Who Goes There?
Wireless access control means peace of mind, increased accountability and better security for your maintenance supplies.
You've invested a lot in cleaning and maintenance, whether you're the in-house professional responsible for this part of a business, educational institution or healthcare facility, or a building service contractor (BSC).
You need to protect your investment — add it up; it's probably more valuable than you think — and a few simple locks and keys just aren't adequate anymore.
Advanced wireless electronic access control is an effective, cost-efficient component of a comprehensive security management solution.
However, asset protection and theft prevention are just a small part of what such a system does.
Wireless access control also gives entry and exit tracking information for every employee or outside contractor, enables selective access authorization and provides detailed auditing and, among other benefits, accountability — even legal protection for you and your employees.
Wireless Access Control 101
A wireless access control system reduces or eliminates the wiring required for communication between a security system's entry points — typically a keyless lock, card reader or keypad — and the access control panels to which they are linked.
When a person wants to get through a door, the access control panel will compare their PIN code or access card information to a database and either allow or deny entry.
It also logs information for every transaction.
Because they eliminate any wiring to the locks, wireless locks can be installed in locations that could not be accommodated otherwise and provide expanded security coverage.
For example, it would be impractical or impossible to install a wired lock in every cabinet in a janitorial supply room; but, it's easy with a wireless system.
There are two basic types of wireless access control solutions: Wireless fidelity (WiFi) and transactional.
WiFi-based systems use a facility's existing information technology (IT) infrastructure, already in place for computers, printers, telecommunications and other devices.
The WiFi standard is the 802.11 created and maintained by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
They typically maintain a local database and work offline, communicating with the host system only to report alarms or, at scheduled intervals, to receive updates or submit audit trails.
The other type is what we will call transactional wireless systems, which communicate to the host system in real time at every entry request.
Transactional systems use either a standards-based implementation such as ZigBee, Z-Wave, IEEE 802.15.4 or a wireless standard developed by the manufacturer.
Both WiFi and transactional system hardware is easier to install than that of wired systems.
You might wonder, "What are the benefits and tradeoffs of each?"
WiFi-based systems can offer the greatest infrastructure cost savings because they're utilizing the already-in-place IT infrastructure — standard WiFi access points like IEEE 802.11b/g/n — and little or no additional hardware has to be installed other than the locks.
While WiFi systems can take from 12 to 24 hours to update events, they still report alarm conditions in real time.
In addition, local decision making ensures operation regardless of network status.
Transactional wireless systems utilize the access control infrastructure already in place in a building, but require the deployment and installation of wireless hubs or gateways.
This adds to the installation cost of the solution, but still provides excellent cost savings over a traditionally wired opening.
A major advantage of transactional systems is that they provide immediate, real-time control of your facility — who entered what door at what time, access permissions and state of each opening such as open, closed, alarm, etc.
Better Tracking And Accountability
Tighter security over more of your facility is an undeniable advantage.
Yet, there is another very important aspect of a higher security system: Tracking of your employees' whereabouts or those of anyone who has authorization to enter a secure area, such as an outside cleaning contractor's staff.
This information creates an airtight record of exactly who was where, when and gives you detailed snapshots of exactly what's going on in your facility.
You can track a person's movements down to the minute and verify that they were where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be there.
This can help greatly in verifying that a worker cleaned all the rooms they were assigned to in their allotted time, for example.
With conventional standalone locks and keys, there is no ability to track anyone or anything.
Should any theft occur in your facility, the audit trail can help greatly in narrowing down any possible suspects — and in eliminating others.
With an electronic audit trail, you can prove who was and who was not present at the time of the theft.
This can even save you legal fees should a case ever escalate to the point where legal action takes place.
Wireless electronic access control systems also allow tiered levels of access; only the people with the highest levels of authorization can get into high-security areas.
For instance, a system can be configured so that all of the hospital maintenance staff can get into a general supply storeroom, but only authorized personnel will have access to areas where pharmaceuticals or other valuable equipment is stored.
Or, as another example, only top corporate management will have access to confidential company records.
Different areas can also be made accessible or off limits to different people at different times or days of the week, and any device in the system can be programmed instantly from a remote location.
If an employee is terminated, their access can be removed immediately; there is no need to get an employee's keys back or change any locks.
Built To Last
Wireless locks for use in commercial and institutional applications should be built to a high standard for durability and quality, specifically to the Grade 1 classification set forth by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA).
One key benchmark associated with the ANSI/BHMA product grades is cycle testing.
The most robust locks, those that have achieved Grade 1 certification, must be tested to withstand a minimum of one million cycles without failure.
Selecting high-quality, durable products ensures that they are vandal-resistant and extremely difficult to force open or break, are weather-resistant and will stand up well to most cleaning products.
These are the luxury cars of the lock world.
When looking at your initial cost outlay, it doesn't pay to be pennywise and pound foolish.
If you purchase less expensive locks, you'll probably go through two or three of them as compared to a single lock of better quality that you won't have to replace as often.
When it comes to planning budgets, it's often easier to get approval for that initial, one-time capital expense than to have to explain why you need an extra $2,000 to $10,000 or more every year to maintain and replace your locks.
In fact, when you add up all the benefits, a wireless access control solution can be one of the smartest and most cost-effective facility upgrades you can make.
Garrett Lovejoy is the product manager for electronic access control at ASSA ABLOY. As the world's leading lock group, ASSA ABLOY offers a more complete range of door opening solutions than any other company on the market, including complete lock systems, wireless access control, door closers, traditional and keyless entry systems and more. Visit www.ASSAABLOY.com to learn more about the entire suite of door opening solutions for every facility.