Integrating physical access into the broader corporate enterprise
By Damon Dageenakis, Sr. Product Line Manager for Physical Access Control, HID Global
Using one network to control multiple solutions certainly has its benefits. The move to Internet Protocol – or IP – based networks is making it easier to operate and simplify the expansion and customization of physical access control systems.
A major benefit of this approach is the ability to move intelligence to the door, which reduces system failure points and streamlines system monitoring and management. By migrating to open architecture, IP-based intelligent controllers, users can also simplify future infrastructure enhancements and modifications because they can invest in hardware platforms that are not tied to proprietary software.
Networking Adoption Drivers
Most companies and institutions today have installed security, access control and video surveillance systems at their facilities. Others may even have installed incident response systems, perimeter detection systems and alarm monitoring systems. These and other disparate and isolated systems cannot easily share information, and yet, there are natural synergies between each of them.
IP-based solutions can facilitate their integration, creating the opportunity for a single new system that can be much greater than the sum of its individual parts. The ability to manage video monitoring, access control, intrusion protection, incident response and other solutions on a single network in any environment delivers better facility management. Users get more out of their investments and realize the benefits of a single system that performs multiple functions with a single interface.
There is also an obvious synergy between physical and IT security within an IP-based environment. The ability to combine physical and logical access control on a single credential improves user convenience while increasing security and reducing deployment and operational costs. These solutions enable organizations to leverage their existing credential investment to add logical access control for network log-on as well as create an interoperable, multi-layered security solution across company networks, systems and facilities. They also help organizations enforce more consistent policies, while facilitating the use of consolidated audit logs throughout the enterprise.
With the majority of larger installations now utilizing network communications, there will likely be a natural push for IT and facility security teams to work closely on integrated solutions that combine both sets of functionality using the same IP connections. As a result, IP-based access control has the potential to change the role of the security systems integrator, who is increasingly being influenced by IT integrators. In the meantime, there may be many new buildings using IP-based building control systems, as well as organizations that see advantages to using IP rather than proprietary networks, not only for integration, but to deliver new capabilities such as remote communications.
Earlier concerns about the security of IP-based access control are rapidly waning as the industry realizes that it actually improves security. As an example, being able to integrate video surveillance with access control offers a more comprehensive view. Being able to manage all of the various video management and analytics subsystems, intrusion devices and associated IP-based edge devices through a single user interface significantly enhances situational awareness as all information can be immediately combined and correlated.
Importance of open standards, modular, scalable platforms
A key to realizing the benefits of IP-based, networked access control is the use of an open and scalable platform. This ensures that information can be seamlessly exchanged between the previously disparate systems.
Systems based on open standards also make it easier for users to expand, customize and integrate solutions while delivering more robust security. New technologies can be brought into existing architectures without requiring a software overhaul to accommodate them. Standards-based solutions also give users the flexibility to choose from many different products and suppliers and to tailor these solutions to their own, specific needs. Untethering users from any single supplier also gives the industry more incentive to innovate and differentiate their solutions.
Modularity is also important. A modular design enables users to select only the features they need, using streamlined system architecture. This helps lower the cost of an entry-level system for organizations that want the benefits of intelligent, networked security solutions but don’t yet need a full-featured system. In the past, the only choice was to move to a proprietary system that locked the customer into a particular system size and performance level. In contrast, today’s advanced controllers, thin-client software and IP connectivity enable a customer migration path with many incremental and affordable investment steps over time.
This also requires that there be a continuum of options to fill the gap between traditional mechanical locks with no intelligence and door solutions with full, IP-networked intelligence and functionality. It must be possible to easily adapt solutions for facility expansion or changes to virtually any card/reader configuration that future security needs may require. This could mean controlling a couple of doors with dozens to hundreds of cardholders or managing hundreds of doors at multiple facilities with as many as 100,000 card holders. IP-based access control solutions must be able to bring intelligence to the door while protecting the value of customers’ overall investments, from controller to reader to credential.
Unlike proprietary solutions, open architecture IP-based solutions provide access to hundreds of access control software system options rather than a single manufacturer’s panel and matching software solution. This enables the end user to purchase a system-agnostic controller coupled with access control software, with the option to later change that software to meet evolving requirements without requiring a major upgrade.
For optimal scalability, developer kits that feature open architecture application programming interfaces (API) to the embedded software driving access control functionality should support IP access control solutions. Basing solutions on an open architecture platform will enable customers to meet evolving requirements and future expansion needs while protecting the value of their overall investments. Users should have a wide variety of options for future additions, including fire alarms, intrusion detection, CCTV, biometrics and others as required.
For optimal security, the next generation of IP-based access control solutions also must use a controller platform that is capable of operating with fully trusted connections from host to controller to reader to credential. This approach will substantially increase security options for access control systems in the future.
The End Game: No Wires
The first step to untethered, networked access control connectivity is wireless, intelligent locksets and readers. These devices will grow in prevalence with the advent of new lower-cost, more energy-efficient products. By using interoperable, open-architecture IP-based intelligent controllers, users will have a broad range of both basic and wireless intelligent readers to choose from, providing access to multiple credential technologies.
IP-based access control is well on its way to widespread adoption. Its benefits include simplified system operation, expansion and customization, with the added ability to integrate a physical access control system with many other solutions on the same network.