“We like to leverage the benefits of wireless,” says Paul Ahern, president of Cypress Computer Systems in Lapeer, Mich. “Wireless lets you keep more of what could be spent on installation in your own pocket. Instead of having your customer’s money go to someone else for trenching, electrical, cabling or other labor overhead, it all gets spent with you, usually leading to more of your own product being sold.”
Wireless systems let customers achieve wired system benefits without the cost of hardwired systems. Installing wireless typically is faster than implementing a traditional hardwired solution. When wanting to retrofit older buildings with new access control systems, a wireless solution may be the only viable option you can use. Also, wireless readers are not limited to doors — wireless solutions exist for exit devices, gates and elevators. Wireless systems work with most of today’s access control systems.
Existing ID credentials will work with the new wireless solution. Access privilege changes and audit records are available at the central control terminal, all from a common database, which simplifies data entry and management. This also eliminates the need to go door to door to upload changes and download records, making wireless locksets a good alternative to offline, standalone locking systems. In addition, all wireless transmissions are typically encoded and may use AES128-bit private keys for heightened security.
Popular Applications That Scream for Wireless
According to Ahern, the most popular uses of wireless are in those situations where companies decide to extend the perimeters of their facilities. “With a wireless access control system, you can easily extend their solution up to 10,000 feet,” he says. “That’s almost two miles!”
Ahern says Cypress access control specialists recommend wireless for connecting to parking lots; extending the access system across the road, railroad tracks or river; creating temporary reader installation at a construction site; and where it is simply undesirable to trench, cable or pull wire.
“We are seeing wireless devices used the most in K-12 education spaces to secure individual classroom doors,” reports Rick Caruthers, executive vice president, Galaxy Control Systems. “It seems that the overall cost of a wireless reader now allows users to consider doors for access control that were otherwise considered cost prohibitive.
“The main concerns we find are controlling visitors, securing perimeter doors and creating emergency lockdown,” adds Caruthers. “We also find that wireless locks are making it more affordable for school systems to consider devices for each classroom door where, in the past, typical locking hardware proved to be too costly. Wireless also benefits dealers and integrators themselves. The number of doors installed increases due to the lower cost of a wireless device versus a traditionally secured door and the extra components and labor needed to install it.”
Education is also a good market for Kastle Systems of Falls Church, Va., as well. The company targets the school market and has developed an integrated security solution for educational institutions that employs the latest advances in technology, including wireless access control. “Wireless access control provides better cost, convenience and aesthetics than many wired solutions. Plus, you are eliminating the old metal keys for more advanced access cards,” emphasizes Nikhil Shenoy, director of product marketing for Kastle. “Anywhere that you find a lot of doors within a contained suite or space, wireless could be a better alternative than wired. We use wireless tech on interior rooms in commercial real estate settings, whether it is the door to a bathroom, office, copy room, mechanical or communications closets, or meeting room as it reduces the cost and labor of wiring traditional carded systems. Wireless is a great solution for resident doors in multifamily buildings. For instance, we just finished a 375-resident door, multifamily wireless project in New York City.”
“Where we get the ‘oos and ahhs’ with wireless is with our handheld wireless mobile readers,” adds Ahern. “They are used to read credentials in applications where it just would not be practical to use a fixed reader. Whenever we offer one to a prospect who uses it for the first time, we always get a big smile.”
According to Ahern, the top prospects are places where an organization wants to check IDs of people in trucks and buses, verify staff attendees at training centers, create an access point away from buildings or establish emergency assembly points and muster stations.
Entry is basic to access control systems at marinas both small and big. For instance, the Blue Water Yacht Club in Sausalito (Calif.) uses its system to control a vehicle gate, dock gate and two restroom doors while a Miami Beach (Fla.) marina uses its system to control many dock gates, restrooms and parking garages. The Port of Everett (Wash.) consists of a hodge-podge of legacy systems that have been integrated into a security system with in excess of 60 access points in an area greater than 3.5 acres that features links up to a mile apart.
Spread Spectrum Vs. WiFi Access Communications
There are two major wireless technologies used in access control systems to send information from/to the door to/from the system computer that runs the access control software: spread spectrum and WiFi. In the first, a 900MHz or 2.4GHz spread-spectrum communication module, along with the card reader, is installed to a panel interface module (PIM) and, from there, onto a hardwired source network. The second method is 2.4GHz/802.11 WiFi, in which communication goes from the card reader or sensor directly to a WiFi antenna and onto a network.
If lockdown is a major need, be aware. Usually, with WiFi, access control decisions are downloaded by the host into the lock five to six times per day versus five to six times per hour with spread-spectrum solutions. Also, signal propagation and strength through building walls is stronger for spread-spectrum signals versus the shorter wavelengths of WiFi signals.