Changing Expectations: Getting More From Access Control

Published On
Apr 15, 2017

Access control is one of the most prevalent and longstanding methods of securing entrances, exits and areas within protected premises. It includes keyed entrances, simple mechanical pushbutton locks, stand-alone and connected electronic devices, mobile connectivity, cloud-computing and a range of communications from Bluetooth and near-field to Wi-Fi, Wiegand and RS-232 standard communications protocols.

Regular innnovations have enabled electrical contractors to offer an array of products and services to their customers. With so many devices to choose from and numerous ways to deploy them, electrical contractors have nearly unlimited possibilities for specifying this growing physical security component in vertical markets and businesses.

Two of the most vibrant categories in access control today are cloud-based physical access control (PAC) and mobile credentials. Both allow customers to gain entrance, manage system permissions and schedules, and adjust controls and operational settings using a smartphone and software residing in the cloud. This type of connectivity is surging in popularity, as customers want one credential to do it all, as opposed to having a separate card or key fob to access the system or the premises and software to make administrative changes.

According to a new report from IHS Markit, Englewood, Colo., the global access control market will grow by 6.8 percent in 2017 and exceed $4.2 billion. The market research firm said access control would continue to play a larger role in enterprise applications as a result of deeper integrations with video surveillance, business processes and the Internet of Things.

IHS research points to increased use of mobile credentials and new biometric technologies as the top hardware trends to watch during 2017 along with logical/physical integrations and remote services such as access control-as-a-service. In fact, mobile credential downloads are expected to triple, increasing from approximately 4.5 million downloads in 2016 to around 13.5 million this year.

Moving to the cloud

Two recent reports from Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn., further predict rapid migration to cloud-based PAC systems and mobile credentials. The “Predicts 2017” report suggests that 20 percent of organizations will use mobile credentials for physical access in place of traditional identification cards by 2020.

A second report, “Technology Insight for Physical Access Control,” states that, within a similar timeline, 20 percent of enterprise organizations will use cloud-based PAC head-ends to simplify deployment.

Not only is the landscape changing, but customer expectations are also fueling growth in access control, according to Bill Wood, president of Salto Systems, Norcross, Ga.

“The first expectation from access control by customers was to help secure the building, but now, they require more from the product,” he said. “Much of the emerging technology provides greater flexibility, usability and efficiency, and that’s where the end-user gets their biggest return on investment.”

There is also growing demand for a class of products called “wire free,” as opposed to wireless.

“In our environment, we use the user’s credential to act as the transfer point to bring data from a door reader and move it back and forth between door readers and wall readers,” Wood said. “No one can always use the traditional wired system, so it’s not a threat but an opportunity to extend that system into doors that would otherwise have keys and cylinders with wire-free data-on-card transport mechanism, which actually delivers the same look and feel as a hard-wired system.”

The audit features and functions detail system activity and further provide peace of mind while mitigating risk. For access-control products where openings require wiring, the infrastructure has become simpler, revolving around standard ethernet network cabling.

“Access control no longer needs to be a specialty element within the contractor’s skill sets, as it uses standard cabling infrastructures contractors are already familiar with,” Wood said.

Stronger value proposition

Solutions and value proposition to the end-user in access control continue to evolve, said Brad Aiken, electronics portfolio leader, Allegion Commercial, Indianapolis.

“There’s still growth in K–12 education and healthcare, but now there’s emphasis on assisted living or commercial real estate tenancy, where you have an environment that attains greater value beyond security, such as convenience and accountability,” he said. “These are environments that can provide a level of convenience that equals more dollars per square footage in rentals. There’s a realization that, now, access control can provide more economical value than what was traditionally thought of in the past and can even help manage a property more effectively.”

The expectation of how security is delivered to consumers has changed, as well.

“When the administration gives students a tour of a residence hall, most expect electronic access control and not a mechanical key,” Aiken said. “Property managers have begun to understand the security of being able to instantly delete access and change or modify credentials without going to the door. That’s really driving the value proposition. What’s really starting to create more opportunities for contractors is realizing this same solution brings other value to customers in these verticals, such as operational efficiency and convenience.

“The market now realizes they can improve the cost of operating the property and grant access remotely with an existing card and without property managers going across town to open a property. They also have an audit trail and other history reports, so there’s a healthier return on investment. Stakeholders are looking for a stronger ROI tied to delivering services, which can be charged for. This is what’s creating and enabling an opportunity for more electronic access control adoption,” he said.

ECs should also be aware of other trends.

“First, more and more end-users are requesting long-range solutions in the form of receivers and transmitters,” said Scott Lindley, president, Farpointe Data, Sunnyvale, Calif. “Such receivers support either two- or four-button transmitters and may be used from ranges up to 200 feet. Each button outputs transmitter data over its own separate Wiegand output, letting the receiver install just like a proximity reader for easy integration with the most popular card systems.”

Lindley said access control integrators find receivers and transmitters to be a terrific solution for long range access control applications such as gates and vehicle barriers, moving aircraft in and out of secure hangars, arming and disarming alarm systems, and in situations calling for emergency duress. Instead of using a card—which could activate more than one device or door at a time—the transmitter holder selects, in the form of a button press, exactly the mechanism to be immediately triggered.

“Secondly, hacking has become a threat far bigger than most think,” he said. “Interestingly, some security people don’t seem to secure their own security equipment. Over the past year, users are learning that today’s IP-enabled contactless card readers and wireless cameras have become favorite targets of hackers. Unsecured, they provide irresistible backdoors.”

About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer

O’MARA writes about security, life safety and systems integration and is managing director of DLO Communications. She can be reached at or 773.414.3573.

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