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Access control retrofit secures four-star retirement community

Access control retrofit secures four-star retirement community
A key component of Glenaire's current and future success is the security that residents feel within their community. To increase not just the perception, but the reality of security, Glenaire has recently undertaken the installation of a keyless card access system.
According to the Population Reference Bureau, there are an estimated 46 million Americans above the age of 65. These retirees are looking for secure and safe environments in which to spend their golden years. One of these is Cary, North Carolina's Glenaire Retirement Community — a truly beautiful property located near the Research Triangle Park area, close to Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Glenaire is green, lush, well-tended, and full of amenities — it's like a friendly village created for the well-being and happiness of seniors.

Ryan Ferguson, Glenaire's Director of Facility Services, explains that the grounds cover nearly 40 acres and include 388 units, offering a combination of skilled nursing, assisted living and independent living options. "The independent-living cottages and the apartments are where our residents usually start out, and they move to assisted living or skilled nursing when they need it. The quality of life and peace-of-mind we offer our residents has led to a 10 to 12-year waiting list to get in," adds Ferguson.

In response to this demand, Glenaire is moving forward with plans to add 190 more apartments and 40 assisted living units.

Smart entry 

A key component of Glenaire's current and future success is the security that residents feel within their community. To increase not just the perception, but the reality of security, Glenaire has recently undertaken the installation of a keyless card access system.

"Glenaire is celebrating 25 years in business," states Ferguson. "Newer senior communities are going with keyless card access systems. We, too, wanted to go that route and decided to explore what options were out there.”

Modern Systems, a provider of electronic security and life safety solutions, headquartered in Yadkinville, North Carolina, was chosen for the project. "They have experience with our parent company, and with the elderly and retired population. So, there's trust I have with that," Ferguson explains.

Modern Systems proposed a dual solution using access cloud control software by ProdataKey (PDK) of Draper, Utah, and Aperio wireless locks by Assa Abloy. Both solutions are manufactured in the United States.

Ferguson says he was wowed by the wireless, cloud-based PDK solution, which “has the most modern, up-to-date access control software of anything I’ve seen. A lot of what I saw from other manufacturers was already dated, and I want a system that can carry us into the future, not just work for us right now,” he says.

In the beginning, Glenaire was only looking to expand the system already in place at all building entrances. “But that software was old and not easy to work with. It was also a little difficult when it came to user training and retention. And, the quote for expanding it was about double that of going with the PDK solution,” Ferguson recalls.

PDK's Vice President of Sales Cory Jackson states, "Given the capabilities and functionality that Glenaire needed, we knew our cloud solution could deliver at a price point much less than a typical on-premise system with unmatched functionality.”

Those capabilities included the ability for administrators to remotely lock and unlock doors and to set specific hours for maintenance workers' access control cards to function. The solution needed to conduct continuous monitoring of door use and provide retrievable data. It needed to offer integration options with other security solutions, which might be implemented at a future date. Finally, in a community with senior residents of significantly differing levels of physical and cognitive abilities, it was also important that any technology they’d interact with was convenient, user friendly, flexible in implementation, and easy for Glenaire’s staff to manage.

Aesthetics also matter strongly at Glenaire, with the residential and common areas needing to remain warm and welcoming. "That’s primo," says Ferguson. "The clean appearance of the Aperio locks, without readers next to each door, makes a big difference. It was also a plus that the system didn’t require any installation of infrastructure above the ceiling level."

Modern Systems President Mark Lilly notes that this project was his company's first implementation of a PDK solution. "We've used the Assa Abloy Aperio wireless locks with other software in previous jobs, but this was our first time with PDK, and it definitely won't be our last. We were able to see demos and I was convinced that everything Glenaire needed could be handled by PDK's solution."

Home as a castle

During the first phase of the project, Glenaire and Modern Systems collaborated through phone calls, scheduled at least once or twice per week. "Being able to communicate together, and work together as partners, helped us get through whatever came our way," Ferguson says. Now completed, this retrofit included replacing the existing access control system and installing new hardware on residents' doors in the apartment building, office doors, various stores, and public access areas throughout the campus, totaling 370 doors.

"We knew how important it was for us not to disrupt residents with a lot of construction work, which is typical of a retrofit,” notes David Hudson, Modern Systems' director of strategic accounts. To achieve this, the project was staged to update the exterior doors that already had card access then complete the common areas and tackle residents' doors last. "We wanted to minimize any disruptions to the residents' lives. If there were any bugs in the system or anything we needed to tweak, we wanted to tackle that before we brought the system to the residences," he says. On average, it took only about 45 minutes to add the hardware to each door.

Although the Aperio locksets and the PDK solution are separate systems, they work together seamlessly through the cloud. The Aperio locksets communicate with a networked Assa Abloy Aperio Hub device installed on ceilings, usually in hallways. The Aperio Hub communicates to the PDK Cloud Node over the local network and its doors appear and are programmed in the PDK software just like any other doors. The functionality and programming are the same whether a door is controlled by a PDK door controller or by an Aperio wireless lockset. The Aperio hub can communicate with up to 16 locksets and the PDK head-end (Cloud Node) unit can communicate to 1,000 hubs. 

Custom groups 

"Another aspect that made the transition so easy for our residents and employees is that they were able to use the cards and badges they already had from the previous system. We were able to transfer the existing database to the PDK system. The residents lost the function of their previous keys, but most of them were already using their access control cards to open the main doors. That made training for residents and staff easy. And now, if a resident gets locked out of their apartment, we can unlock the door for them remotely. It’s much more convenient for everyone,” Ferguson reports.

Ferguson says that access rights for residents and staff was carefully coordinated by defining a number of “groups” within the PDK software, each with specific door permissions and access schedules. Individuals were then assigned to groups, based upon their position or need for access, making set-up and management of the system much more efficient. For example, one group is comprised of cottage residents, another is made up of those in independent living apartments, and a third is for those in assisted living. Within the staff access groups, there are facilities service workers, nursing professionals, and dining staff. There is also a group for the residents’ guests.

"Most of our residents gave keys to their sons or daughters or neighbors in case they needed to get into their unit in an emergency or when they weren’t there. When we switched to badges, those keys didn't work anymore," Ferguson says. To rectify the situation, each resident was given one new guest badge and additional badges are available for them to purchase. The guest group members’ access rights are restricted, compared to that of residents.

Cloud control

Ferguson stresses Glenaire’s satisfaction with the cloud-based design of the PDK solution. "For the most part, our company doesn’t work off of local servers that are in our offices and we don’t have full computers—we're running thin clients," he states. “And, for security reasons, our IT department has been trying to remove contractors and vendors off of our servers. Making use of cloud solutions, when possible, is an easy way to do this, so the PDK approach was definitely in a direction we wanted to go.”

The cloud also simplifies servicing the system. Modern System’s Lilly explains, "If there's a problem, we can have a technician get into the system from wherever they are—whether they’re in their car or at home on the weekend. We can take care of whatever Glenaire needs.”

Ferguson agrees. "I can call with a problem and they quickly pull up our system on a mobile phone or laptop, diagnose our problem, and help walk us through the steps to resolve it. Sometimes, it’s not something that can be fixed remotely and they have to send someone to the site, but frequently the problem can be fixed immediately.”

Software updates and patches for the system are automatically installed, making sure that security never slips, leaving Glenaire’s residents protected around the clock.

Looking ahead

Ferguson says that during the initial project “we began looking at another phase involving refitting almost every door, including to electrical rooms, storage rooms, mechanical rooms, and closets. This will bring the number of doors up to about 650. We’ve also been thinking about Glenaire’s planned new buildings and how we will incorporate them within this same system.”

Also in the cards is integration between the PDK access control solution and Glenaire’s new Milestone Systems video management software and high-resolution IP cameras that have been installed across the property. The value of this integration extends beyond security; it supports Glenaire’s missing resident protocol. “One step in that procedure is to go to the cameras and look for where the resident was last seen—what door they went out of. Then, you go to another camera and follow them to see where they went next. This way, we know where to look. That’s the primary reason why we have so many cameras. It’s not just to catch people stealing or to record car accidents,” he states. Once the systems are integrated, Glenaire staff will be able to immediately call up video that corresponds to the last time the missing resident used his or her access control card.

Glenaire is also looking at integration with other capabilities made possible through the Milestone solution, such as license plate recognition (LPR). In addition to helping to track visitors and assist in the rare criminal investigation, an integration between PDK and LPR could help to automate access to restricted parking areas or activate entry gates.

“Another thing we’re working on is an ability to lock down the campus through the PDK interface, if there’s some sort of security risk,” says Ferguson. Part of that plan involves sending an alert notification and communication updates to Glenaire’s residents. To do that, Glenaire will use Situational Awareness and Response Assistant (SARA), a risk management solution and mass notification system by Status Solution, with which PDK can integrate.

"We currently use SARA for all medical emergencies. Our residents have mobile duress pendants and we have pull cords located around campus that can immediately summon help," explains Ferguson. "SARA is tied into our fire-alarm system and two-way radios." During an incident, after SARA is integrated with PDK's solution, it will prompt the PDK system to unlock certain campus doors to allow egress for emergency responders, for example.

Ferguson says, "I made the right decision with Modern Systems, and Modern Systems made the right decision with PDK. It’s a great system, and it's going to continue to be a great system that will keep us running strong well into the future.”
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