Access control technologies: Important factors when choosing a solution.

Access control is at the top of the criticality pyramid for security systems. So choosing a reliable solution is critical. The use of access control technologies has grown tremendously in recent years. However, they have appeared on the market many solutions that do not meet the minimum requirements for security, reliability and stability that these systems require.

Access control is at the top of the criticality pyramid for security systems. So choosing a reliable solution is critical.

The use of access control technologies has grown tremendously in recent years. However, they have appeared on the market many solutions that do not meet the minimum requirements for security, reliability and stability that these systems require.

Among the electronic security technology, access control is at the top of the pyramid with the detection and fire alarm systems in terms of criticality. For example: Comparing access control with CCTV or intruder alarms, if a camera or sensor is not working, the common user of the system can even notice this failure. However, if there is any malfunction with the access control, it could be perceived immediately, because the user cannot enter the protected site. And even worse, they cannot leave! And in case of an emergency situation such as a fire break, this may be critical.

Hence the importance of choosing a secure access control solution, reliable and stable.

The electronic access control has emerged to solve some problems related to the use of keys, locks and mechanical locks. The use of conventional metal key, just as we know it today, has several negative factors. The main ones we discuss below:

• Keys can be copied: Carrying a key, you can go to any locksmith and order one or more copies;

• No record: It is not possible to know the date and time that a key carrier entered or left an specific room, even how many times he did it;

• Loss of keys: When this occurs the exchange of all the sets of locks and padlocks is necessary to keep the place safe;

• No restriction times: A key holder may enter the protected site on any given day and time, including weekends and holidays;

• Key holder Management: Who holds each key? This is a difficult question to answer if there is no efficient key management;

• Multiple keys: For each door, a separate key is required. This leads managers to carry several keys.

The electronic access control solves all the above problems. Instead of a metal key, which can be easily copied, now you use an electronic card that can have various encryption mechanisms and protection against duplication, guaranteed by the manufacturers. Additionally, biometric readers may be used to prevent a user from using another card.

With access control you can easily restrict days and times of access and issue detailed reports of user activity. A single card can open all the doors provided, of course, if provided with the level access rights.

Today, with the increasing adoption of outsourced security staff, access control has had a very important role for companies. As the turnover of this security staff is high, the security agents are not able to recognize all the staff members and whether a person belongs or not to that particular location. By using an electronic access control system, each user must use their card, password or biometric to enter the protected site. Thus, the criteria for permission is impersonal, because it is done automatically by the access control system.

The first variable to be set when choosing an access control system is the reader and card technology. There are now several technologies such as bar codes, magnetic, wiegand, Proximity 125 Khz, Smart Card (contact and contactless) and biometric readers. Many of these technologies are already outdated, still current are: Smart Card with their own key encryption and biometric readers.

As for topology, access control systems can be classified as: Autonomous "Stand alone", "Server based" or Hybrid with Distributed Intelligence. Below, a brief description of the operation of each one:

Autonomous "Stand Alone" Systems: These systems have their own intelligence and do not require software to operate. All the users database and permissions are stored in its internal memory. Usually they are systems with limited capacity and do not allow remote management. They may be auditable or not.

On-Line Systems: In this topology all the intelligence is in the server that is responsible for the release of access. When an access request comes through a reader (proximity, magnetic, bar, biometric, etc) it is sent to a server, which will review the level of authorization granting or not the access and sending back the release command.

Systems with Distributed Intelligence: In this topology all intelligence relies at the controller, which is responsible for granting access. Upon release, the event is sent to the software on the server for monitoring and reporting. In case of loss of communication with the server grants access and stores the event. Shown below is a diagram showing the topology of an access control system with distributed intelligence:

Figure 1: access control system with distributed intelligence.

The distributed intelligence access control systems are the most recommended as they ensure operation even in case of a downtime in the communication network or server failure.

In summary, here are some technical recommendations for choosing a reliable and secure access control solution:

The access control system must:

• Have its operation based on topology: Distributed intelligence;

• Allow integration with other systems such as CCTV, intruder alarm, fire detection and alarm, automation, etc.;

• Use Smart Card technology with encryption for readers/cards and/or biometric readers in the most restricted areas;

• Have communication IP architecture between controllers and software with encryption.

In addition, it is essential to choose an integrator, solution-certified company with experience in access control.

Select an open access control solution that is not offered exclusively by a single company. Thus, the end user is free to exchange installers, if the company is not providing a good service.

Rafaela Silva
Security Supplier Relation Manager
Anixter Caribbean & Latin America