Trends in Electronic Access Control and Locking Systems

By Ranjit Nambiar, Director of Sales, HID Global

Ranjit Nambiar, Director of Sales, HID Global

As organizations move to electronic access control for higher security and the ability to integrate multiple systems, there has been a corresponding growth in demand for electronic locking solutions. This trend will only accelerate as the market accelerates adoption of IP-based access control systems and also embraces convenient new wireless solutions. These solutions include electronic locks that connect wirelessly to the on-line access control system, and can also be opened with mobile phones that act as trusted credentials.

Migrating to IP-based Access Control

Electronic locking systems become even more attractive with the move to IP-based access control, whose benefits include simplified system operation, expansion and customization, along with the ability to integrate a physical access control system (PACS) with many other solutions sharing the same network.
Most companies and institutions today have installed a variety of generally disparate and isolated systems, ranging from security, access control, and video surveillance to incident response, perimeter detection and alarm monitoring. Although these systems typically cannot easily share information, if at all, there are natural synergies between each of them. IP-based solutions make it easier to integrate them, and provide the opportunity for a single new system that can be much greater than the sum of its individual, disparate parts.
The ability to manage all of an organization's systems on a single network in any environment also delivers better facility management. Additionally, value is optimized because this single system can perform multiple functions with a single interface to all associated applications. Organizations that previously operated several security systems on isolated networks can instead invest in a single, unified IP network, and technologies that previously co-existed only physically can now be managed and controlled logically.
Most organizations are also realizing that IP-based access control actually improves security. One reason is that it offers a more comprehensive view by enabling the integration of video surveillance with access control. The ability to manage all of the various video management and analytics subsystems, intrusion devices and associated IP-based edge devices through a single user interface significantly enhances situational awareness since all information can be immediately combined and correlated.

Deployment Considerations

Introducing electronic locks into a networked access control infrastructure requires that there be a continuum of options to fill the gap between traditional mechanical locks with no intelligence, and door solutions with full, IP-networked intelligence and functionality.The access control system, itself, must be easy to adapt for facility expansion or to accommodate changes to virtually any card/reader configuration that future security needs may require. This could mean controlling a couple of doors with dozens to hundreds of card holders today, on up to managing hundreds of doors at multiple facilities with as many as 100,000 card holders, or more, tomorrow.

Unlike alternative proprietary solutions that rely on a single OEM panel and matching software, today's IP-based solutions provide access to hundreds of access control software system options. This ensures that an end-user who purchases a system-agnostic controller product for use with today's access control software can later change that software to meet evolving requirements in the future without requiring a major upgrade. For optimal scalability, IP access control solutions should be supported by complete developers' kits that feature standards-based application programming interfaces (APIs) to the embedded software driving access control functionality. This will enable customers to meet evolving requirements and future expansion needs while protecting the value of their overall investments.
Users should also have a wide variety of options for future additions, including fire alarms, intrusion detection, CCTV, biometrics and others as required. Security is also an important consideration. The controller platform must be capable of operating with fully trusted connections from host to controller to reader. All reader/controllers and IO modules should also feature security capabilities such as an on-board encrypted Hi-O communication bus, as well as elements including 12/24VDC lock support, mounting options, and plug-and-play IO modules that extend IO at and behind the door.

Going Wireless

Wireless intelligent locksets are the first step to untethered connectivity in this networked access control environment. These devices will become more prevalent as new lower-cost, energy-efficient models are introduced to the market. Since there will be no need to run wiring to a door, this will provide a cost-effective alternative to wired access control on any opening.
Along with the move to wireless electronic locks, we also will see the advent of mobile access control with phones and other smart devices that can act as trusted credentials. By using interoperable, open-architecture IP-based intelligent controllers, users will have a broad range of both basic and wireless intelligent readers to choose from, that provide access to multiple credential technologies.
Mobile phones working with wireless electronic locks will deliver valuable security and user convenience benefits, today and in the future.The first step is to simply replicate the existing card model: phones receive digital keys, and users present their phones to door readers in much the same way they now present ID badges. Identity information is communicated to the reader, which passes it to the existing access control system, which makes the decision to unlock the door based on a pre-defined set of access rights. This model provides a safer and more convenient way to provision, monitor and modify credential security parameters, temporarily issue credentials as needed and cancel credentials when they are lost or stolen.
Beyond this simple card emulation model, the next step is to leverage the smartphone's on-board intelligence and network connectivity to complete most of the tasks now performed by the traditional access control system's card readers and servers or panels. The mobile device will leverage its wireless connection be the key, processor, and rules engine for making access control decisions. This will initiate a paradigm reversal, sometimes referred to as duality, in which mobile devices carrying credentials become the access decision-makers, rather than an access control system, and doors become the ID "badges," rather than the cards. This duality concept will eliminate the need for deploying readers (and locks) with any significant intelligence or connections to backend servers through physical cabling. All that will be required is stand-alone electronic locks that can recognize a mobile device's encrypted "open" command and then operate under a pre-defined set of access rules.
Using mobile devices as trusted credentials will dramatically reduce access control deployment costs, and the industry will begin securing interior doors, filing cabinets, storage units and other areas where it has been prohibitively expensive to install a traditional wired infrastructure. There will be a mixed infrastructure environment of wired, wireless and disconnected locks, and new ways for end-users to economically deploy access control across a larger percentage of a facility's total openings.
IP-based access control is well on its way to widespread adoption, and is expected to drive continued growth in shipments of electronic locking solutions. This will be a game-changing paradigm shift that enables us to secure far more doors electronically than was ever before possible, using a combination of wired, wireless and disconnected locks, basic and wireless intelligent readers, and multiple credential technologies.

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