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Computer Access Control

Are you considering access control for your business? What is access control? Do you even need it? What does my low voltage cabling infrastructure look like?

These are good questions. Access control has been around for quite some time. Most of us experienced it first in a hotel room. At some point, those of us who travel have started going through our pockets to find plastic keycards instead of actual keys. According to Brandon Ambrosino’s blog in QUARTZ this is when it happened.

“When a high-profile lawsuit in the ’70s cast dispersion on hotel security, hoteliers turned to the keycard. Invented in 1975 by a Norwegian named Tor Sornes, the first model was actually a plastic card containing 32 holes, which could be formed into unique patterns for each individual guest. (There were allegedly over 4 billion unique combinations, which would have roughly corresponded to the human population in 1975.) Sornes kept working to improve the card’s security features, and eventually created the electronic keycard, selling it to Atlanta’s Westin Peachtree Plaza in 1978.

Eventually, the keycard became encrypted, which was another innovative security feature, along with the card’s non-descriptive appearance. Early metal hotel room keys were inscribed with the address of the hotel and the room number it opened, which provided criminals easy access to rich patrons. The uniformity of Sornes’ keycard solved this issue by ensuring guests’ anonymity: lost keys could no longer be traced to a particular room.”

Ask yourself several key questions if you're considering access control. As with any type of digital or analog system, I like to evaluate budget vs in house technology capabilities. Let’s face it, if something gets hanky with an access control system, folks may not be able to come to work or customers may not be able to purchase or convert. Do I have the staff that can maintain the system? Do I have the budget to contract maintenance? Then ask these questions.

Where are you vulnerable?

What assets need to be protected?

How flexible do we need to be?

Which areas are critical that will help define features?

Playing the tape forward to today, one must understand platforms and the ability to integrate different systems to work as one. This is referred as VMS, or virtual memory systems. Clients will run through lists of functions that they see in other businesses or on television. As an RCDD consultant, my job is to find the optimized platform that will integrate different systems to work together.

Here is a good example. An employee or customer walks to a secure entrance and produces a proximity or keycard. Older systems such as the hotel example will allow anyone access as long as they produce the correct card. What if someone fraudulently obtains a card? I need my camera to provide face recognition with the image file associated with the ID card. We can also use biometric methods such as finger print, iris scan, voice verification, etc. I then need a controller to not only open the door, but to activate a motor to open a garage. I need programable logical controllers, or PLCs to tell the motor to initiate. Oh yea, I need egress. Access control systems are designed to restrict access throughout a building or campus to the proper individuals. When installing electronic access control, you must consider all life safety regulations. In many instances, the mechanical locks that are already used on your doors are providing the means of free egress.

The final and most important question I as an RCDD will review is this; “How good is your structured cabling system?” All of the mentioned platforms will run in today’s world using internet protocol or IP. If you existing network and infrastructure is junk, access control will be more of nuisance than an asset. Call me, I would love to review your business needs and provide an Altruistic Solution.

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