that has invested in cards or tokens will want to use that technology investment fully. The changes will come when readers are updated – this is when security specifiers and installers need to promote the advantages of dual-technology readers, which offer options to include smartphone authentication into the mix. There is still considerable diversity amongst smart devices, the operating systems they use, and the security technology employed by each. Android, Apple iOS and Blackberry devices all vary with regards to the biometric authentication available, so security administrators may need to be flexible on the types of authentication they accept. Interestingly, card technology has also progressed at an astonishing speed too – with MIFARE+ proving to be a highly cost-effective, practical and secure system that can easily be integrated. There are strong arguments for many businesses to continue using these systems if they suit operations well. NFC (Near Field Communications) technology in mobile phones and smart devices has failed to be the universal success it promised Hybrid systems A hybrid approach may be the best answer for many security operators. This means those who choose to enjoy the benefits in terms of flexibility and convenience of smartphone authentication can do so, whilst those who are more hesitant can continue to use more traditional methods. A hybrid approach may be the best answer for many security operators Larger organisations may find that the swap over is a slower and more gradual process, whilst smaller start-up businesses may prefer to jump to a smartphone-based approach straight away. If security systems are well integrated but modular in their approach, then it becomes much simpler to evolve as time goes on. Embracing the benefits Using their app-based systems architecture, smartphones are ideally placed to evolve with security systems in the future. There are many benefits for the security industry and our customers, but we need to remember that this move will involve a culture change for many security operators and users. The security industry needs to be mindful and respectful of any anxiety, but also be positive and promote the considerable benefits mobile authentication offers.