Standalone locking devices still fill a niche

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Positioned between hard-wired access control systems and the basic lock and key, standalone locking systems continue to make a case for their use, providing end users a cost-effective level of access control.
The wide-ranging systems can be as simple as a key pad without an audit trail to a door system that handles a couple thousand users and audits up to 50,000 events.
Standalone systems have traditionally been used in instances where budget is a concern and security is focused on specific doors. Mike McQuillan, technical manager for Rutherford Controls, noted many small businesses prefer standalone systems. "You can get security for a few hundred dollars," he said. Other uses include drug rooms in hospitals, or file rooms.
Driving forces behind the use of standalone locking systems are multifold, beginning with a lower cost of installation vs. hard-wired access control systems and including key management and audit ability.
"Cost is the main reason for using standalone," said Angelo Faenza, general manager for Assa Abloy's Persona brand, which is used on university campuses. He said standalone systems operate by setting up parameters on the card, rather than relying on wiring.
In addition to being used to enter dorm rooms, standalone locks on campuses provide access to computer rooms, study lounges and labs, which can be restricted by day of the week or time of day, explained Henry Sell, Persona product manager and manager of its technical services department.
Sell said because the standalone system is an offline system, the doors don't have the information. Rather, "you have to get the data onto the card and into the field."
The move to using standalone systems on campuses has been growing, albeit slowly, said Faenza. "The first step is getting out of infancy," he said, noting less than 10 percent of universities have undertaken the process. Once a school converts to cards from keys, he said, the next move is to switch to smart cards and, eventually, to wireless systems.
An advantage with wireless, especially in a busy campus setting, said Sell, is getting away from batteries. "If you're going to have hundreds of openings a day, you won't want to have a battery."
Typically, a battery-operated system can last for about 120,000 cycles, said Rick Rasmussen, vice president-sales and marketing at OSI Security Devices Inc.
Systems such as ones from OSI have both visual and software alerts about low batteries. "Our software retrieves information and takes samples of the double AAs," he explained.
While most cite the cost differential between standalone and hard-wired access control as a driver, Rasmussen said another cost-savings comes from the ability to move standalone units between doors, "which makes these products a profitable asset. You can move them around to different doors without replacing the doors," he explained.
Key management is also a factor behind the adoption of standalone locking systems, said Felix Mira, marketing manager for the electronic systems group at Ingersoll-Rand Security Technologies. While standalone systems provide cost effective and efficient key management, he said, "you need to consider the security of the (key) card itself," so in some situations, multiple authentications are employed.
Audits are significant as well, said Mira. "They want that information--who has access, whether the door was propped open." Audit information can be used not only to investigate a theft, noted Mira, but also to determine how a facility is used based on when locks and doors are accessed. "Some folks look at climate control studies within a building," he said. "You can get that information from the lock on the door."
While audits are typically done at the door level, Andy Hilverda, vice president at Videx, said his company's product enables users to gain information from the key itself, which is where the battery and the intelligence lies.
Each time the key is updated or refreshed, said Hilverda, the audit information is captured. End users can also go to the lock to retrieve its history.
"What people are looking for is more control," explained Hilverda. The next step for updating information within the key will happen via cellular devices, he said. This can allow users to open a door one time through information passed from a cell phone to the key, or that message can allow multiple openings.
This also provides more timely capture of audit information, said Hilverda, which has often been a main selling point for hard-wired systems.
Standalone systems can go where hard-wired ones often can't, added Hilverda, such as on windows or perimeter areas.
However, noted John Hunepohl, director of the integrated solutions specialist program for Assa Abloy, as integrators look to control the door as part of their business, they are seeking solutions where doors can fit into hard-wired situations.
"What we're seeing is more of a desire for a network lock to tie into the access control system," said Hunepohl. By selling pre-wired, pre-cabled doors, he said, end users have the ability to convert that door from standalone to hard-wired in the future, as their security needs change.
Such a system, said Hunepohl, "mitigates the cost advantage of standalone and give real-time communications."