Security Today | Access control: The under-estimated facet of security

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Access control: The under-estimated facet of security

web-post June 19, 2017

In the world of security technology, a venue is deemed secure if there is surveillance in place, in the shape of CCTV cameras scanning the perimeter and other areas where surveillance is required. While the utility of surveillance in not only scanning for post event analysis but even for causing deterrence is undeniable, most acts of crime can be prevented if access is denied to the perpetrator. In the recent Manchester concert blast that killed 22 people, had access been denied to the bag carrying suicide bomber, the blasts may have been prevented or at least the impact caused by blast waves minimised and more lives saved. Access control is possibly one of the facets of security technology that is deemed basic and while some semblance of importance is given to it, it remains an underestimated spoke in the wheel of security.

This, notwithstanding technology that embraces access control has gone far beyond the lock and key–the origins of access control. But possibly even now true development of access control technology remains in a mist. Even now the picture that comes into most people’s minds when thinking about access control systems is someone offering a badge up to a card reader to unlock a door or release a barrier so that they can get into or out of a premises. And, of course, this is a primary function of access control devices for most installations. The capabilities of modern access control systems extend far beyond simply controlling who can get into a building. In a real sense, an effective access control system can be used as an invaluable  tool to enhance business efficiency and benefit an organisation in a number of ways.

Modern access control systems can supply data in a format that is readily compatible with payroll packages, so the tedious and error-prone process of entering staff attendance data manually can be completely eliminated. Even in moderately sized organisations, this leads to useful savings and efficiency improvements in the payroll department and, for larger organisations, the savings can be very substantial. However, recording time for attendance and payroll is not the main purpose of access control systems, but in reality, they are largely being used for this primary reason!

Let’s look at what else an access control system can do inside the building. It can, of course, be used to limit access to specific areas at specific times, ensuring that only authorised staff can enter on specified days and at specified times. This means that staff who have access to a building or an office during normal working hours can be barred at other times. Conversely, cleaning staff can be allowed access only after the normal working day is finished.

Particularly in multiple occupancy buildings, it is often also useful to tie the operation of lifts into the access control system, so that users can only send the lifts to the floors occupied by the company for which they work, just as many hotels have started doing.

Some systems can go further by, for example, providing an effective solution to the perennial problem of bookings for meeting rooms and similar shared facilities, making it possible for authorised users to book the room or facility on-line. Then, at the appropriate time – but not at other times – their access control badge or card will allow entry. Arguments over bookings and wasted administrative time controlling the bookings manually are eliminated.

Many organisations are also using access control passes to control printing and photocopying – before they can make a copy or print a document, the pass holder has to present their pass to the machine. This not only means that unauthorised usage is eliminated, but also that records can easily be kept of the volume of copying and printing carried out by individual users. This is a big incentive to print only what is necessary, thereby saving costs and protecting the environment.  It also improves the security of confidential documents.

Cashless vending services can also be implemented using the same access control credentials. This avoids the expense and inconvenience of having to issue separate cards, and also means that when a card needs to be issued, cancelled or updated, the job only has to be done once. Again, this can lead to big savings in administrative time and costs.

For many users, however, one of the biggest benefits of installing a modern access control system is that it greatly reduces their energy bills and, therefore, their carbon emissions.
This is achieved by arranging for the access control system to exchange data with the building management system. Since the access control system knows which areas of the building are occupied, once this interchange of data has been enabled, it is a relatively simple matter to configure the building management system so that it automatically turns off unnecessary lighting and reduces the heating/cooling in unoccupied areas.

A well-implemented access control system can start its work even before staff and visitors reach the building, by controlling entry and exit to the car park. Modern systems can be programmed to allow access only to authorised cars, or simply to count cars in until the car park is full, and then to bar further entries.

Clearly modern access control systems have a lot to offer, but when it comes to installing such a system, there is always one element that is typically not considered. This is availability of a budget or the lack of it. Before assuming that there is insufficient money available to install a system, it is worth looking again at the features and facilities discussed in this article, many of which lead directly to cost savings.

The features described apply to modern systems that have been designed from the outset with versatility in mind, and some of the bespoke functions, like the lottery system for car parking, rely on the expertise of the supplier for successful implementation.

As is established, technology is changing – and advancing – at an incredible rate. Things that simply weren’t possible even just a few years ago are commonplace today. This advance of technology has spread quickly in the world of security, and access control systems are a great example of these developments. Whether you are trying to protect a residential or commercial property, using access control offers numerous benefits with almost no drawbacks to consider.

There are a number of different access control systems on the market today, including those that function with key codes, voice readers, cards, fingerprints, iris scans, mobile phones and more. If you are thinking about employing an access control system on one of your properties, consider the following five advantages.

Without a physical key to lose, you will have one less thing to keep track of during your day-to-day life. It is all too easy to lose your keys, even if you are paying attention and have them attached to a ring. All it takes is one absent-minded moment of leaving them behind and you will have a big problem on your hands. You can pick an access system that suits your personality and needs best and then rely on that system to gain entry rather than a physical key.

This is a particular advantage for commercial users. If you own a business and you need to grant access to that business for all of your employees, you can customize the system to only let them in and out on an individualized basis. For instance, you could give certain employees the permission to enter the business at any time of day, while others would be limited to business hours. Likewise, you can control the movement of your staff by limiting access to specific parts of the building to those with the proper credentials.

If someone with bad intentions gains possession of a physical key, it will only take a couple of dollars and a quick trip to the hardware store for them to duplicate that key. In just a few minutes, they can have a copy of the key that will unlock doors that you need to be secure. At the very least, this will mean that you have to reinstall locks on your doors – or you may suffer a burglary before you have the chance. This won’t be a concern with an access control system. Even if a key is stolen or a pass code is revealed, you can quickly change the codes and cancel any cards that may have disappeared

This is a huge advantage when it comes to controlling your building. Not only will you have a record of each time the doors have been opened and closed, you will also know who it was that was passing through the doors (or at least, whose key/code was being used). If there is an issue with theft in your business, for instance, you can follow the trail of access to the various parts of the building in order to unravel the mystery.

Not currently at home but need to let someone in? That would be impossible with a traditional lock, but it is quick and easy with an access control system. Simply grant them access from wherever you are and the problem will be solved. Of course, as soon as they are done and have left, you can return your settings to normal so the individual will not have repeat access (unless you wish to grant it to them). Remote access to your system is one of the features that you are likely to fall in love with soon after installing an access control system.

Using technology—scanners, RFID, wristbands, dashboards—to control and monitor the access to a concert, session room or conference, has one obvious benefit for paid admission/restricted access events: individuals that have not paid/are not registered cannot be admitted. Possibly glitches on this front enabled the Manchester bomber to gain access into the concert hall area with a suitcase bomb.

There are other benefits, however, especially when the control system is connected to more sophisticated reporting and analytics tools. Here are some of the ways that event organizers can use access control systems to reduce crowd congestion, make better decisions and enhance the bottom line.
1.    Reduction in Fraud: Wristbands with embedded RFID tags—the types that are often used in effective access control systems—are very difficult to duplicate. If they are stolen before being issued, they can be immediately deactivated. If they are reported stolen after issuance and deactivated before the event, door monitors can confiscate them when presented at the venue for admission.
2.    Capacity control: Event organizers can use access control technology to tell when a room or venue is reaching capacity for security and comfort reasons. By viewing the number of attendees in rooms across the event, organizers can make real time adjustments as needed and recommend alternate conference sessions or direct attendees to overflow areas.
3.    Intelligence: Keeping attendance, waiting or VIP lists to control admittance and understand exactly who is in the “room” is a process of the past. Access control devices can determine who is in attendance and help organizers act accordingly to administer rewards, offer VIP treatment, remove unauthorized visitors or address security breaches.
4.    Behavior analysis: Event organisers can use access control devices and processes to develop patterns about attendee behavior. The data can be drilled down to the individual level or filtered by job titles, industry verticals and any number of other ways. The information can then be used for planning better events and achieving sales outcomes. For example, organizers can identify which CMOs were more interested in seeing Bruce Springsteen versus Ray Kurweil.
5.    Cost control: Access control can translate into cost control. Knowing who or how many individuals have attended specific areas and cross referencing that data to the number of admissions sold provides a valuable check for organizations looking to get a handle on costs and revenue leakage.

Manual badge checking, head counting and ticket taking will soon be replaced by cost-effective electronic monitoring systems. The benefits far outweigh the costs and for some organizations that grapple with fraud and unauthorized access issues, access control technology offers security and saves money.

Access control has been part of security protocol ever since humans first determined they wanted to protect personal and business information and property. From the crudest beginnings, the technology has evolved as a new age of intruders have become more sophisticated. The recent number of intrusions into all areas of technology by the Chinese and the recent NSA scandal have underscored the need for stronger access control.
In many business and home applications, access control need not be as sophisticated as it must be for business, research & development and for the protection of proprietary and highly valued property. Access control is a key element used by public and private sector personal and commercial property owners. Sophisticated access control systems have great value in today’s world.

The nature of access control systems is ever evolving. However, the deployment of fully integrated systems is the new trend in the industry. In the simplest form, access control systems deny access to property, mobile devices and IT networks and databases.

Most enterprises and residences use security strategies that combine automated and/or manned security systems and non-security systems. Some of the non-security plans can be inherited from earlier security strategies but today it is common to have traditional and new age access control systems at the same facilities. In many cases, this integration creates situations where different parties control various elements of the overall security system.
By using new access control systems based on biometric identification databases, integration of security systems becomes more effective and much simpler.

Deploying biometric access controls to one property, one device, one computer or one network or multiple systems for each item is now regarded as the most sophisticated option. A variety of systems can be integrated with access control providing benefits including the following:
•    Lift Control – restrict access to unauthorised floors (e.g. hotel floors)
•    Elevator Dispatch – efficient direction of users to lifts
•    CCTV – link access events with CCTV (e.g. door forced or secondary verification)
•    Fire – control of doors and site plan integration
•    Intruder Alarms – preventing false alarms (by accidental entry or setting occupied area)
•    Building Management System (BMS) – for environmental control using occupancy information
•    HR – integration of personnel data with access profiles
•    Cashless Vending – common card for vending and access
•    Library systems – common card for lending and access control
•    Visitor management systems
•    Car park systems – common cards and shared restrictions
•    IT / Logical security access (e.g. prevent log on to PC if not logged into building)
•    Asset management – control movement of assets and link to user
•    Audio video intercom – combined use of readers, remote visitor access, etc
•    Guard Tour – use access control readers to manage guard behaviour.

Schools, hospitals, government agencies and large private sector companies all use access control to protect information and real estate. In addition to securing access, integrated access control systems provide excellent means to track movements and activities in buildings or networks. Today, access controls are also used to help find more efficient environmental savings through monitoring of energy and lighting systems. A host of integrated access control tools can be deployed to ensure building, business and home security management.

Biometric access controls are popular across the globe. Their popularity is increasing because they have proven to eliminate waste as well as protect property and data. Biometric access controls help users access mobile devices when codes are forgotten or obtained through illegal processes. Identity theft can be thwarted by the use of biometrics. Hence, Near Field Communication Technology (NFC) is often integrated with cutting-edge biometrics.

Efficient biometric access control systems include fingerprint technology, iris identification software, voice and face recognition systems. The entire biometric system is based on obtaining, maintaining and continuously adding to a biometric database. If the biometric identification standard is not matched with an entry in the database, access is denied to whatever property is being protected. Many systems track users as they move through properties or networks.

A report from Internet Access Control Management indicates that; “Biometric readers are also at the vanguard of the on-going effort to ensure access control is less fallible to the threats of fraudulent unauthorised entry. Using biometric data helps to significantly cut down the likelihood of unauthorised persons obtaining or counterfeiting access tokens. It is also an increasingly important element in finding ways to successfully incorporate multi-factor authentication into access control, which very rapidly ramps up the protection levels significantly. Even when used with more traditional identity verification methods, such as swipe cards, biometric readers add a significant level of infallibility to any access control system.”

Due to the rise in identity theft, biometric access control is the best deterrent to this insidious crime. However, hospitals in the UK have begun to protect drug storage areas and patient information with biometric access control systems rather than with PIN numbers and ID cards. Likewise schools have begun to use integrated systems to protect data and students. In some cases, these systems include biometric identification.

The newest trend is to protect property with 2–factor and 3-factor authentication processes. These may or may not include some form of biometric authentication. These methods are usually designed to specifically deny access as well as track activities once persons are admitted to networks or properties. Multi-technology readers have many benefits. Read/Write readers with remote access capabilities are also in-demand. Integrated controllers and readers significantly reduce installation times. Scalability makes these readers affordable and economical.

It is always worthwhile seeking out a supplier that has a good track record in the access control field and that combines market-leading products with expert support. Bear this in mind, and there’s no doubt at all that an access control system can be an excellent and invaluable tool for enhancing business efficiency.

By taking an overall view that includes savings on administration, reduction in energy usage and better control over payroll, in addition to the improvements in security, it may well be found that an access control system is, in fact, a very attractive and affordable investment that will deliver good returns over its lifetime.

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