What Is The Current State of Access Control Technology?
Modern Access Control Technology
Modern electronic access control is an evolution of the old mechanical lock and key method of keeping the wrong people out, allowing the right people in and protecting the right people from intruders. The days of having to carry around keys to open doors and gates is over. For large facilities with employees or many visitors, electronic access control eliminates the need to cut keys, distribute them and then track them. Electronic access control is now being used in everything from large enterprise business, small business and residential as well. It even has a use in resorts and homeowners associations to open access gates for easy drive thru. When combined with long range readers, RFID decals on vehicles, and license plate readers on cameras, a fully monitored and controlled residential welcome center or guard shack can be maintained. The graphic below shows the basic architecture. The current state of the art electronic access control is fully cloud connected, and programmable via a web browser. The previous generation of access controls from HID and Honeywell required special skills and special on-premise servers to operate. Modern cloud connected systems reduce the complexity greatly and enable owners to maintain and operate their own systems, thereby eliminating the need to hire specialized access control vendors. We review the 5 cloud connected systems that we have installed for our customers.
How Are Access Control Systems Wired?
Generally all readers, sensors, and contact relays are home-run wired back the main panel. The main panel should always be mounted in an indoor environment away from the elements. Card readers, access keypads are usually wiegand style input intefaces that require 12 volts DC, 3 data lines, and several other wires, generally an 8 wire, 18GA multicolor stranded cable will suffice. Card readers and keypads can be outside, if they are protected from the elements. They can be up to 500 ft from the panel. Relay contacts to throw the powered locks are usually home-runned from the panel to the lock, door contact sensors are often required to let the panel know if a door is open or closed. If you are using a mag-lock, there is a requirement to use an emergency exit switch. Generally speaking, access control wiring is a hub and spoke model.
Are There Wireless Readers?
If you need to add a Wiegand style reader in a location where it is impossible to run an 8 conductor cable back to the access control board, there are wireless options to consider. One of our favourite means to accomplish this task is to use a Sure-Fi Wiegand Bridge. One side of the bridge connects directly to the control board, and the other end connects to the card reader. The Bridge forms a wireless link over the 900mhz ISM band. The link is capable of long distances. It is said to be capable of 50km line of sight. The bridge ends only need 12volts.
What Are the Modes of Operation?
Modes of operation include rule based access, where a calendar determines the open and close times, identity based access where access cards, PINS and mobile apps are used to grand access to a particular person. Another mode is discretionary access, where an occupant on the inside can remotely open a door to allow a visitor as required.
Top Six Access Control Options
Brivo is a fully cloud connected access control manufacturer that sells controller boards, readers and cloud services. Their entry level base system the ACS-300 is a dual reader board with 2 Weigand readers, and relay contacts to control 2 doors. When combined with other ACS-300 and ACS-6000 boards and connected on their platform, much larger facilities can be controlled. The web interface is very intuitive and easy to use. Owners and property managers find it to be very easy to maintain. Brivo can be combined with Eagle Eye Network's video surveillance cameras to monitor the entry points. What we like about Brivo: Easy visitor management, smart phone passes, easy management, the ability to operate without internet access in cached mode, no need for custom firewall rules. Brivo is the gold standard in cloud access control. What we don't like about it is the monthly cost of service to connected to the cloud.
Tyco's Kantech access controllers combined with EntraPass Web is in the same category as Brivo, although we have found that it is very difficult to install and maintain the cloud access part. EntraPass Web is software that allows you to host your own cloud connected access control system. The owner can install it on their own server hardware and configure their own router to foreward a port to the outside world. While it is a cloud access system, the level of skill required to maintain it is much higher. Furthermore, you must maintain servers and routers as well.
Verkada includes all of the special features that make Brivo so great, Plus it offers CCTV integration, license plate reading cameras. Verkada is great if you are looking for a fully integrated ecosystem of CCTV, LPR and access control.
Ubuiti is a company that started out making wireless networks and then grew to include CCTV and physical access control. They are known for their ease of use and maintanance. The access control offerings are no different. Ubiquiti Access control systems are ideal for residential, condo and HOA applications. Owners and DIYers love Ubuiti. The wiring model is a little different, for each UA reader device, a CAT6 network cable will be needed to home-run back to the UA hub. It all runs on POE. What we like about it is the fact that the monthly cost to own and maintain is quite low.
Salto deserves an honerable mention for being one of the best known and widely used names in access control.
6) DIY Solutions from Amazon or Alibaba
Amazon sellers offer a variatal cornucopia of access control systems now. Thanks to the ease of importation from China, there are dozens of choices for the DIYer. Most of them follow the same wiring standard as the above mentioned vendors, and allow you to pick and choose an ala-carte selection of readers, cards and locks. Most follow the basic access models. If you want an option that requires no monthly cloud access fee, yet offers all of the features of the top access control brands, they you may want to consider on of these.
There are many options for commercial, residential, condo and HOA access control requirements. Before you purchase and install one, be sure to research your options and always ask an access control professional for their opinion. There will be many differing opinions, so choose carefully.