What are companies using to control the access of people within their facilities? Are proximity cards still in fashion or has biometric fingerprint technology taken the lead? Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to four industry players about current trends.
According to Robbie Truter, area sales manager for HID Global Sub Saharan Africa, the choice of technology largely depends on the client. “Companies typically select technology based on their risk profile and the needs of their employees. With the latest solutions on the market, customers no longer need to use multiple credentials for physical and logical access; now a single smart card can serve as the credential for accessing buildings as well as IT resources. This can result in greater security across multiple platforms and has a cost-saving component as well.”
John Powell, MD of Powell Tronics believes that ultimately, cost will determine the technology selected. “Any in-building access technology is geared towards controlling the movement of people within the building. Biometric technology is great for employees, but is more complicated to institute for visitors as enrolling them can be time consuming and inconvenient for the visitor. Hybrid systems that employ a combination of proximity card readers and biometric readers are therefore gaining popularity.”
Linda Glieman, GM, Africa for Impro Technologies added: “Knowing the true identity of a person entering the premises is the driving force behind the adoption of biometric technology.”
Matt De Araujo, head of products at IDS explained that the company recently made a firm move into the access control arena through its purchase of GSC Systems. “Sales of proximity RFID technology remain very strong and alive, while there has been a significant growth in fingerprint reader technology as the price of fingerprint readers start to come down.
“However, through our exports division we find that proximity ID cards and tags are still the primary means of access control. We have a rather unique problem in South Africa with buddy clocking, hence the ready adoption of fingerprint readers. We also see a trend in Mifare card readers which can be used for multiple purposes including access control, bus ticketing and library credits,” he continued.
Convenience, security and interoperability
“When making decisions on access control, cost plays a significant role and more companies are looking for solutions that deliver greater convenience, higher security, and interoperability so they can future-proof themselves. This translates into solutions that work not only with their existing systems, but also are interoperable with future technologies, making sure organisations get the most out of their investments. Convenience, interoperability and higher security together are possible, but require collaboration among various role players in the company, especially the physical security and IT managers,” continued Truter.
“Our R&D team continually work towards time and cost saving solutions. Installation, troubleshooting and system management costs are expensive. Our target is to produce products that are easy to install, that are intuitive, and are totally reliable for our harsh African conditions,” said De Araujo.
Both Glieman and De Araujo agree that cost is always a concern as access control will always be perceived as a grudge purchase to organisations. “Understanding a company’s current risks and creating an effective return on investment will assist decision makers in choosing the correct solution. This is not just the cheapest solution. Biometric technology is more expensive than card technology and this is where risk and convenience come into play,” Glieman elaborated.
Powell added that convenience and workability of the system go hand in glove and can swing a decision in favour of biometrics. “Coupled with this is the ability of the supplier or systems integrator to supply excellent service.”
All interviewees recommend securing the services of either a reputable security consultant or system integrator with a proven track record of similar projects. “It is critical to ask for references for projects that have been successfully deployed, with due consideration given to the specific risks identified and associated with each individual company. Once that has been done, the service provider needs to select technologies and processes to mitigate against these risks,” said Truter.
Glieman added: “It is important to agree on the outcome the customer is be looking for. One should take the following into consideration when evaluating a solution:
* Robustness of the hardware, warranty, local backup and support.
* Integration capability with other systems in the organisation – HR, Active Directory, CCTV, alarm arming and disarming, energy efficiency systems, weighbridge applications.
* How the system is required to handle the different types of people requiring access to the premises in terms of employees, contractors, tenants and visitors.
* Redundancy levels and dependency on networks and database.
* Is the biometrics unit suited to the environment?”
Solutions fit for purpose
“It is important to source service providers who offer solutions, rather than just products. In addition, any products used should be reputable and certified to meet international standards, to ensure suitability and longevity. In addition, product solutions should be geared around the ability to interface or integrate with other business systems,” said Powell.
De Araujo said that while biometric technology is appealing for end customers, it is not always the best solution for applications for the following reasons: they are generally high value items that are susceptible to vandalism in outdoor environments, their read times are generally slower than proximity readers and can cause frustration in organisations where there are a number of staff entering and exiting at a similar time, and they are typically expensive, can be bulky and not always preferred by architects.
“Multi-factor authentication using a combination of cards and biometrics have been used for some time and gives the end-user a higher level of security by having the user provide something he/she has [a card] and something he/she is [biometric],” said Truter.
Glieman added: “A combination of technologies is being sought after; ensuring cost effectiveness with the various levels of risk being adequately addressed. Combinations include cards, biometrics, long range readers reading both passive (UHF) and active (2,4 GHz) tags, door locks which include tag reader technology.”
“Another example is cashless vending where customers would utilise biometrics with a card and a PIN number. On big databases, one could have biometric information embedded into the card with one on one verification rather than one on many verification. Hybrid solutions mean that biometrics can be used at high-security keypoints and cards at mass entry points,” said Powell.
De Araujo added that all buildings that require access control in this day and age have video surveillance systems that would provide verification to proximity RFID technology, thus keeping the cost per door down.
To integrate or not
“The degree of integration required will depend largely on the type of customer and the information they would like to have access to from a single seat of control. Most enterprise solutions allow for third-party integrations. The trick is to evaluate which of the solutions best fit the client’s needs,” said Truter.
“Examples of integration range from CCTV – creating a single GUI to view both access and CCTV alarms – to alarm arming and disarming, Active Directory for password management, thus allowing people on the premises to only access the company network while they are on site, then logging them out when they exit the premises. Integration into weighbridge applications ensures the correct credentials of the truck and driver. HR and contract management systems ensure stricter control on employee and contractor access. These solutions are a lot easier to integrate in the age of IP,” said Glieman.
De Araujo said that integration is becoming easier as the access controller systems have the available features and add-on modules, such as I/Os that can be used for lift control, triggering of surveillance systems and systems energy management. However, integration requires a different technical skills set for installers, specifically IP skills and understanding. In addition, the systems integrator or installer must understand the specific requirements and intentions of the client.
Truter believes that the growth in biometric technology and the fierce competition in the market have had a positive impact. “We have seen some of the larger and local manufacturers implement our reader technology in their biometric terminals, giving us more flexibility than we have had before.”
Glieman on the other hand stated that this has not had a great impact on their business. “We provide three different biometrics solutions to address different environments and market sectors. One has to educate end users on the correct biometric application for their environment. Purchase decisions where biometrics are concerned must not be based purely on price.”
De Araujo said: “We have identified good growth opportunities as a South African manufacturer for both our local and international markets, and have excellent experience and track record in manufacturing and distributing product that is robust, intuitive, easy to install and well supported. This being said, local manufacturers are under pressure from cheap security and access control products that continue to flood our markets from the East.”
Powell is adamant that the leaders in the field are those who provide value added services, such as consulting and assisting in the development of applications specifications. “The ability to offer a needs analysis, complemented by commissioning assistance and the requisite system training is a major differentiator. In addition, the ability to customise applications for integration into, for instance, Active Directory, CCTV, cashless vending, HR and T&A is a major positive.”
Truter: “Our biggest verticals in South Africa are in the financial/corporate, education and mining/industrial sectors.”
De Araujo: “We have seen positive growth in network-enable products, with sales of non-IP products still receiving good attention.”
Glieman: “Sales are coming from a technology and product benefit perspective in all industries. Companies are looking for feature-rich well-architected solutions. Sales are across all levels of the market from entry level to enterprise applications.”
Powell: “A combination of proven product and technology across a number of industries is generating the sales for us. The ability to support and integrate across many different systems is a big sales driver.”
Glieman: “Fully Web-enabled access control solutions that are accessible from mobile devices like tablets and cellphones”.
Powell: “Vein and facial recognition as high-end solutions. Also, acquiring data directly from driver’s licences and inputting this
automatically into the access control software. This is less time consuming and more accurate than manually writing down or typing in data. RF asset tagging is growing. Rapid biometric enrolment of visitors is now enabled through products like PT Guest.”
De Araujo: “Systems that can be accessed over LAN/WAN and 3G networks such as our ProxnetPro system, providing users and
installers the ability to manage and maintain all information remotely, from adding new user’s information through to remote support. In addition, there is a trend towards full connectivity between centralised control rooms for multi-national companies.”
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