BSIA guide on retail access control
Editor / Provider: BSIA | Updated: 2/19/2013 | Article type: Tech Corner
What is access control?
Access control provides the ability to control, monitor and restrict the movement of people, assets or vehicles in, out and around a building or site.
Access control is essential in the protection of people and assets and has the additional benefit of being expanded from controlling, for example, a single entrance door to a large integrated security network.
There are also huge potentials in terms of integrating access control with other systems, such as CCTV and intruder alarms, allowing for cost savings and greater security benefits.
What risks does the retail sector face and how can these be countered by access control?
The retail sector faces a variety of threats all year round, including shoplifting, organized retail crime and dishonest staff, and these risks can increase significantly during busy shopping periods such as seasonal sales.
Recently, the BSIA carried out a survey of its members to discover the trends in retail security over the last year. Over 50% of respondents felt that the use of private security measures in retail had increased over the past twelve months, with a further 65% anticipating this use to increase over the course of the next year.
Members perceived the biggest threat to retailers to be shoplifting and petty theft, with theft by employees following in second. Online theft and armed robberies were also considered to be risks.
Retail environments are full of valuable assets, both on the shop floor and in the stock room. Access control systems are all designed to permit access only to people with the necessary authority to enter a particular area, ensuring that goods and people are protected and helping to manage known or anticipated threats.
Generally, systems are comprised of three main components:
1. The physical barrier – to physically restrict access to a building or area. This can be achieved through methods such as:
- Doors – secured by either a magnetic or strike lock, or can be revolving or sliding.
- Turnstiles and speedgates – designed to limit access to one person per identification device.
2. The identification device – there are a number of different technologies available to identify users of an access control system, including:
- A proximity card and reader via Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID: these cards can be programmed to work at a short or long read range
- A smart card and reader
- A swipe card and reader
- PIN pads
- Biometric devices such as fingerprint or iris scanning
3. The door controller and software – these are at the heart of the access control system and are used to decide who can gain access through which entry point and at what time of the day are they permitted. These can vary depending on the size of the system and how many readers or sites you are trying to control from one point. Some of the options include:
- A stand-alone door controller linked to a single door with no software
- A number of door controllers all linked together to a single PC to control one site
- A number of sites all interlinked together over a wide network area The added benefits of access control
Retail environments often incorporate large numbers of staff working varied shift patterns. Access control systems can offer a wide range of benefits, including Human Resource management and integrated security systems.
Time and attendance
Retail security does not necessarily just offer protection for the shop floor itself, but can encompass all stages of the supply chain – including staff offices, warehouses and even the delivery process. Naturally, various different employees and outside visitors are involved in these processes and access control systems can assist with staff management.
Badge/token technology can be used to record employee hours and monitor visitor movement within a specific site. If appropriate, these can be processed against working hours, applicable for both temporary and permanent staff – this can be useful for busy shopping periods when additional seasonal staff are employed temporarily. This can work in real time to feed transactions through to the company's payroll. Time and attendance systems also accurately help keep employers on the right side of the European Working Time regulations and manage holidays and absences effectively. Fast, accurate and easy-to-use, these systems are suitable for businesses employing just a few people, right up to large multinational companies.
Automatic Number Plate Recognition
To monitor the movement of vehicles around an area, CCTV-style cameras and computer software can be used to identify number plates of vehicles. Some systems can also store photographs of the driver and vehicle for subsequent analysis. This sophisticated software allows critical information to be passed to the police to assist in the pursuit, identification and capture of offenders should an incident occur. For example, if a shoplifter flees the scene of a crime via a vehicle, ANPR cameras situated around an area could help identify the criminal. Visual proof of parking offences with the corresponding time and date information is provided as evidence and to avoid disputes. Using a Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) link, monitors are then able to identify the owner of a vehicle and process the offence automatically.
Fire roll call
Health and safety is a key consideration for any business. Since retail environments involve multiple staff members with varying shift patterns, it can be difficult to keep track of all employees during an emergency. Fire roll call technology generates a report containing crucial information in relation to who is within the building and potentially where they are. This software operates via the access control smart card or fob that an employee uses to gain access to or exit a building. In the event of an emergency, the fire roll-call software alerts occupants to the emergency whilst simultaneously activating the report at a safe pre-determined remote point.
Please note: In order for the fire roll call software to effectively carry out its function, employees and visitors must always present their card or badge. The use of smart card or RFID controlled turnstiles can help in this situation.
Integrated security systems
For maximum security, retail environments can benefit from a fully integrated access control system with CCTV, intruder alarms, fire detection and building management systems. One way to attain this is by adopting the use of Internet Protocol (IP) technology, which allows these systems to communicate with each other to maximize their effectiveness. Separate access control and intruder alarm systems, for example, could allow an employee to access an area that is set with an alarm.
However, unless the employee has the authority to unset the system, the access would result in a false alarm being activated – potentially causing panic in a retail environment. An effectively integrated system would recognize that the user does not have the authority to unset the system, so would not allow them in the area to begin with.