The Great Awakening: Access Control Fosters Integration Opportunities

Network and internet protocol (IP) products now support and leverage a host of formerly disparate systems and devices, providing more comprehensive risk assessment, detection and security. Networked security systems bring new intelligence to the equation and the ability to gather key critical information to proactively protect the premises.

In security, the network and IP connectivity has become an accelerator of systems integration. Traditional intrusion sensors now integrate with access control, which similarly works in tandem with video surveillance. Cameras watch sensitive areas or manufacturing processes and provide real-time monitoring and proactive facility automation. The internet of things (IoT) is surging, further encouraging turnkey solutions now engineered by a single approach through interconnected devices and services.

Electronic access control as a product category is fully reaping the rewards of IP and network connectivity. Just as networked video surveillance has been marching forward from its analog past to the IP present, access control is undergoing a similar transformation—and IP provides flexibility in the specification and the ability to merge and converge all types of different devices and products. Specifications can now piggyback off intrusion, video, audio, environmental sensing and motion detection—working together to bolster and strengthen detection, security, safety and comfort.

Road map to interoperability

Traditional barriers to networked access control solutions are disappearing while new standards and industry documents are emerging, providing a road map to increased interoperability.

Open protocols are proliferating while proprietary products disappear. Organizations such as the Open Network Video Interface Forum have created and released conformance documents that allow security product manufacturers to develop and test for integration and operability. The most recently released Profile A is the first specification that allows mixing and matching of access control devices and clients of a system, facilitating interoperability between participating manufacturer’s parts and components. In addition, open supervised device protocol (OSDP) is creating a more open environment and the ability to connect new and existing legacy components, while the cloud allows easy off-site management and administration of physical access and stronger identity and credential control. OSDP is an access control communications standard developed by the Security Industry Association to improve interoperability among access control and security products. OSDP v2.1.7 is undergoing the process to become recognized by the American National Standards Institute.

As physical security continues to operate on the network and is accelerated by the IoT and the proliferation of smart cities, sensors and buildings, access control will be essential.

Major trends driving innovation

“For a long time, access control systems relied on the same antiquated technology and unencrypted communications protocols such as Wiegand,” said Jonathan Moore, senior director of Enterprise Solutions, North America, AMAG Technology Inc., Torrance, Calif. “One of the most exciting trends is the development of open protocols like OSDP, allowing devices from different manufacturers to communicate with each other in a secure, bidirectional manner. These new protocols and standards allow hardware and software from different manufacturers to work together easily and, most important, securely. What this boils down to is access control systems are providing more functionality in the core solution, while also becoming more interoperable with other manufacturers.”

Scott Lindley, general manager, Farpointe Data, Sunnyvale, Calif., said mobile devices and smartphones are an important influencing factor on access control and credentials.

“Many in the security industry don’t realize that 95-plus percent of those age 18–44 already own smartphones and 69 percent of the entire population uses them,” he said. “They want their smartphones to connect to their access control systems. However, although mobile credentials and readers have been available, they have not been easy to install and users have had to forfeit much of their privacy.

“Now, multiple credentials supporting various access control systems can fit into a single smartphone wallet app. The possibility exists for read ranges in excess of 15 feet (4.5 m). The user needs to register their smartphone number only once and requires no other portal accounts, activation features or ongoing billing,” Lindley said.

Going mobile also enables security to manage events and visitors wherever they occur, Moore said.

“The visitor management sector is using tablets and mobile devices in a number of interesting applications,” he said. “Tablets allow visitors to check themselves in, but they also enable the reception staff to get out from behind the desk and interact with the visitors, creating a better experience and a more secure visitor management solution.”

Wireless technology has also had a tremendous impact on how security officers do their jobs.

“Security officers are more connected, with mobile devices to record incidents, capture photos and videos, check in at each location on guard tours, etc.,” he said. “Having a more connected security force allows for better data gathering for events/incidents, but it also provides valuable information to drive efficiencies. This convergence of human and technology will only continue to progress.”

Products that used to comprise only mechanical and electrical parts have now transformed into complex, interconnected systems combining hardware, software, microprocessors, sensors and data storage.

“These smart products are the result of a series of rapid improvements in device miniaturization, processing power and wireless connectivity,” Lindley said. “The IoT is much like a two-headed snake. While the one head promises—and delivers—greater productivity, the other head opens the system to greater risk of attack. Every sensor added to the system is another gate to a hacker with bad intentions. That’s why most discussions that start with the IoT soon begin to focus on the industrial internet, the network used to transmit data or orders and feedback from computers/software to their equipment and machines, because that’s the hot spot. For security integrators, that’s where the big money will be—in cybersecurity.”

Edge processing as an influencer

Edge processing, where decisions are made at or close to the door, is also adding intelligence to access control and proliferating more widespread application.

“Edge intelligence is progressing for security at the door,” Moore said. “The first step in edge intelligence was video, where the cameras and encoders were recording video locally and video analytics was performed locally at the device. Now, in access control, we are seeing similar trends. Mobile devices are starting to be used for authentication purposes. The user can not only use their phone as a credential, but the phone can be used to read the user’s fingerprint before allowing access. As edge devices get smarter, authentication of the identity will get better and better.”

Today, sophisticated IP intelligence at the door is limited typically to an integrated proximity or contactless smart card reader because stand-alone access control applications are considered normal. But that’s all changing.

“These solutions will evolve further as system intelligence is increased dramatically with the advent of mobile access control with smartphones loaded with multiple credentials allowing access to multiple access control systems—facilities, communications, data, cafeteria and transportation,” Lindley said. “With wide area communications becoming the norm, it is easy to foresee such systems one day reaching far beyond the facility and into our homes, schools, automobiles, gyms and other aspects of our lives.”

About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer

Deborah L. O’Mara is a journalist with more than two decades experience writing about security, life safety and systems integration, and she is the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at dlocommunications@gmail.com...

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