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Wireless, integrated and biometrics  - Security News Desk on the ins and outs of access control

Posted by Richard McKeon on Jul 26, 2017 10:00:00 AM

Security News Desk looks at the evolution of access control technology and discovers how leading physical security companies are staying one step ahead with wireless and biometric technology.

Access control technology has evolved incredibly over the last few years. Just a few years back, it was merely a means to an end, to prevent unwarranted access using metal keys or basic swipe cards. But now, thanks to integration into the wider security technology landscape, access control is no longer a simple yes or no… now it is yes, no, who, what, when and why?


With technology advancing at a staggering pace, IP-based security systems can call upon signals from just about every node on the network, to trigger or interact with every other node. This interoperability is creating a secure, protective net around locations, where just about every interaction can be recorded, analysed and audited, either in real time or for forensic purposes afterwards.


One of the most important triggers is, of course, entry through primary access points at any establishment. With the first swipe of a card, thumb print or presentation of an RFID fob, a whole cascade of recording and monitoring systems can be triggered, ensuring full traceability of personnel, including  all of their movements and interactions while on site.


Wireless access

Thomas Schulz, Marketing and Communications Director, Digital and Access Solutions, ASSA ABLOY EMEA, is eager to share some recent market data relating to the evolution of access solutions.

“Market data is showing us that access control is becoming an even more wireless technology, with continued strong growth for wireless locking solutions. Late last year, we surveyed a large, representative segment of the professional security market, seeking insights into how the market for access control is changing. Comparing our 2016 data with research we carried out in 2014 shows a clear trend. Our 2014 survey found 23 per cent of commercial properties using a wireless or hybrid wired/wireless access system. By 2016 that had risen to 29 per cent, with five per cent of premises already equipped with a fully wireless solution. That’s a significant leap in a short time.”


Wireless, integrated and biometrics  - Security News Desk on the ins and outs of access control“69 per cent of our respondents considered wireless locks to be a cost-effective alternative to wired access control,” he continues, “and 62 per cent even predicted that few business premises would still have mechanical locks a decade from now.”

But why the switch to wireless specifically? “Cost-efficiency, easy installation and compliance requirements for audit trails are often mentioned,” he explains. “Everything about wireless access control makes life easier for facilities managers. It’s easy to extend an existing third-party access control system by switching remaining mechanical locking cylinders for battery-powered cylinders, like our Aperio cylinders. You can bring them into an existing control panel via communications hubs (online integration), via update-on-card, or offline. Compare that to the wholesale rewiring needed to add more wired magnetic locks.


“Swapping mechanical locks for electronic access control upgrades a door’s security,” he elaborates. “RFID-powered key-cards eliminate physical key management headaches (and costs), as well as security risks posed by any lost mechanical key – something 86 per cent  of survey respondents worried about. Replacing mechanical keys with electronic locks is an effective way of significantly cutting the risk of unauthorised access – and wireless locks achieve that affordably.”


Meanwhile, In a report released back in January HID Global predicted that this year will see a transformation in the way trusted identities are used with smart cards, mobile devices, wearables, embedded chips and other “smart” objects, particularly in industries focused on regulatory compliance, such as government, finance and healthcare markets.  This shift will precipitate the move from legacy systems to NFC, Bluetooth Low Energy and advanced smart card technology to meet the evolving needs of enterprises and governments worldwide, the report said.


The forecast for 2017 was also based on a breakthrough in adoption of mobile identity technology in 2016.  Exemplifying industry-wide trending, HID Global said it experienced ‘tremendous uptick’ in customer deployments of its broad mobility solutions and has a strong pipeline of future customer installations in the works to make verification of identities optimized for mobile applications.


HID Global President and CEO Stefan Widing said:  “HID Global has forecasted top trends based on our broad view of the market in close collaboration with customers and partners who are assessing and deploying innovative solutions across markets worldwide. We have been at the forefront of major technology shifts over the years and HID Global believes 2017 will mark an important phase in the industry, as organizations seek to use the broadest range of smart devices ever.  This will directly impact how customers view and use trusted identities on both mobile devices and smart cards for more activities in more connected environments in the years ahead.”


HID Global focuses on four significant trends in 2017 that will influence how organisations create, manage and use trusted identities in a broad range of existing and new use cases, the company said.


Integration

Back to integration now, that is a key area of development for many other access control brands, including Honeywell and Paxton. Honeywell Security and Fire UK Channel Marketing Leader, Daniel Wan, adds: “Access control is one of the many areas of security where we are seeing substantial developments in integration and connectivity. People want more from their security systems, whether that’s CCTV, fire and safety, or access control. There is a growing expectation that systems will work together seamlessly to ensure security staff have a complete view over their site. With more information at their fingertips, security professionals can make more informed decisions about how to protect their buildings effectively.


“We’re focusing on this integration with our own solutions,” he continues. “For example, WIN-PAK incorporates access control, video and intrusion into one platform, providing security staff with a more comprehensive view across their sites. At IFSEC recently we announced MAXPRO integration with Honeywell’s Xtralis IntrusionTrace, offering an intelligent video analytics package for real-time intrusion detection.” 


Meanwhile, back in April this year, Paxton announced the integration of its networked access control system, Net2, with ACTi’s NVR3 video management plugin.  The integration was said to leverage video data with access control to achieve visual recognition of real time access events for more efficient and comprehensive monitoring.


The ACTi plugin for Net2 is designed for NVR3 server (Enterprise, Corporate Edition) and provides an efficient way to link footage back from each access control event taking place around a building for users to quickly review, Paxton said. It also allows security officers to quickly identify a fraudulent entry by visually validating if the person entering matches with the identity shown on the access card.  The streamlined interface also eliminates the additional time previously taken to manually input video evidence into the access control log.


Gareth O’Hara, Paxton’s Chief Sales Officer, commented at the time: “At Paxton, we put our core values of simplicity and quality at the heart of everything we do, in order to answer the needs of the security market. It’s a pleasure to work with ACTi, a company who place as much importance as we do on supporting customers and developing innovative solutions.”


Axis Communications has also just launched an impressive new solution. At IFSEC this year, it announced the integration of HID Global's Mobile Access with its AXIS A1001 Network Door Controller and AXIS Entry Manager software.


Thumbs up for biometrics

Alongside wireless technology, another development that is creating huge interest in the market is the use of biometrics to uniquely identify personnel. Biometrics present an additional layer of security in the fact that the “unlock code” is unique to the individual in the form of a thumbprint or retina scan. Biometrics are also being used with advanced CCTV based face-tracking systems to identify unique facial traits.


A recent Market Research report by the international MarketsandMarkets.com organisation is predicting a 17 per cent annual growth in the gross Biometric Recognition Systems global market between 2015 and 2022 from $10.74 Billion to $32.73 Billion. Of this marked growth, fingerprint recognition technology holds the largest single factor authentication segment and is predicted to continue to hold this pole position for the foreseeable future.


Richard Forsyth, UK & Ireland Sales Manager of ievo Ltd, a leading designer and manufacturer of world class biometric recognition systems based in the North East of the UK, explains this growth: “In light of recent appalling terrorist attacks across the world, the need for security has never been greater. And whilst travel and immigration will no doubt continue to hold the largest share of the biometric system market and the USA will remain the largest customer, I suspect the less dramatic use of fingerprint readers across a wide range of sectors is actually the main driver of growth, certainly for us.”


“The primary reason for this,” he explains, “is that fingerprint recognition systems – whilst perhaps initially more expensive than traditional alternatives of numeric key pads or magnetic swipe cards – rapidly pay for themselves and have a far lower life-time cost as they require no additional consumables, such as additional cards, nor do they have to be reprogrammed, as in the case of numeric keypads. Additionally, and probably of more importance to end customers, biometric recognition systems provide an infallible access control system that can be used for a variety of additional purposes without any additional cost involved.”


“Biometric recognition systems are also gaining market share for other reasons,” he adds. “Within the education sector, for example, in addition to access control they’re being used for foolproof library control and even the control of free school meals. Within the leisure sector, our gym operating clients, for example, prefer them to traditional means as they prevent any fraudulent entry and rapidly pay for themselves.”


ViRDI International also claims to have developed a total access control solution, in collaboration with Avigilon, that now allows Avigilon to offer a biometric alternative to the market. The solution incorporates ViRDI readers and integration to the Avigilon Access Control Manager (ACM) software.


According to the company, ViRDI readers connect physically to Avigilon’s Mercury Controllers via RS485, using SIA OSDP secure protocol. The first release of the solution will support ViRDI’s AC2000 and AC5000plus fingerprint card terminals, while future supported products that are considered include the AC1100, AC2100plus, and AC2200 access control terminals.


This total access control solution provides bi-directional communication and adds a further level of security for rapid and secure identity recognition in high-security areas. ViRDI’s USB fingerprint readers can be connected to client machines for seamless enrollment and users can configure and manage biometric identities directly from Avigilon’s ACM software.


Data protection

The use of biometrics does throw up some privacy and data protection concerns, especially in light of the European General Data Protection Regulation, which is to be enforced in 2018. However, according to ievo’s Oakes, biometric data, when handled securely and within the guidelines should not cause an issue. "The ievo range of biometric systems fully complies with this new legislation as it utilises feature-based matching – the systems don't store the raw biometric data but rather extract a salient set of features (known as minutiae) from which a template is generated. In essence, we use a system of 'pseudonymisation' where the data is processed in a manner where it can no longer be attributed to an individual without the use of additional information, which is kept separately and subject to strict technical and organisational control".


Challenges

So what are the biggest challenges facing the access control market and how are leading brands addressing these?


Axis Communications Global Product Manager - Physical Access Control, Pia Hantoft, said: “The market has a history of primarily being proprietary which means closed systems with limited choice for the end user. She claims that Axis has a vision to shift the market to open IP based solutions enabling flexibility and freedom of choice for the end user, both when it comes to hardware and software.


“We have done the same journey with our network cameras and feel confident that we will succeed in this market as well.”


On how the market might develop over the next 12 to 18 months, Hantoft foresees further integration as the move towards IP continues. She says that more integration means fewer systems to administrate meaning greater convenience for the user. 


Honeywell’s Wan comments: “Aside from connectivity and integration, we are also seeing an increasing demand for scalable access control. A business that grows rapidly, for example, may want the flexibility to add more users and controlled areas to the system. Businesses moving or expanding their premises may want to add new functionality, such as video analytics or CCTV. The challenge is the initial investment required. But, generally, it is a far better long-term investment for businesses to install a system that can be scaled up or down to meet their demands over time, rather than having to install a whole new system every time their needs change.”


Moving forward, Wan sees the market developing in two key areas – improvements in the user experience and further enhancements in terms of integration.


“For example, the ability to control a badge holder's access within a facility, or remotely lock and unlock doors, from a mobile device will make the operation of security systems more efficient and boost the productivity of security staff.”


Wan concludes: “Integration platforms within an open ecosystem will also allow users to benefit from interoperability between the best security technologies, while enjoying the advantages of managing the system from one single interface. This approach should make the process of migrating from legacy systems much easier and will reduce the cost of integrating disparate technologies.


“As demonstrated at IFSEC, Honeywell’s Pro-Watch now has a mobile client that lets users modify access and control doors, saving critical time. Pro-Watch is also a non-proprietary platform with an open architecture that allows greater third-party integration and the ability to leverage existing security systems.”

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