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Defining a well-integrated access control management system

Defining a well-integrated access control management system
A well-integrated, IP-based access control management system should have some basic characteristics, for example the ability to integrate with different subsystems, have these subsystems work together seamlessly, and support different hardware and credentials. With a strongly integrated access control-video platform in place, users are given more situational awareness and can maintain the security of their premises more effectively.

A major trend in access control is its migration to IP. In fact, IP-based access control is now seen in most new buildings and projects around the world. According to IHS, IP-based access control accounted for nearly 60 percent of the market in 2014 due to a ramp-up of new constructions, in the process contributing to a 7.6 percent growth of the industry. As for this year, IHS's initial estimates put growth at 8.8 percent. In terms of regions, growth in North America may drop a bit, while APAC and Latin America are expected to pick up steam, according to a previous interview with Tyco Security Products.

Central to IP-based access control is the access control management system, which, when integrated with other subsystems, can do much more than merely granting or denying access to users as they walk to a building.

What Defines Well-Integrated
So what makes an access control management system well-integrated? There are several criteria, for example the types of subsystems that can be integrated, the ability to have them interoperate smoothly, and the flexibility the system provides when it comes to supporting the types of hardware and credential. Finally, open standards are key to ensure interoperability, future scalability, and cost reduction.

Systems that Can Be Integrated
One factor to determine whether an access control management system is well-integrated is its ability to integrate with different types of subsystems. “There are several subsystems that can be integrated into the access control management software, which goes beyond granting or denying access to users. Elevator, parking, meal vending, CCTV, and student ID cards are all examples of the subsystems that can be integrated,” said Tom Su, Sales Manager at Hundure Technology.

Besides the aforementioned, today's access control management systems can also integrate with HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) as well as telecommunications systems to save energy and provide more convenience for users.

“If the CEO presents his credential to the outside of the building, they will understand what areas of the building that CEO will get through to get to his office. There is no need to illuminate the entire building,” said Brad Aikin, Business Leader of Electronic Locks at Allegion. “The same thing extends over to telecommunications. When someone comes in, the system will transfer their out-of-office e-mail to in-office. It can not only adjust their e-mail status but also switch the forwarding to their desktop versus their mobile phone.”

 

Smooth Interoperability

A well-integrated access control management system can also allow the different subsystems to operate seamlessly at the same time, even to the point where “the customer cannot distinguish
the boundary between the systems,”
- said Daniel McVeagh, Senior PM at Gallagher.


“The best integrations which achieve this tend to exhibit the following traits: a comprehensive set of application programming interfaces (APIs), good integration documentation that allows the integrator to achieve a seamless and bug-free integration, a comprehensive testing process ensuring bugs and weaknesses in the integration are found before they reach the customer, and a track record of successful previous integrations.”

 

Compatibility With Different Hardware
A good access control management system should also be able to support different types of hardware and credentials.

“I think it is important for integrative systems that they can handle and integrate different types of hardware within the same system to be called well-integrated. For example, it should be able to handle different types of door controllers, as well as different readers and credential technologies to be truly integrative and offer the benefits of such an open system to the end-user/system owner,” said Ola Jönsson, Business Development Manager at Axis Communications.

“Depending on what region of the world or what vertical market, there are certain credentials that are prominent,” said Aikin. “I think it's very critical that the access control system be flexible to accommodate the credentials that the user has today, and also flexible enough to provide a migration path to what credentials will be in the future, whether that is near-field communication, or Bluetooth low energy.”

Mobile authentication by way of NFC or Bluetooth low energy can be supported by today's access control management systems as well. “The most basic approach is to replicate existing card-based access control principles: the phone communicates identity information to a reader, which passes it to the existing access control system,” said Eric Chiu, Segment Director of Physical Access for APAC at HID Global.

 

Openness Is Key
To enable this kind of integration, open standards are critical, ensuring that interoperability between disparate systems is achievable.

“Open protocols and agreed standards such as ONVIF have made it possible to integrate previously disparate systems and open up the possibilities of what a truly integrated security system can offer,” said Sarah Phillips, Product and Marketing Manager at TDSi. “Modern integrated access control systems offer a broad ability to work directly with other buildings control systems on this level rather than purely via hardware panels. For example the integration of intruder and fire detection systems directly into a centralized software platform gives greater situational control and automated responses to any issues.”

Openness, meanwhile, also ensures scalability, allowing users to add or integrate more systems into the access control management software, regardless of the brand. “Users also can simplify future infrastructure enhancements and modifications since they can invest in hardware platforms that are not tied to proprietary protocols and software,” said Chiu. “Basing solutions on an open architecture with standards-based APIs will enable customers to meet evolving requirements and future expansion needs while protecting the value of their overall investments.”

 

Access Control and Video Integration
Access control management systems integrated with videos is perhaps the most popular integration among users. Due to the increased situational awareness that they provide, such integrated solutions are seeing rising demands and applications, especially in areas that are more critical and sensitive in nature.

Rising Demand
Integration between access control and video is set to see rising demands. “I do think where there is video today, there is a desire to integrate it more closely with access,” said Aikin. “Today from what we have found, globally, the typical number of access points in a commercial building that have video and access management is 10 percent of less. With the devices becoming easier to deploy and lower in cost to acquire and manage, the market is able to deploy a credential reader or access control mechanism to the other 90 percent of openings.”

When access control and videos are integrated, no matter which one serves as the anchor platform, the two complement and add intelligence to each other. “When video is used as part of an integrated security management platform, it enriches the information provided by access control and intrusion detection, and vice versa,” said Arjan Bouter, Head of Sales at Nedap Security Management. “You get maximum control and protection of your premises and benefit from the unlimited scalability and extreme controllability.”

“While video management and access control have been integrated for some time, access control is now able to be deployed to more access points in the building, allowing a richer set of data to be used in video management,” said Aikin. “If you have access control tied to video, you are able to see what credential was utilized at what time of day and at what location, and that adds a lot of value in your video management. In the past, you were able to put an IP camera or Wi-Fi camera in, but you weren't able to afford to put a reader or access control device at that opening, so you had to scroll through footage and try to distinguish what was occurring simply based on the visual video. Now, because you are able to deploy access control at that portal as well, you're able to really connect it and sort it based on an audited event in a credential.”

Due to the increased situational awareness such integration brings, it is commonly used in higher security applications. “These include parts of a healthcare environment like pharmaceuticals or the maternity wards, where they are worried about infant abduction, and areas where there are sensitive assets or sensitive chemicals,” Aikin said.

 

Single User Interface
When videos and access control are integrated, they should be integrated on one single user interface to allow easy monitoring and control by the administrator.

“It is pointless to integrate video and access control if they need to be treated separately by the user,” said David Weinbach, PM at AMAG Technology. “While it may be logical to try to source all components from one supplier, that limits choice and may not allow an optimal solution. A better solution is one that allows different brands and multiple systems to be integrated in a way that makes the details of each transparent, and provides a consistent, common interface.”

Mobile Applications
Increasingly, video-access control integration will move towards mobile applications. “Mobile applications will become more widespread. That's the trend of the future,” said Su. “With video surveillance, monitoring of doors through one's mobile phone is now very common. If you integrate access control into it, you can control access from your mobile phone as well.”



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