Access control - past, present and future

October 2005 Access Control & Identity Management

Access control follows closely on the heels of cutting-edge technology. New discoveries at an embedded as well as PC level are quickly adopted by the access control industry. This has led to radical changes in the access control market in the last decade.

From simple standalone keyless entry systems with little to no PC connectivity, we have emerged to a market demanding complicated, networked access control systems. The systems require support for multiple access technologies, with scalability a keyword in today's market. Large networked installations are becoming easier to implement with networked platforms migrating to existing network infrastructures. The network burden is further alleviated with systems supporting wireless connectivity. All this connectivity is driven by the need to centralise data. The benefit of which is easy system management with data interrogation and reporting facilities that are easy to integrate with other systems.

Access control exists in a 'chase' environment. It is dogged by those who are constantly looking to thwart security and access control systems; The negative element is persistently looking to find the proverbial chink in the armour! To stay ahead, the access control industry must constantly reinvent itself - adopting cutting edge technology to stay ahead of the negative element. This is the primary link between cutting edge technology and the access control industry.

Only a few years ago the access control industry was based on just that, access control. The priority was to control access to a particular point. This could be achieved effectively with a standalone access technology. The technology had to provide security as well as convenience. Depending on the point being controlled this could be achieved effectively with some form of electronic keyless entry system (remote control, proximity reader etc).

Although the basic principle is still the same, the market has become somewhat more demanding. Market demands have stemmed from technology's ability to meet those demands. Access control is a misnomer describing a concept that is more closely allied with access management. Controlling access is still of critical concern, but the industry now requires information about that access point that will allow for the intelligent management of the access point and users alike.

This sort of access management has become possible with ever increasing integration and system connectivity. Access control solutions are making use of advanced network infrastructures (LAN connectivity, WAN and Internet connectivity). This makes sophisticated network solutions readily accessible. There is no longer a need to implement network infrastructures solely for the use of the access management system. The ability to relay information to and from a remote access point allows pertinent information regarding that access point to be centralised. This data centralisation allows for advanced reporting facilities that integrate with secondary systems (payroll systems, asset tracking systems, building management systems). In addition it allows for effortless system management and configuration.

As we move forward there will be an ever-increasing need to offer networked access control systems. Wireless connectivity will play an ever-increasing role in this drive. The systems will be required to support the newer access technologies. Of particular interest here is biometric access control. The existing access technologies are open to security abuse. Biometric access control technologies are harder to circumvent from a security perspective. Whether regulatory authorities legislate the use of biometric technology remains to be seen. Public sentiment is not altogether positive at this stage.

In general, the access control market will be pressed to remain on the cutting edge. Technologies that offer improved security, effortless installation and management, and a user-friendly environment will be adopted as they become available. It is an active and extremely exciting industry.

For more information contact Centurion Systems, 011 699 2400, sales@centsys.co.za


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