Access control controllers - Expert commentary

Video intercoms for a smarter, safer workspace
Video intercoms for a smarter, safer workspace

Though many office workers across the globe have found themselves working remotely for the past year, we are seeing a bit of a silver lining, as vaccine rollouts hint at a return to some pre-pandemic sense of normalcy. However, while some of us might opt for a fully-remote work life, others are anticipating a hybrid solution. Even before the pandemic, offices were taking a new, more open layout approach—moving past the days of cubicles and small office configurations. Going forward, offices and other workspaces will be tasked with supporting a hybrid work solution, as well as increasing hygiene measures. Video intercom solution This is where an IP video intercom solution can assist. Below are four ways they can help usher in a smarter, safer work environment: Video intercoms assist in creating a more hygienic work environment - The outbreak of COVID-19 has raised awareness of germs and just how easily a virus can be transmitted by face-to-face contact. Germ barriers are popping up in many aspects of our daily lives, where we were not likely to see them before Unfortunately, the door is also the easiest of these germ barriers to breach As such, we’re becoming accustomed to seeing plexiglass barriers at restaurants, grocery stores, and even coffee shops. However, many don’t realise that one of the best germ barriers is a simple door. Unfortunately, the door is also the easiest of these germ barriers to breach. All it takes is a knock or a doorbell ring to make us open our germ barrier and be face-to-face with whomever is on the other side. Increasing hygiene safety A simple step to increase hygiene safety and visitor security in commercial buildings and workspaces is an IP video intercom. Installing a video intercom will allow staff to see and speak with visitors without breaching that all-important germ barrier. A video intercom system provides a first line of defence, enabling the user to visually confirm the identity of the person on the other side of the door first before granting access. It can also be used to make sure proper procedures are being followed before a person is allowed to enter, such as using hand sanitiser, wearing a mask, and following social distancing guidelines. Basic security needs A major topic of conversation the past year has been how to manage occupancy in all facilities Video intercoms for occupancy management and basic security - A major topic of conversation the past year has been how to manage occupancy in all facilities—ranging from grocery stores and retail shops to restaurants and commercial buildings. Workspaces and offices are no exception. A video intercom provides a quick and convenient method of seeing who, or what, is on the unsecure side of the door before opening. For basic security needs, if a business has a door opening into an alley, a video intercom would be used to ensure no one is waiting outside to force their way in when the door is opened. Personal protection equipment Such solutions can also be used to ensure a person is carrying proper credentials, or wearing proper personal protection equipment (PPE), before entering a sensitive area. For example, if a lab has a room which can only be accessed by two persons at a time wearing specific protective gear, a video intercom could ensure each person is properly equipped, before allowing access that particular room. Additionally, for office or workspaces that have shared common areas, such as a cafeteria, gym or even conference rooms, managing access to these spaces will remain a priority, especially with post-pandemic restrictions in place. Video intercoms are a comprehensive safety and security tool for any workspace Deliveries of packages, work-related materials, or even food are common in any office or workspace. Video intercoms can assist in facilitating safe deliveries by visually and audibly confirming the identity of the individual. The visitor could be your next big client, your lunch delivery, a fellow employee with a faulty access card, or your mail. Video intercoms are a comprehensive safety and security tool for any workspace. Visitor management systems Video intercoms provide a cost-effective solution in small to mid-sized office facilities - One significant advantage of video intercom systems is the variety of applications available. Systems range from simple one-to-one video intercoms, to buzz-in systems, to full-fledged visitor management systems in mixed-use buildings. While they might lack the resources and manpower many enterprises have, small-to medium-sized offices can also take steps to ensure the safety of their staff and customers. Like any business, controlling who comes into the building is a primary way of maintaining safety. Video intercoms work in conjunction with access control systems to provide an identifying view of visitors or employees with lost or missing credentials. They allow staff to both see and hear those on the unsecured side of the door to determine intent before granting access. Most quality video intercoms will provide a clear enough image to allow an identification card to be read by holding it close to the lens, adding another opportunity to verify identity. Touchless intercom activation One major trend is the option of providing a touchless door activation Video intercoms provide a touchless option - Even prior to COVID-19, one major trend is the option of providing a touchless door activation or touchless intercom activation of a video intercom for those without proper credentials. Though touchless isn’t a new solution to the access control market, the pandemic introduced a renewed focus on these types of solutions to provide hygienic access to visitors. For offices and other workspaces looking to make investments into post-pandemic solutions to assist in reopening, touchless can support these efforts. When it comes to smart, secure workspaces, many people think instantly of cameras or monitors, access control, and alarm systems. Proper access credentials However, video intercoms are often the missing piece of a building’s security puzzle. A video intercom provides an identifying view that is not always available from a camera covering a large area. They allow those without proper access credentials a method of requesting entry, and just like cameras, they can be activated by alarms to allow staff to clearly see and communicate. If a workspace or office is important enough to be secure, it’s important enough to be sure of who is there before the door is opened. In 2021, it’s not enough to ensure the physical security of your staff and visitors, but also to ensure they are accessing a hygienic environment. Video intercoms provide that security and peace of mind.

Physical security in 2021: Post-pandemic solutions
Physical security in 2021: Post-pandemic solutions

In a world forever changed by the coronavirus pandemic, companies worldwide are now expanding their concept of physical security to best safeguard their facilities and employees. Few incidents have had as much of an impact on businesses globally as the COVID-19 pandemic; much of the world is still struggling to contain COVID-19, navigating the lasting effects and exploring what the “new normal” looks like. While some organisations are still engaged primarily in “anywhere operations”, i.e. remote work, many organisations are implementing strategic physical security solutions that better protect everyone through the use of video surveillance technology and advanced intelligence capabilities. As this new normal takes hold within the business environment, security strategies will largely be centered around several key initiatives like access control, people counting, occupancy controls, temperature screening, contact tracing, and reducing office touch points. With the use of a video management system (VMS) in the shadow of COVID-19, occupancy data from a VMS can trigger a lockdown and not permit new entrants until the occupancy drops below a certain threshold; this is significantly useful for organisations that have returned to in-person work.  But there’s a caveat: though many legacy security systems are being re-evaluated to allow for touchless or frictionless access control — a move designed to eliminate the need for employees and visitors to physically touch a surface when using an access control system — upgrading the outdated technologies can be cumbersome and expensive, especially for organizations that had not planned for an interruption like the pandemic. Security contractors will be vital So, what is the solution? Security contractors will play a vital role in helping end-users across a range of vertical markets — large and small — to achieve their goals in the new paradigm. For some, this may mean leveraging existing access control and video surveillance systems with upgrades where needed. For others, an entire overhaul is made possible with budget friendly solutions for businesses to migrate to integrated access control through end-to-end security solutions that tie into existing infrastructures without major disruptions (meaning the organisation will never be left vulnerable). Cybersecurity is becoming even more intertwined with physical security There is massive transformation occurring in the security industry, most notably the movement to digitise physical access and integrate it with video management systems and surveillance. This shift means that cybersecurity is becoming even more intertwined with physical security, allowing organisations the ability to correlate the metadata of people’s behaviors and activities — a plus point for those looking to remain vigilant against future pandemic-esque business interruptions. Access, video, and audio are converging into consolidated platforms. Due to lower costs and pairings with IP-based, wireless infrastructure, there are infinite solution configurations. IT security requirements are beginning to apply to physical security because of this integrated infrastructure. Multi-factor authentication The security industry is also beginning to see a trend of multi-factor authentication, which is going to dominate in the days to come as it makes solutions more reliable. Most people carry smartphones these days, which have green check communication capabilities that allow easy multi-factor authentication. Costs are going down, and algorithms are getting better, making more people willing to try it. Some new solutions have both the fingerprint reader and a camera for facial biometrics Some new solutions have both the fingerprint reader and a camera for facial biometrics. Cameras and CCD modules cost almost nothing, and they do not have to be super high-end anymore, especially if organisations are doing one-to-one verification. It’s not just about security now; it is security, health, and safety. Access control with video, intelligent readers, and credentials is a perfect platform for next generation solutions.

Access control and door entry management: How technology is driving change
Access control and door entry management: How technology is driving change

Access control and door entry is a huge responsibility, and challenge, for local authorities and housing associations UK wide. For councils, they’re accountable for the security and safety of many public facilities such as leisure centres, libraries as well as residential housing developments which are often large scale and home to hundreds of people. Housing associations manage affordable rental housing which also means they’re responsible for the appropriate access control management for each individual house or flat. Technology developments have enabled better entry systems that are far more secure yet also more convenient and easier to manage. For example, with modern intercom and access control systems, remote management and communication is something that offers local authorities and housing associations features that enable them to reduce costs and cut their carbon footprints by managing multiple sites from one place. On the other hand, such technological innovation has meant that local authority and housing association specifiers and consultants now have a wide range of systems and products to choose from which can cause issues in ensuring the right system for a specific building or development is chosen. Choosing an appropritate access control system In choosing an appropriate system, local authorities and housing associations need to opt for a cost effective solution that can be easily maintained with excellent support from the manufacturer and guarantees that the system and system parts will remain supported for the duration of its expected life cycle. It is also important that the chosen system is flexible to cater for the varying needs of the tenants and visitors. Of increasing importance is the reduction of anti-social behaviour which new technology can help by providing the use of data loggers which track the use and events of a door entry system, allowing specific evidence to be located by integrating with CCTV. Using technology to our advantage Through advancements in management systems and services, we can gain a much better visual representation of the events and general usage of an intercom entry system and not just its proximity access control. Systems, for example, can now send email alarms or notifications to the administrator or management. We are now able to modify user rights and access levels on the go from a mobile app which enables a much greater control over service and maintenance engineers, such as making sure they have full access when required via an app, rather than arriving to site with the incorrect keys or access fob. Systems, for example, can now send email alarms or notifications to the administrator or management Dealing with tenant’s lost and stolen keys has never been so easy either. The blocking or deletion of lost fobs and adding a new fob can be carried out in minutes while at the same time removing the cost of sending an engineer to the development to programme new fobs. This greatly reduces the carbon footprint of the whole task as fobs can now be sent out via post to a secure location for collection. Technology has also helped local authorities and housing associations to overcome the issue of not being able to have a concierge or building manager available 24/7 at some developments. Now with internet communication, it’s possible for tenants and visitors to get in touch with someone should they need assistance, whether that’s from within the apartment or from an entrance point. For example, lets take the Videx VX2200 with IP concierge integration. This system is exceptionally flexible, enabling calls to be answered on Videx intercoms and also mobile phones if required. With the integration of the IP concierge each block can be either standalone or networked via the internet back to a central control room. Reduced maintenance costs and carbon footprint We work with a wide range of local authorities and housing associations to help them overcome access control and door entry challenges. One organisation we have recently partnered with is The Living Group to help them greatly reduce their maintenance costs and carbon footprint by installing the MiAccess offline proximity system on many of their developments across the North East. Technology developments have enabled better entry systems that are far more secure yet also more convenient and easier to manage By installing an appropriate system, The Living Group has managed to overcome issues caused by the existing system’s limitations and also enabled much more flexibility when it comes to effectively managing the access control system of all their included developments. For those responsible for effective and appropriate access control, the management of the systems are easier, quicker and there’s no delay or on-going costs for needing a specialist programme to modify fobs and access rights as this can now all carried out in-house. Improved security legislation Further advancements in programmes such as Secured by Design (SBD), a police initiative that improves the security of buildings and their immediate surroundings to provide safe places to live, work and visit, means that there’s more security legislation being implemented that’s making intercoms and access control more secure, without affecting ease and convenience. Videx holds an SBD accreditation and we know, from first-hand experience, how it’s making a difference in keeping tenants safe. When you combine the safety features promoted by an SBD member company like ourselves with the likes of the Videx event logging, image capture and ability to modify access users on the go, for example, we can help to create a very safe and secure environment. Personally, I think there needs to be a greater emphasis on the role of security legislation Technology has completely transformed the way local authorities and housing association are able to choose, install and manage door entry and access control systems for tenants and visitors alike. Personally, I think there needs to be a greater emphasis on the role of security legislation such as Secured by Design to ensure all councils and housing association consultants are up to date with what constitutes a robust and secure system that’s also cost effective too. In my role, I see weaknesses in systems and constant ongoing costs that could easily be avoided. For instance, features such as timed remote entry means local authority and housing association management no longer need to worry about keys being lost, the wrong keys being supplied or locks needing to be changed. With new systems such as the Videx MiAccess and Videx WS4 range, we can help to massively reduce a housing association’s or council’s carbon footprint and engineer costs by allowing them the access to management and control from an offsite location. Crime prevention We can also use live and logged events to help prevent crime in different ways, from antisocial behaviour growing around a tenant being called or visited much more regularly than others, to knowing a tenant is currently still living at a property but isn’t paying rent or answering to any correspondence. Technology enables local authorities and housing associations to receive detailed data and therefore behavioural insights on the people under their management and care. If consultants and specifiers are advised on the most appropriate systems that meet their specific entry needs, they can ensure greater, safer and more convenient access control that meets the requirements of both the end user and the those responsible for its effective management.

Latest Apollo Security news

Apollo Security appoints security expert Reuben Rebullar as Director of Engineering
Apollo Security appoints security expert Reuben Rebullar as Director of Engineering

Apollo Security, a premier provider of access control and alarm monitoring solutions for over 30 years announces the appointment of Reuben Rebullar as Director of Engineering. Mr. Rebullar will be responsible for ongoing development and expansion of Apollo’s robust open hardware platform and feature rich software platform. Integrated security systems expert Mr. Rebullar joins Apollo with 12 years of experience in the hardware and software industry, most recently serving as Engineering Manager at Mercury Security in Long Beach, CA. He will oversee the development of Apollo’s fast-growing ASP Series Network Clustering Integrated Controllers as well as APACS software platform. While known primarily for integrated security systems, Apollo has been providing OEM hardware solutions for the entire life of the company and recently established ApolloEM as a division dedicated to sales and support for software developers and advanced system integrators. “We are delighted to welcome Reuben to the Apollo family and look forward to the new exciting innovations he and his team will deploy for our customers,” commented Clifford Crane, Managing Director of Apollo.

ADME of Apollo Security Access Control announces new division for Software OEM and Integration partners
ADME of Apollo Security Access Control announces new division for Software OEM and Integration partners

ADME, Inc., parent company of Apollo Security Access Control has announced creation of a new division for sales and support exclusively for its Software OEM and Integration partners. This new division, named ApolloEM, will be responsible to provide support for industry partners that use Apollo’s hardware platforms along with their own software solutions. “Providing hardware-only solutions to our partners has been a significant part of Apollo’s business since the very beginning,” explained William Lorber, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “Establishing a separate division to strengthen our role as an Access Hardware OEM became logical as more partners are coming on board to utilise our new product line.” Lorber went on to explain that Apollo’s new ASP Series Controllers allow easy integration as well as post-factory customisation with App Scripting.” ASP-4 integrated controller/reader interface The flagship of the new hardware series, ASP-4 is a four-door integrated controller/reader interface designed for secure, high volume applications. In addition to expansion options via OSDP to support up to 20 readers, the ASP-4 can work in a network device cluster to support up to 128 doors working as a single management unit. Other features such as a native Open Platform SDK, on-board app scripting and 3rd-party serial device support make ASP Series an attractive choice for system integrators and software OEMs in the security industry. ApolloEM ApolloEM will provide support for existing partners as well as market to potential new partners. Upcoming events for 2018 include Security Essen and ASIS/GSX as well as product and technical seminars worldwide.

Apollo’s ASP Series Controllers set new standards for secure, scalable and customisable access solutions
Apollo’s ASP Series Controllers set new standards for secure, scalable and customisable access solutions

Everyone can agree the convergence trend is in full force in the electronic security industry and organisations are pushing more and more for integrated solutions that can not only enhance ROI but also solve problems that have traditionally been out of the realm of electronic physical security systems. This leaves system integrators and other solution providers in a difficult position as they scramble to be competitive especially when faced with an industry dominated by a few power players. Tackling this problem can now be a matter of survival for small to medium players especially in regional markets. To address this need, Apollo Security Access Control has introduced the new ASP Series Controllers that promise to set a new standard in for secure, scalable and customisable solutions. For 30 years, Apollo has been known for producing some of the most robust hardware in the industry and with the ASP series a new layer of flexibility has been added by allowing ‘post-factory’ customisation in addition to many other feature upgrades. This will have the effect to put more control in the hands of integrators and even end-users so they are not locked into hardware solutions that are ‘off the shelf’ and don’t provide any ability to adapt to customer specific needs for the present or the future. The flagship of Apollo’s new controller series, the ASP-4 is an intelligent access controller designed to provide a high performance security solution Intelligent access controller The flagship of Apollo’s new controller series, the ASP-4 is an intelligent access controller designed to provide a high performance security solution with the ability to solve non-standard problems. Natively, the ASP-4 can support four readers and four doors, but when clustered with 32 other ASP devices it can secure up to 128 doors in one management unit by utilising inter-device communication across standard IT networks. Each ASP-4 can also support up to 16 additional readers by utilising OSDP Secure Channel communications, supporting configurations such as 4 Doors with In/Out (8 Readers) or even more doors by adding input/output modules for door control. Enterprise capacity of 250,000+ cardholders, 300 access levels with up to 50 access levels per card is provided at each device, providing total cardholder and access rights database redundancy, preventing reduced functionality modes such as ‘facility code check only’. The ASP’s real power lies however with the ability to customise the functions of the controller by loading customised App Scripts and third-party protocols. Using industry standard ‘C-like’ programming language, the ASP can have new functions designed by the integrator. Running customisations at the hardware level instead of in software offers the benefits of drastically reduced time/cost of implementation as well as superior reliability. Whereas before if an organisation wanted to integrate a new device such as an alarm panel, fire system or similar they would have to request software customisation which can take months and cost tens of thousands of dollars, with the ASP such a task can take days or weeks and be completed with a budget of hundreds of dollars. An example of how effective this customisation works was provided by a subsidiary of a large multi-national Corporate access control solutions An example of how effective this customisation works was provided by a subsidiary of a large multi-national that was struggling to comply with strict labor regulations. Under these rules, workers in their factory can only work six consecutive days, requiring the seventh day for rest. The HR department struggled to keep track of this as each employee’s rest day could be prior to when six days was expired; in addition to workers switching shifts and other complications the tracking was too difficult to be done manually, so an automated solution was necessary. The current access control solution the company was using didn’t provide any solution for this so the only possibility was expensive customisation which would take 3-4 months and then provide no guarantee in the future what would happen if needs changed. With ASP-4, Apollo’s local partner was able to offer a much more rapid solution. The requirements were programmed into a logic script that was loaded to the controller. This script checks every cardholder at time of access for any violation of the rules and will deny access if necessary, then displaying a reason on an LCD display as well as flash an indicator light so that the cardholder will know it is not simply an access level error that has denied their entry. This customisation took less than one man-day to program and was tested over the course of one week and was then ready to be deployed. The ability to do this customisation gave the partner the edge needed to provide a timely, cost effective solution to a problem that could have cost the company greatly if a work-related accident resulted in legal action. In the future, the logic script can be easily changed for example if the company would like to move to a five-day work week in the future. Additional customisation possibilities are possible using the serial connections of the ASP Real-time monitoring Additional customisation possibilities are possible using the serial connections of the ASP. This allows integration of input devices such as scales or barcode scanners, or interface to any device that has a serial interface such as displays, mimic panels, entry phone systems and more. Protocols for these devices can be embedded in scripts and the devices can assume alarm input/output functions or even new card reader types can be supported such as wireless locks or long-range RFID readers. In addition to being customisable, the ASP of course is designed with security in mind. With all communication channels being secured with 128-bit TLS encryption which prevents attempts to intercept or forge data. Security goes all the way down to the reader using OSDP Secure Channel to protect card reader data transmission lines. Being able to communicate simultaneously with up to five software hosts also gives the ASP ability to be monitored in real-time by redundant systems, ensuring that important alarms are always delivered in time for the security team to react. Software OEMs and System Integrators The ASP Series has been designed from the ground up to be friendly to Software OEMs and System Integrators using other systems in place of or in addition to Apollo Security’s software platform. A native Open Platform SDK allows tight integration with all the ASP’s standard features in addition to the customisations available through scripting and embedded software. The SDK comes with several integration pathways including .NET and Python and includes sample code, tutorials and online developer support. To better support Software OEM partners, Apollo Security’s parent company, ADME INC., has recently announced a new division, ApolloEM which will provide support for partners that utilise the ASP hardware platform in their own software solutions. William Lorber, Vice President of Sales and Marketing said, “Establishing a separate division to strengthen our role as an Access Hardware OEM became logical as more partners are coming on board to utilise our new product line. We are excited to see the solutions that our partners develop on this platform.” Lorber added that partners will be able to share and market their solutions on the upcoming App Script Library platform that Apollo will roll out later this year to expand the effectiveness of ASP solutions.

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