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Evolving trends in access control

Obviously everyone in the industry is talking about the latest trends in CCTV technology, such as the transition from analogue to IP, Power over Ethernet (PoE) connectivity and the shift to open-architecture solutions. However, it is important to note that these same trends are also occurring in another major technology in physical security: access control.

November 17, 2009  By Steve Bocking

From analogue to IP
Currently, the majority of access control manufacturers work exclusively with their own line of door controllers and their associated software. Historically, the controller communication was done over serial cable, all hardwired back to a master control panel in an electrical closet. A quick way to convert a traditional panel to IP is to add a small device server to translate the signal from serial to IP, commonly known as a network adapter. The advantage is you can now put the serial panel on an IP network; the disadvantage is that the network adaptor contributes to additional costs and typically takes multiple steps to program an IP address.

The newer ‘native’ IP panels available today have a built-in Ethernet port and facilitate the assignment of an IP address. More so, unlike the usual concern of bandwidth impact when installing additional IP cameras, putting an IP controller on the network generates minimal traffic, so much so that it is almost negligible for most corporate networks. However it may be important to validate the opposite, that the corporate traffic won’t affect the door controller.

PoE connectivity
Another new trend in access control is PoE connectivity. This new development for door controllers contributes to savings on cabling and backup power (if the Ethernet switch is already on an uninterrupted power supply (UPS)). Some of the peripheral devices associated with the door control, such as REXs, readers and door locks can also be powered over Ethernet. Nevertheless, because of the limited current available from PoE there is still often a requirement to bring power to the door, especially if there is a Mag lock on the door.

Open-platform controllers
In my opinion, the most interesting development in access control is the slow move towards multiple software companies using the same third-party controllers. This means that after installing a 20-door system, if an end-user is dissatisfied with the performance of the controller or the software, they can easily switch vendors. Before, it was difficult to change manufacturers without requiring to change all the existing controllers. This new trend has slowly started to shift the power back to the end-user, giving them more freedom of choice without having to do a major retrofit.
So although the evolution of CCTV is more prevalent a topic in our industry, we should not dismiss the changes that are occurring with access control. It may be a slower evolution in comparison, but new access control technology and trends will certainly continue to have an impact on the physical security industry, whether you are an end-user, integrator, or manufacturer.

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