Cutting Edge Access control
Access control is of huge importance to society. Its purpose is to ensure that the right people are free to move around the right areas of a building at the right times, while unauthorised people are prevented from entering those parts of a building where or when their presence is not permitted.
Cutting edge systems of ten years ago are now commonplace across all markets, from hotels to hospitals, airports to airbnbs. Simon Forrester investigates trends and the future for this important technology.
Benefits of Access Control:
• Allowing only employees, guests and other authorised personnel to conduct their legitimate business in authorised areas
• Reducing risk to an acceptable level – and providing awareness of risks when they arise – thus giving the ability to act quickly if a security threat is found
• Making copying the “key” (or card/token) more difficult (and if biometric, practically impossible) and providing quick and easy means of making a stolen “key”/means of entry useless.
• The ability to provide additional features and benefits which will further enhance security such as audit trails, timed entry, alarm generation, building management and system integration.
Access control has moved forward rapidly over the last few years, particularly with work habits changing due to increased home working, improvements in internet connectivity and the ability to use smart phones for more and more tasks.
Access control software allows flexibility for the client, building manager and security staff. Some of the features now available include:
• Time Zones – set so that credentials are only allowed access within the correct time zones
• Graphic Interface – allows images to be uploaded on the system which can include floor plans and pictures of spaces to help users
• Access Rights – the permissions an individual user has to access areas of a building, which can include time zones, different access rights at specific times, or limits on the number of visits
• Audit Trails – also called audit logs, are a security-relevant chronological set of records that provide documentary evidence of the sequence of activities that have affected at any time a specific operation, procedure or event of a device
• Anti-Passback – A feature that can be used to prevent users from passing their credential back for another user to borrow, and to stop users entering an area by simply following or tailgating another user.
• Live Roll Call – Fire roll call systems are used to automatically identify the location of all people within the premises with pinpoint, real time accuracy.
• Count Areas – Ideal for car parking spaces, it counts the number of cars entering and leaving a car park and can even show vacant spaces within the car park
• Lockdown – Used to lockdown either a system or individual doors, such as in a terrorist situation
• Buddy System – The buddy system is a procedure in which two individuals, the “buddies”, operate together as a single unit so that they are able to monitor and help each other, ideal for security to ensure that officers patrol in pairs around a building, particularly when the building staff have vacated the building at night
Locking and standards
Locking methods have not changed a huge amount, however new standards are being introduced for performance testing such as BS EN 15684 (Mechatronic cylinders), BS EN 16864 (mechatronic padlocks), TS010 (Magnetic Locks) and TS621 (Thief resistant electromechanically operated lock assemblies).
For more information, consult your friendly neighbourhood Architectural Ironmonger (look for the letters “RegAI” after their name)
One type of locking which is becoming more and more popular is the ‘electronic escutcheon’ otherwise known as a smartlock. This is an electronic access control solution allowing multiple doors to be linked to each other but not online to a computer. They are powered through a battery which can have up to a 3-year lifespan and have flexibility in that they can be used with a number of locks including multipoint locks. The programming can be done a number of ways including by PC, downloaded via a handheld terminal, downloaded by card, by Bluetooth using a mobile phone or via wi-fi using Cloud technology.
Worldwide, the smart lock market is on track to reach $4.4bn (£3.2bn) in 2027, up tenfold from $420m (£300m) in 2016, according to market research firm Statista.
Wireless access control
Wireless access control locking is also increasingly popular and is available through battery-driven locks that allow access via RFID card, fob, PIN, mobile phone or biometric fingerprint. These have the advantage that they are relatively easy to fit or retrofit, the system can be expanded easily, and they can be supplied with software and programmers, or more recently cloud and app-based software. They also allow for remote opening if connected to Wi-Fi or a wireless network. They are suitable for timber, metal and glass doors in both swing and sliding door configurations and are available in many sizes, types, finishes and shapes.
Technology such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for operation with mobile phones can now be used thus removing the need for cards or fobs. Near Field Communication (NFC) can also be enabled giving a more secure connection between the phone and the lock. Most apps require you to open the app after unlocking the phone thus giving an extra level of authentication to increase security – similar multi-factor authentication to a banking app.
Wireless access control can be used at home using apps to assign users and home connection set-ups can use an existing wi-fi network, Bluetooth or a separate hub and existing wi-fi network plus Z-Wave or Zigbee technology.
Reading technologies (i.e. how the ‘key’ is read by the lock) are rapidly improving, with quicker response times using Bluetooth and cloud-based products. Most smartlocks on the market now have this capability built in.
There are a number of different technologies for authentication that can be used to gain entry within an access control system. Each technology has a different level of security from the lowest such as a common PIN code through to medium such as a token or card, right up to the highest such as biometric readers.
Quite rightly, biometric reading technologies are viewed as being at the cutting edge of security technology. From the very first commercial application for a fingerprint reader in 1984 the market has regularly seen the introduction of new products and applications.
Biometrics is measurement and analysis of the unique physical or behavioural characteristics used to recognise humans. It works by unobtrusively matching patterns of live individuals’ data in real time, against enrolled records. Biometric data is initially read with an ‘enrolment’ reader and the data is then ‘encoded’ into a template which is usually stored in an access control database or on a smartcard for later use. The encoding process ensures that the data cannot be reproduced from the template, only compared against a recently read sample for a pass/fail result. Biometric sensors are either contact (i.e., the user needs to touch the sensor) or contactless (i.e., the user does not touch the sensor) technologies.
In large scale systems fingerprint readers have given way to facial recognition using HD camera technology from the CCTV systems linked to the access control. The following features are all relevant in this area:
• Digital On-boarding – the integration of digital information into access control systems which use AI-powered identity verification. This has become a feature of many different offerings from manufacturers. It can be completed remotely meaning someone can be added to a system in advance.
• Geo-Fencing of areas – invisible perimeter lines are set up in a system so an alarm is activated if someone crosses these lines into an area where they should not enter.
• 3D facial recognition has become a part of people’s lives from their smartphone unlocking, and this technology has become commonplace in access control systems as a method of contactless access control.
• Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT) is a process for testing the speed by which a system can recognise a face when approaching a reader and allow or deny access to the user. Most systems can do this in less than two seconds.
• Biometric Passports are becoming the norm now so security through airports has increased with verification, in some airports the screening is checked again at the boarding gate to the aircraft.
• 3D Matrix Face recognition software takes multiple spots on a person’s face and creates a digital signature which can be stored as a reference in a database, using digital onboarding. It can deal with facial hair changes or the wearing of hats and glasses. The system can have RFID cards or mobile phones linked to the account so a higher level of security can be achieved, and the ID card can’t be given to another person for access.
As it gives a high level of security and is both very user friendly and contactless, biometric technology is being rapidly adapted to make buildings more accessible and still provide high levels of access control.
Tomorrow’s access systems will incorporate biometrics. For further details on access control the Specifiers Guide to Access Control and the Specifiers Guide to the Internet of Things are available from the GAI website at www.gai.org.uk
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