The popularity of touchless access control skyrocketed during the pandemic. Facial recognition technology witnessed a surge in interest and, to a lesser extent, touchless fingerprint recognition (which was already available before COVID). RFID technology has been around for years and allows for seamless access and exit of vehicles, making it another form of touchless access control.
Vehicular access has its supporters and detractors. One of the negative comments always made is that all you are doing is verifying the vehicle or perhaps even the vehicle’s number plate when opening the boom or gate – who knows who and how many are in the vehicle. This can be dealt with to a degree with cameras at the entrances, but it is still an issue many estates worry about.
Nevertheless, RFID access for vehicles is a growing market, and many estates (residential and business) have opted for this approach to speed up the process of moving vehicles through access control points. SMART Security Solutions asked three companies for their insights into RFID and its utility and adoption in today’s estate market. The companies we approached were:
• Impro Technologies.
SMART Security Solutions: What are some benefits of using RFID for vehicular access control compared to traditional methods? Has RFID technology improved the efficiency of vehicular access control in gated communities?
Impro Technologies: Impro Technologies, in partnership with Nedap, offers a range of solutions for gated estates using select long-range and number plate recognition technologies integrated with Impro’s Access Portal solutions.
This solution increases security using regulated access control, which is valuable for residents living in a gated environment. This allows easy, convenient, and secure access to the estate and facilities and makes the management of contractors and staff onsite easier. RFID technology enables secure data and transactions for access within the estate by means of encrypted and site-specific tags that are difficult to duplicate. Theft or removal of tags is prevented through tamper-proof technologies that destroy the tag if an attempt is made to remove it.
Techsolutions: Firstly, we see two main groups in terms of gated communities:
• Residential estates.
• Road closures.
For both these groups, RFID-Access provides the following benefits:
• Improved security for vehicles and drivers: drivers do not have to wind down their windows or lean out the window to enter codes. We have had estates moving to RFID access due to attempted hijackings.
• Improved traffic flow, especially for the larger estates during peak times. There is no other vehicle access system that matches the throughput that RFID access provides. One of our biggest sites is a road closure with close to 2000 registered vehicles and an average daily movement of 1900 vehicles in and 1900 vehicle movements out. (Some move in and out more than once per day).
• Improved management: With most estates, there is a turnover of residents moving in or out. It becomes a challenge to manage resident access. Unlike remotes that can be transferred between people and/or get lost or stolen, each RFID tag is vehicle-specific and breaks when removed from the windscreen. Through the cloud-based interface, it is easy to assign tags to residents’ and/or their families’ vehicles and to disable tag access.
• A few estates use RFID access to entice residents to pay their levies. They disable the tags of residents who have not paid.
• Unlike QR codes that can be easily copied, cloned or forwarded, the RFID access tags are encrypted, making it much more secure.
• For golf estates, RFID access enables the segmenting of access, allowing only club members access to certain areas.
• RFID access is monitored through the cloud, enabling us to maintain software and troubleshoot remotely. We have been able to assist clients in finding network and power problems without going to the site. Some of the first installations we did 15 years ago are still running and operating daily.
Many years ago, we did our first installation at the office park where we had our offices. There were four incoming lanes and four exit lanes fitted with biometric readers. We converted one incoming and one outgoing lane to RFID access. Tenants could then buy RFID tags for R100 each or use the biometric lanes at no cost. More than 90% of tenants opted to purchase tags for the sake of convenience.
ZKTeco: RFID technology has indeed improved the efficiency of vehicular access control in estates by streamlining the entry process, reducing the need for manual intervention, and enhancing security measures. Some benefits include:
• Convenience: RFID technology allows for seamless and contactless access control. Residents or authorised individuals can enter gated communities without the need to physically interact with a security guard or use physical keys or cards.
• Enhanced security: RFID tags are typically difficult to duplicate, making them more secure than traditional methods like physical keys or access codes, which can be lost or shared.
• Audit trail: RFID systems can log entry and exit times, providing an audit trail for security purposes. This feature enhances monitoring and accountability.
• Scalability: RFID systems can be easily expanded to accommodate more users, making them suitable for growing gated communities.
• Integration: RFID can be integrated with other security systems, such as surveillance cameras and alarms, enhancing overall security.
SMART Security Solutions: What challenges have gated communities faced in adopting RFID technology for vehicular access control, and how have they been addressed?
Impro Technologies: The ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID technology incorporated in most typical long-range readers is quite robust, and when used with customised secured credentials with unique identifier codes, security is enhanced. These unique codes prevent tags from being duplicated or read by other readers, as the site reader is programmed to look for this unique identifier first before accepting the tag code. Impro branded windshield tags make use of this secure technology to enhance access control security.
Techsolutions: We have been providing RFID access for 15 years and the main challenge that we have had is the slow uptake of RFID applications in general, which includes RFID access.
Not one of our clients that have implemented RFID-Access (Techsolutions’ vehicular access control system) has replaced it with anything else. There is no other technology that comes close to its price point, the convenience of cloud management and reliability. We sell the windscreen tags to estates for about R25 each. The estate then sells these tags to residents for prices ranging from R100 to R250 each. With an estate having 500 houses, the system is paid off in the first month, and they have a continuous income from tag sales as residents move in and out. To make it even more affordable, one RFID-Access reader supports bi-directional traffic, such as the case of a motorised gate.
There are some vehicles that have special windscreens which prevent the windscreen tags from working well. These include the Aston Martin DB9 and some Mercedes Benz S-Class. There are fewer than 10 of these registered on our RFID-Access system. For these vehicles, we provide special tags.
ZKTeco: There are numerous methods to overcome the challenges of RFID access for vehicles. These include:
• Initial cost: Implementing RFID technology can be expensive. Gated communities have addressed this by considering it as a long-term investment in security.
• Maintenance: RFID systems require periodic maintenance to ensure optimal performance. Communities can mitigate this by signing service contracts with reliable vendors.
• Tag management: Managing RFID tags for residents and visitors can be a logistical challenge. Communities have resolved this by implementing efficient tag issuance and revocation procedures.
• Integration: Ensuring smooth integration with existing security systems can be a challenge. Communities should work with experienced vendors that specialise in security system integration to ensure efficient and reliable solutions.
To improve efficiency and security further, estates can consider implementing features like two-factor authentication (RFID plus a PIN or facial recognition terminal), remote access management, and security training for staff.
SMART Security Solutions: At what range can these systems effectively recognise a vehicle (or its RFID tag)? Is RFID the best solution for vehicular access control, or could Bluetooth (or some other technology) provide a more flexible solution?
Impro Technologies: The range is dependent on the selection and placement of the reader. One could make use of a 2 m reader that requires you to drive up to the reader and scan a tag or alternatively use a 5 m or 10 m reader that would detect the vehicle by means of an external tamper-proof sticker tag or an internally mounted windshield tag.
Most UHF readers operate in a band that is unaffected by local UHF transmitters, and the readers can be finetuned to avoid reflections or interferences. It is, however, important to ensure proper placement of readers to ensure there is no overlap of detection between entrance and exit lanes.
Bluetooth solutions are available. However, many of these solutions very often require some interaction with a phone or mobile device that may hinder or delay the thoroughfare of vehicles. Another concern about using Bluetooth is that when used in close proximity to entrance and exit readers, devices may trigger entrance and exit readers simultaneously as Bluetooth is omnidirectional.
Techsolutions: Some of the concerns that estates express when they approach us regarding RFID-Access include:
• RFID-Access will allow tailgating. We have not experienced any increase in tailgating after implementing RFID-Access. In fact, it is much more difficult to tailgate a moving vehicle than one that has stopped and then pulls away slowly.
• RFID-Access will allow stolen vehicles to be driven out. We have added an option for residents to ‘check out’, which opens a window of 10 minutes, allowing them to exit. However, not one of our existing clients has indicated an interest in implementing that.
In terms of other options, such as Bluetooth, this has been around for a few years. Firstly, the cost of a Bluetooth tag is a few hundred rand compared to R25 for an RFID tag. And then the battery of the Bluetooth tag will only last for 1-2 years. Another option is to use an app on a phone that will transmit a Bluetooth signal to a receiver. Many Bluetooth devices require pairing for security. This can be quite a challenge if there are many devices to be paired.
Moreover, the Bluetooth range can be anything up to 100 m. I understand that some of the gate motor companies are now supporting Bluetooth, so this will likely trigger the move towards Bluetooth apps for the residential market and possibly some small estates with 50 or fewer residents, but just consider the scenario at an estate where five vehicles are approaching the gate, and the driver in the last vehicle in the queue presses his button first and triggers the boom to open; the first vehicle enters without having to press a button and without being logged. This will never happen with RFID-Access.
ZKTeco: Looking at the range of RFID solutions ZKTeco offers:
• The effective range of RFID systems can vary but is typically within a few metres to a dozen metres. The range depends on the specific technology used, such as low-frequency (LF), high-frequency (HF), or ultra-high-frequency (UHF) RFID. At ZKTeco we offer various UHF terminals (6 m and 12 m range), depending on the kind of project a client is working on.
• While RFID is a viable solution, Bluetooth and other technologies like licence plate recognition systems can provide more flexible options, especially for longer-range access control. The choice depends on the specific needs and constraints of the estate. Bluetooth, for example, allows for mobile-based access control, which can be convenient for residents.
SMART Security Solutions: What solutions does your company supply in terms of RFID access control for vehicles?
Impro Technologies: Impro Technologies, together with Nedap, offer a range of UHF, microwave RFID and number plate readers paired with matching secure tags and credentials.
Techsolutions: Techsolutions provides the RFID-Access (www.securitysa.com/*rfid1) system, which is cloud based. We manufacture the RFID reader locally and it comes with all the functions, such as Wi-Fi, integrated controller and relays to open booms and gates. It was designed for the African environment, so it keeps on working even if the network is interrupted. Our latest model comes with an Android app to make installation easy. It also integrates well with our SecureVisitor system (www.securitysa.com/*rfid2).
Both ZKTeko and Nedap use RFID readers as an add-on to existing access controllers using a Wiegand interface. This Wiegand interface is not secure and one-directional. It is also not possible to adjust and optimise reader settings remotely via the Wiegand interface. In contrast, RFID-Access was designed from the ground up for vehicle tolling and vehicle access control applications. Each reader has its own integrated controller, which is cloud-connected and managed with remote monitoring, remote software updates and remote support. It uses sophisticated algorithms for measuring the tag distance per vehicle and enables full control over timing, pulse width and pulse intervals to support the many different models of boom and gate controllers on the market.
The reason that Techsolutions initially got involved with RFID Access is that we were approached by SANRAL to assist with a solution to identify trucks at its overload control centres. At the time, SANRAL was using automated number plate recognition (ANPR) systems. However, the cameras struggled as many of the trucks come from mines with number plates that are covered with coal dust and stone chips and have faded. The best accuracy they could get was 70% which meant that 30% of the transactions had to be manually corrected. Each station handles about 10 000 vehicles per direction per month, so this required 6 000 manual corrections per month, which was not viable. The RFID solution which we implemented improved the accuracy to better than 99,9%.
ZKTeco: ZKTeco offers a range of RFID access control solutions for vehicles tailored to the needs of the estate. Our offerings include:
• RFID reader and tag systems suitable for various access control points.
• Cloud-based access management software for easy administration (ZKBio CV Security).
• Integration with existing security infrastructure.
• Scalable solutions that can accommodate communities of all sizes.
• Regular maintenance (this will depend on what the specific installer has communicated with the client) and support services (the installer and ZKTeco offer this) to ensure optimal system performance.
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