Tim Compston, Features Editor at Security News Desk and SecurityMiddleEast.com, considers the state-of-play of the access control market.
Times are certainly changing where access control is concerned. For one thing a new generation of systems is redefining the way we interact with readers at the door. The application of a wider range of biometric technologies which are, crucially, faster and more accurate, and in some cases even three-dimensional, is also shaking up the market. Added to this there is certainly a greater appreciation of the need for access control solutions to blend into their environment and, crucially, to have the ability to add value by integrating, seamlessly, with other security and building management elements.
Catching up with Rafael Schrijvers, Product Marketing Manager for Access Control, EMEA, Tyco Security Products, for his take on where the market is heading, one aspect of access control where the nature of access control is shifting relates to the application of biometrics: "Whereas in the past biometrics was part of an enhanced security requirement - a dual identification for higher end security - now it has just become a convenient part of access control. More and more customers want access control where they can walk in the door without touching anything, without presenting a card or that kind of identification, so biometrics is trending in the direction of iris recognition." Schrijvers believes that the second generation of iris recognition is 'easier to use and works better'. He goes on to say that facial recognition - which was very expensive in the past and didn't work very fast is, alongside other biometrics, going in a good direction: "The speed and accuracy of all of these metrics is much better and we see customers taking advantage of them."
A Blueprint For Security
Another vendor with its finger firmly on the pulse of biometrics for access control is Swiss manufacturer TBS (Touchless Biometric Systems) - a regular exhibitor at Intersec - with what is claimed to be a more accurate and hygienic solution. Philippe Niederhauser, TBS' Head of Sales & Marketing, reports that 3D actually gathers about five times more information - thanks to its multiple sensors - compared to the more traditional 2D optical approach. The upshot of ramping up the volume of data gathered is, according to Niederhauser, that it is better able to cope with people having 'bad' fingerprints, dust on their fingers, or wet fingers.
Reflecting on the direction of travel of the access control market, John Davies, Managing Director at TDSi, picks out a number of major trends that are gathering pace, with wireless locks very much to the fore here: “Customers are wanting to add wireless doors to their overall access control solution and that has driven us to integrate our systems to ASSA ABLOY's Aperio wireless locking systems and SimonsVoss’ SmartIntego. We have projects in the UK and across some export markets already installed with both those solutions." Davies adds that TDSi is finding that wireless is now being adopted on doors that would not traditionally have been thought of as coming under the remit of an access control system: "Previously it would have been too expensive to put a wired door in there," reflects Davies.
With smartphones becoming an all pervasive feature of our daily lives, Davies confirms that people are, increasingly, thinking about adopting NFC (Near Field Communication) technology for their access control: "It is moving to building that technology - and Bluetooth Low Energy - as part of the early stage of migration from using cards as a credential to get through to a door to actually using your phone." He admits that - despite the potential for NFC and Bluetooth Low Energy access control solutions - there are still more enquiries than actual sales at the moment but, looking ahead, he is confident that sales will ultimately follow.
When I ask Davies about where the rise of the cloud fits into the access control mix, he tells me that the cloud is certainly starting to make its mark in the guise of things like 'access control as a service'. He feels that what is holding back the cloud, to some extent is that when people talk about the cloud the concept can appear a bit 'woolly'. To bring things down to earth Davies suggests that it is best to think of it is as just 'stuff on a server in a server farm remote from your organisation': "It is 'off-premises computing'." He also offers a hint of things to come for TDSi: "Our new software platform GARDis is cloud-based."
Aesthetics In Action
Given that turnstiles are one of the first things that visitors encounter in the foyers of the latest high profile office developments there is, not surprisingly, pressure to ensure that, as well as controlling access, they are able to blend into their surroundings. Tony Smith, Major Accounts and Marketing Manager at IDL (Integrated Design Ltd), is well placed to speak on the subject of the competing aesthetic and operational demands placed on turnstiles, given that the company's Fastlane solutions have been installed in the foyers of some of the most prestigious buildings worldwide, from the offices of technology giants to the headquarters of major banks and blue chip companies.
Smith says that although aesthetics has always been an important consideration, there has been a marked upsurge in the appetite for eye catching, customer-specific, designs: "Some of the larger and more interesting jobs we see now are actually being specified by the project architect. They are, effectively, putting themselves in the position of a turnstile designer as well as foyer and building designer. They really want the turnstiles to be an integral part of the corporate foyer and so they don't, necessarily, feel that off-the-shelf products fit the bill."
Regarding specific projects, Smith is particularly enthusiastic about work at the World Trade Towers in New York: "Each was bespoke to the architect's wishes. It was not only different materials but they wanted to change the whole look of the turnstiles at the end, the length of the turnstiles, and have custom illuminated glass tops. They are mostly based on the Fastlane Plus, our barrier arm product."
So what does the future hold for access control? Well there is little doubt that biometrics is on the rise and solutions which tie-in with the devices we all have to hand like smartphones are likely to become more commonplace.