Why not add low-voltage wiring to your mix when you're already running power for lighting and other controls at the job?

You won't be the only one to benefit. Your customer will have one company to provide a turnkey installation from start to finish-with maintenance and service as the icing on the cake.

Customers are telling electrical contractors that they need security. There's heightened awareness of security, and a perceived rise in crime. Whatever the reason, access control is increasingly popular.

"Access control has become a natural progression of a project," says Neil Hart, president of Electronic Control Systems Inc., in Miami, Fla. Hart says security represents only a small percentage of Electronic Control's total revenues, but it's an integral component of the business. "Customers want one company to install power, voice/data, and other communications, especially on a fast track project," he says.

Hart says his company is witnessing a "tremendous migration to single-solution systems, such as building management integrated with closed circuit television (CCTV) and other security functions."

By design, and with the advent of smart controllers, products are not at all complex to install, with a little practice.

"It's becoming easier to install access control and security. A knowledgeable electrical contractor familiar with low voltage and with minimal training should be able to install access control," says Derek Trimble, vice president of marketing and new product development, Cardkey Systems Inc., Simi Valley, Calif. (Cardkey is part of the Control Group of Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, Wis.)

According to Trimble, access control systems serve a broad market, and are used for applications at airports, universities, campuses, hospitals, state, and municipal facilities, and many other locations.

"Access control is an outgrowth of and complement to an electrical contractor's business," he says.

Single-door control may be a good starting point for electrical contractors who are testing the waters. Stand-alone locks and controls often have their own microprocessor or built-in "smarts. " With these types of systems, the lock carries the intelligence and enables the enrollment of users without the need for a computer, software, or even programming modules, says Jawa Thomas, marketing manager, Ilco Unican Corp., Winston Salem, N.C.

"In addition, today one card can handle multiple technologies within the premises, such as proximity and magnetic stripe in different areas of the facility, " he says.

Multi-functional
Higher-end access control installations-from 50 to 100 doors or more-are a mainstay for McMillan Technology Inc. in San Francisco.

Mike Barbagelata, national project director, says airports, high-rise buildings, campuses, and parking structures are suited for such multiple-door access control. And, the benefits for the end-user are many. "Access control gives the customer the ability to control who comes and goes from a facility, provide an audit trail or record of card activity by user, limit access to restricted areas, and even deactivate cards remotely when necessary."

Barbagelata adds that many of McMillan Technology's installations integrate access control with CCTV surveillance and may also link a facility's video imaging or badging system.

Nearly half of the installations handled by Harris Electric, a division of CE Harris Inc., in Dublin, Calif., are security, including access control and CCTV.

"Security is a big issue for many of the customers we serve," says Cal Harris, president of Harris Electric. "We've been doing security for about 10 years. We stay current with manufacturer training classes, in-house seminars, and in-the-field experience."

Many systems on the market today not only can be used for smaller applications, they can also be expanded in a network configuration. A variety of card-reader technologies are available, including Wiegand, magnetic stripe, bar code, and proximity.

"The versatility of access control adds to its appeal," says Perry Garvis, consultant program manager, Casi-Rusco, Boca Raton, Fla. "We recognize that users' needs change over time, so we designed our product line with scalability in mind. Field panels are designed for growth of card readers, [with] input points and output points, as well as the ability to easily adapt from a serial/dial-up connection to a network connection by simply replacing a board in the unit."

Open systems
With technology advancements and the move to open architecture systems, access control is one piece of an elaborate puzzle, says Scott Zielski, director of marketing, Northern Computers Inc., Milwaukee. "The more open the system, the more versatile it becomes. Open systems easily incorporate access control, CCTV, asset management and much more."

Manufacturers such as Northern Computers are also addressing-with the move to integrated, open systems-the need to train more fully the installing base, which includes the electrical contractor.

"More and more electrical contractors are installing security, access control, and networked systems," he says. "We have an in-house university, online assistance, and interactive tutorials available, as well as regional training. We're looking at other ways to bring training to electrical contractors."

For the end-user, there are many benefits to an open system. The end-user has the seamless functions they need, whether it is integrating CCTV with access control or human resources functions, such as badging.

"Now you can trigger other events to happen when access control is activated. There's tighter communication between equipment and more accurate dissemination of information," says Cam Queeno, director of security products marketing, Simplex Time Recorder Co., Gardner, Mass.

The proliferation of Ethernet and communications protocols such as Wiegand, the Internet's transmission control protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP), LonWorks and BACnet, all contribute to open, robust networks.

"The bandwith for communication, so to speak, has expanded tremendously. There's now a larger pipe to transmit information across and control various types of devices," Queeno says. "Access control has more capability than ever to get more information across in a highly accurate format," Queeno says.

O'MARA is the president of DLO Communications, Inc., in Chicago. She specializes in writing about the security market. She can be reached at (773) 775-1816 or via e-mail at domara@flash.net.