Smarty Pants

Access control is a logical product to integrate. Technology continues to advance, especially in networked solutions, smart cards and biometrics, offering new capabilities and more application possibilities than ever before. It is a logical product to expand and add at existing premises, such as a college that requires single-door control or a campuswide networked solution.

Wireless can be part of the solution and doesn’t have to be wimpy. It can be a full-blown, integrated system, controlling multiple doors from a centralized location. From simple electronic locks to computer-managed devices, hard-wired systems to wireless technology, access control has the features and functions to satisfy a host of applications in myriad markets.

Locking systems are evolving in sophistication, said George Nortonen, vice president–marketing, IR Security & Safety Electronic Control Systems, Forestville, Conn.

With an installed cost starting at around $655 per door, programmable electronic locks provide a solid choice for facilities with a limited number of users and access points. A step above the traditional generations-old mechanical push button locks, they are stand-alone, microprocessor-based, battery-powered devices, Nortonen said.

The next step in an intelligent migration from mechanical locks to integrated access control is computer-managed (CM) locking systems. CM locks are ideal in situations where older doors or facilities need to be retrofitted for higher-security. These systems offer many of the same benefits as a networked, hard-wired system, without the higher cost and additional care associated with routing network cable, especially important when retrofitting an existing facility with electronic access control, Nortonen said.

Planning an access-control system means starting small and growing as necessary. Building a pathway to future technologies based on smart cards is the safest route, according to Randall Provoost, GE Infrastructure–Security product marketing manager for Readers and Credentials, Boca Raton, Fla.

Provoost said 125KHz proximity and Wiegand standards constitute the majority of the card-based access-control market worldwide.

“The reluctance among these card issuers to move toward the more advanced smart-card technologies is primarily due to their extensive investments in legacy proximity/RFID/contactless technology. What’s been needed is a reader that bridges the gap between the old and the wanted. Transition readers address this large segment of the market and should be considered when planning any type of new or refurbished access-control system,” Provoost said.

New York business consultants Frost and Sullivan recently gave GE Infrastructure—Security a product innovation award for its Transition Series of readers for physical access control, which are compatible with systems useing Wiegand-based data communications up to 64 bits in addition to 125KHz proximity, Mifare (ISO 14443A) and Vicinity (ISO 15693) standards. The most critical innovation of the readers is the ability to read existing proximity cards as well as Mifare and Vicinity smart cards.

“The readers are designed for organizations attempting to enhance physical access control architecture by migrating to Mifare and Vicinity smart-card technology, while keeping existing legacy systems at the same time,” said Karthik Nagarajan, security and access control analyst, Frost and Sullivan.

Multitechnology readers should provide intelligent supervision that monitors the communication between the access control panel and the reader at the door.

For instance, intelligent, four-state supervision continuously monitors for cut lines, short circuits, closed circuits and open circuits at the request-to-exit connections. LEDs and audible alerts will indicate status, alarm and perimeter-tampering conditions. An internal tamper switch will automatically alert security personnel if the reader is violated.

Finally, upon an alert, the reader has to be removed from the system. When breached, the reader needs to become inactive, removing the opportunity for the intruder to enter through this access point.

Biometrics has become more common adding another layer of security authentication. Current systems are not as obtrusive as they had been in the past.

iAccess Systems Inc., Long Beach, Calif., introduced a blood vessel authentication system that uses a personal identification number and unique image of the blood vessel pattern in a finger for registration and authentication. Registration takes seconds, and any finger can be used for the initial set-up scan.

“Users have been worried about privacy and other issues with regards to biometrics,” said Bob Kopicki, sales and marketing, iAccess Systems. “But this system is nonobtrusive and people don’t have to have something near their eye to enroll. It’s as accurate as other biometrics and you can use different fingers to enroll.”

The system can also be networked to the computer through entry-location cameras. From a single intelligent solution to a networked system, access control has carved a niche as a critical building component. EC

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or


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

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