We discussed the Age of the Internet and the affect it has had on CCTV in our last article. Given that this is a base for most trends, the Internet of Things (IoT) carries through to highly impact access control as well. These systems, much like CCTV, were slow to adapt to the demands of the market. Most manufacturers simply provided serial-to-LAN adapters to get the access system onto a network and it was left up to the owner to establish remote desktops to access the server. That time has passed, and they are fully internet capable and ready. Many even have mobile apps with limited capabilities.
To date, most systems would still be considered “hybrid,” capable of passing information from one controller to the next via a dedicated, hardwired cable path either daisy-chained or branched from the primary controller or mother board. The primary controller would then act as the bridge to the network having a Local Area Network (LAN) connection. There are some models out there where ALL controllers have the LAN connection, but most do not. Yet.
The trend we are witnessing is this: the days of daisy-chaining communication cable from one part of the building to the other are going to be behind us very soon. Manufacturers are developing their software and hardware packages to be more network-centric devices, easier to install, maintain, and swap. Whether adding additional modules to the controllers and re-scripting software to allow for multiple controllers to be on the network at once, or developing a new line of nothing-but-LAN-based controllers, or options for both, manufacturers are coming around and listening to demands.
Most modern facilities have the current infrastructure to support LAN connections for communications throughout the building, negating the need to run cable from one section to another. Utilizing the current paths provides opportunity for more robust, reliable communications, reducing installation and lifetime-maintenance cost of a system.
The cabling structure also supports the software platform to be more useful and easily accessible. Remote access through a web-based or mobile application are becoming extremely popular with Operations, Maintenance, and Facility Security personnel all over the world. They allow for rapid and efficient response times to security events without the need for long drives or complex login procedures via VPNs or Remote Desktop sessions. These methods are typically encrypted and very secure. This was not widely available 15 years ago and has now become performance expectation with new systems.
The software itself usually resides on a local, dedicated server housed in the owner’s server rack(s), with operator workstations accessing it through a thick client, software installed to their local computer, or a thin client, which is through a web-browser. The level of access and permissions for that operator are based on what the server allows them, such as managing card holders, schedules, or simple locking and unlocking doors. Remote (outside) access from their mobile phone or home PC is also managed by the server.
Other options on the market offer cloud-based software management. Essentially, the data and software will not reside on the owner’s property, but in the cloud. There is a low-level of local control and redundancy on site, but the higher level functionally will reside in a server farm designated by the manufacturer. This type of system is referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS) and usually has regular fees associated with the access and maintenance of your data on their servers. For those users who are not interested in maintaining servers, this could be a viable option.
Integrations with CCTV, alarms, building automation, Sequel-databases, Active Directory, and other systems that enhance the capabilities of facility personnel to manage security and operations are also available. Helping to reducing the requirement for staffing in some departments and increasing productivity and effectiveness of the investment.
But wait, there’s more! Card and Reader technology has continually progressed from the days of basic magnetic swipe cards. It seems that every year there are developments in the formatting and encryption of the cards to prevent someone from being able to “skim” your card data and duplicating it. There are a variety of technologies out there that go from low level encryption all the way up to high level encryption with proprietary coding just for your business. Of course, the more complex cards and readers come at a higher cost but deliver peace of mind knowing your system cannot be hacked right at the door.
The internet has provided a pathway to manage card access systems that were only dreams not long ago. The convenience and ability to react instantaneously has drastically improved operational responsiveness, increased system capabilities and integrations, and cut overall lifetime cost of these systems. Bringing your system into the 21st century as part of the Internet of Things and high-level encryption at the door will prove to be invaluable to your business.
For more information on access control or other Security Solutions offerings, reach out to LONG today.