Physical access control - in consideration technology

October 2002 Access Control & Identity Management

Access control and IT are increasingly becoming more integrated, bringing rise to certain factors that need to be taken into account when considering such technology. In acquiring an access control system that will meet the needs of either a small organisation, or a large enterprise, there are obvious issues where businesses need to be asking crucial questions. Given that many of the access control vendors in the physical security world are not necessarily IT-driven, particularly so in South Africa where local content proliferates, it is even more so a case of 'buyer beware'.

So, in consideration of access control technology, what are the right questions to ask? Cardax's Julie Howarth poses a few.

* Is the system scalable? Will the system meet the needs of a small, single site, right through to a global enterprise? Making it easy to increase the size of your system, as required, calls for all systems to use the same architecture and hardware. Are future upgrades easily accommodated? Future upgrades will be accommodated if the controlling devices support downloadable code.

* How can the system be customised? The look and feel of the system should be consistent with the requirements of the organisation. Does the system involve optional features? Optional features, such as PhotoID, mean that an organisation can select the necessary functionality, independent of the physical size of their system.

* Does the system allow for the sharing of information? It is essential to determine how easily the access control system will interface into other third party systems, determining the use of systems such as CCTV, time and attendance packages, human resource systems, asset management systems, and building management systems. Greater interoperability between systems, devices, and applications are now expected in order to allow for further integration. For instance, logical access control of a computer network, through logon functions, can be linked with physical access control.

* How does the system impact on the network? Does the system reside on an organisation's existing intranet or wide area network (WAN)? Utilising existing networks provides cost savings to an organisation. However, the system should be designed with the IT environment in mind, and should use minimal bandwidth. Sophisticated systems should still only use small packet sizes, regardless of functionality such as intercoms or digital cameras. Is the system Internet compatible? Being Internet compatible may mean that the system can work across geographical and time zone boundaries. Remote dial-up operation enables cost-effective monitoring of remote locations within the system.

* Does the system incorporate encryption? Protecting the system's data is paramount for an access control system. There may be an optional feature of additional encryption, to 128 bits or preferably 168-bit encryption.

* Does the system support smartcards? Smartcards are an option for linking physical access control with logical access control, to network resources. A multi-application smartcard incorporates personal identification for physical access control systems, and computer systems, and certificates for proof of identity. The card can also store physical and/or behavioural characteristics (biometrics signatures) for automatic personal identity verification.


Cardax has been designing and marketing sophisticated, enterprise-wide access control systems for more than two decades. CardaxFT is the company's latest generation technology and, with the future in mind, extends the boundaries to a complete, integrated, enterprise-wide security system, taking into consideration the issues outlined.

For more information contact Cardax South Africa, 011 467 2149,

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