As the Internet of Things continues its rapid evolution, everything from refrigerators to toothbrushes is connecting to the cloud. So the logical assumption would be that physical security would be quick to follow the trend. But in physical security, nothing is quick.
Many industry leaders tout cloud-based physical access control systems as the next generation. They cite that the cloud can provide end users with enhanced functionality and unlimited scalability, at lower cost and with less maintenance than traditional systems.
Next-generation physical access control systems have begun to shift from traditional hardware-centric architecture to newer IT-based approaches, but the traditional systems still dominate deployments. Indicators suggest that this is changing.
According to a 2015 white paper by access control and security manager Viscount Systems, computing power is more than 30,000 times what it was three decades ago, and wired communication speed has increased more than 10,000 times.
The report highlights that the technology limitations that required hardware-centric, distributed-intelligence systems no longer exist, but still most access control architecture remains the same, saddling customers with needless limitations and costs of hardware-centric systems.
Cloud-based access control systems can integrate with other cloud applications such as time and attendance and HVAC systems
There are varying degrees of “cloud” in cloud-based PACS and definitions are numerous and varied. Some physical access control manufacturers have moved the database server component of the architecture to the cloud, but left the ability to grant or deny access to traditional hardware on premises at the protected facility. Other solutions are removing virtually all hardware – even the door access reader – from the physical location in a fully-cloud play.
Regardless, there are both real and perceived concerns about cloud-hosted physical access control systems, and switching from an on-premises or managed-access system to a cloud-based architecture is not an easy decision.
“Much of what we’re seeing in the security industry related to cloud-based PACS is generational. People have been doing it the old way for 20 or 30 years, and many industry types continue to be very resistant to change,” says Steve Van Till, CEO and founder of security systems provider Brivo.
What we’re seeing related to cloud-based PACS is generational. People have been doing it the old way for 20 or 30 years, and many industry vets continue to be very resistant to change
Still, Van Till says it’s only a matter of time before commercial locks are wireless, which will make it seem commonplace that doors are connected to the Internet. “I think the role of the cloud just becomes assumed at that point,” he says.
He alludes to an interesting point. The access control industry has evolved, often reluctantly, from mechanical to electronic, prox to contactless, and Weigand to IP. Is cloud simply the next great migration for physical access control?