As new and evolving access control technologies continue to deliver improvements in performance, efficiency and cost-effectiveness, the potential applications for these systems are expanding far beyond their traditional deployments. In particular, networked and software-based solutions have had significant impacts on the growing role of access control systems in security, as well as other areas.
As an added bonus, enhanced features and functionality make it possible for dealers and integrators to provide their end user customers with highly advanced systems that improve security and contribute to operational goals while also fitting within the kind of tight budgets that have become commonplace among organizations of all types.
The growth of access control systems is exciting to watch, and it’s important to stay up to date on the latest developments. To help plan for the future, here are nine trends that will have a significant impact on the access control space.
In the coming years, access control systems will no longer remain discrete and separate from other data sources, including security and non-security systems. Instead, as networked systems, they will provide information and intelligence in the form of data that can contribute to the emerging model of predictive analytics, thus furthering the industry’s ability to move from reactive to proactive security.
Integrated systems provide users with the ability to utilize a single control platform to monitor the state of a facility or location and include data from video surveillance, video management, visitor management, time and attendance, alarms, photo-imaging, badging, elevator control, building control and many more systems. This is true for all IP-based systems, as the Internet of Things matures and more powerful software is developed to process and analyze the vast amount of data generated.
One area where software-based controllers and other technologies shine is in allowing end users to protect both their previous and future investments in access control. These solutions are backward compatible, enabling best-of-breed systems and making it easier to bring uniformity to new or existing installations.
New adoptions take time, and as access control technologies become more robust and play a larger role in security and operations, there will be long periods of time when existing and new solutions must coexist. For this reason, it is essential for new software and systems to be backward compatible with existing technology investments. Users must have multiple options available to ensure that upgrades can meet their security needs while also fitting within budgetary constraints.
Some access control manufacturers have abandoned this ability to accommodate legacy controllers and wiring with their new software, which unfortunately makes rip and replace deployments the only option for their end users. The good news is there are technologies available that allow existing analog twisted pair cabling with 485 or 422 protocols to be used along with installed readers. With these solutions, the only devices that need to be replaced are the controllers. In some cases, they can even be re-engineered rather than replaced, so only the centralized software installed at the head end will need to be replaced. Taken singularly or as a group, these technology advances can add up to big savings of both time and money, which makes dealers, integrators and end users very happy.
Managed Access Control
Some software-based access control solutions also hold the key for future business development with customers who own older systems. Backward compatible access solutions provide the advanced architecture necessary to allow dealers and integrators to offer access control as a managed service. This opportunity to generate recurring monthly revenue is now possible with multiple-client functionality that is capable of managing and controlling multiple systems over a single backbone similar to the infrastructure that would be found in facilities that house multiple tenants.
New network appliances will come pre-configured for easier and more efficient on-site system setup, application installation and customization. For example, on-board capabilities will allow users to connect to the network appliance by launching a shortcut from any LAN-connected PC. This will greatly reduce installation time by eliminating the need to deploy or install software and servers.
Software-based access control systems are introducing greater potential to contribute to business operations by going beyond the conventional physical security realm. One example of this type of innovative application can be seen in a school system that was looking for a better way to manage student traffic between a large number of portable classrooms that were in use during construction of a new facility. One of the school’s main concerns was with children using restrooms and other facilities that were located in the main school building throughout the course of the school day. Administrators sought a way to track student movements efficiently to go beyond the conventional use of written hall passes. Instead, they decided to issue proximity devices for use in access readers in the classrooms and at all entrances to the main school building. This enables monitoring of students’ locations, with a predetermined amount of time allotted for walking from their classroom to the main building and back. If a student fails to report back within that allotted time frame, the system issues a general alert.
As in nearly all walks of life, wireless and Wi-Fi technology is inching its way into the access control space. Given this, it’s vital that manufacturers dedicate attention and focus to developing readers that can accommodate this technology. Among the many accompanying issues that could potentially impact this trend are the level of integration with traditional PACS systems and the safety concerns. These must be carefully considered when choosing, recommending and deploying wireless devices.
Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every access control need, both wired and wireless technologies will have a place in the future. Therefore it is also important to consider how wired and wireless technologies will interface and/or integrate, particularly given the growth of the BYOD (bring your own device) model.
Many of the new technologies that will ultimately reshape the access control world come directly from the consumer world; notably the retail commerce sector has found some incredibly interesting applications for NFC and other location-based data. The shift toward utilizing these technologies is already underway, and it will continue to grow and evolve in ways we cannot possibly predict. Adoption and evolution take time, though, and rather than leap into untested waters, it is important for security systems integrators and end users to recognize that the first mission of access control is to keep people and property safe. Therefore, while it’s important for manufacturers to monitor all the new and emerging technologies available, it’s even more important that we pursue only those that make sense for our industry without losing sight of the main goal of access control.
Merging with IT
For those in the IT space, access control has traditionally had a very different definition than it has in the physical security world. However, these two functions, which were once managed by separate entities, are merging and becoming a single discipline. For access control, recognizing the importance of this trend is crucial, and these changes must be incorporated into companies’ business objectives. It’s no longer enough to simply protect physical assets; the role of access control is to control access to all assets of value, including information and other IT-related assets.
PSIA, ONVIF, security industry associations and other bodies have worked to advance the notion of standards for security technologies, and these are extremely positive goals. Working with dozens of manufacturers to build consensus for these standards is a complex process, but the industry certainly recognizes that it is in the best interest of end users to work together to accomplish this objective. Planned and emerging access control standards are definitely coming, and as they are implemented, end users will benefit from the ability to use technologies and devices of their choosing to build an access system that fits their specific security, budgetary and other needs.
As you can see, there are certainly a lot of exciting and positive developments coming to the access control space. These developments are going to change the way access control systems are designed, deployed and managed, so it is crucial for dealers and integrators to be aware of and build their understanding of these trends. This will open up new possibilities to grow their bottom line while providing their customers with highly advanced systems that increase security levels by addressing the unique requirements of each specific application.