Moving Access Control Intelligence to the Door and the Phone

The physical security and access control market is undergoing a major transition to IP-based solutions that deliver ease of operation, simplified expansion and customization, and the ability to integrate a physical access control system (PACS) with many other solutions sharing the same network. 

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of IP-based access control is the ability to move intelligence to the door for streamlined system monitoring, management and reporting via standard web browsers.  The move to true open architecture IP-based intelligent controllers will also enable users to invest in hardware platforms that are not linked to proprietary software, simplifying future infrastructure enhancements and modifications. 

As more and more organizations embrace the advantages of IP connectivity for access control, we will also see the concept move to wireless connections, including locksets as well as NFC-enabled handsets that, initially, will simply emulate cards.  Ultimately, these NFC-enabled mobile solutions will leverage the phone’s own network connection and the cloud to move access control intelligence and decision-making all the way to the palm of one’s hand.  We will see traditional cards and digital credentials on NFC devices co-existing in the PACS, working with other applications within the IP network.

Despite the benefits of IP-based access control, security concerns have, until recently, blunted its adoption.  These concerns are rapidly waning as the industry realizes that IP-based access control actually improves security.  Integrating video surveillance with access control, for instance, offers a more comprehensive view.  When the security system enables all of the various subsystems – from video management and access control to video analytics, intrusion devices and all associated IP-based edge devices – are managed through a single user interface, situational awareness is significantly enhanced because all information can be immediately combined and correlated.

Wireless intelligent locksets are the first step to untethered connectivity in this networked access control environment.  These devices will become more prevalent as new lower-cost, energy-efficient models are introduced to the market.  Meanwhile, mobile access control with NFC-enabled handsets is also on its way, and will enable users to carry credentials on phones that fit nicely into the network environment.  The most basic approach is to replicate existing card-based access control principles:  the phone communicates identity information to a reader, which passes it to the existing access control system.  Based on a pre-defined set of access rights, the access control system makes the decision to unlock the door. This model provides a safer and more convenient way to provision, monitor and modify credential security parameters, temporarily issue credentials as needed and cancel credentials when they are lost or stolen. 

Moving beyond the initial card emulation model, the next generation of mobile access control solutions will leverage the smartphone’s on-board intelligence to complete most of the tasks now performed by the access control system. Instead of having a physically connected physical access control system, a mobile device could leverage its wireless connection to be both the key and the processor, and become the rules engine to make the access control decision.  As a result, it will be possible to build and deploy readers (and locks) without any significant intelligence or connectivity capabilities.  And, because of the interoperability benefits of open-architecture IP-based intelligent controllers, users will have a broad range of controller and reader platforms to choose from, including basic readers and wireless intelligent readers that provide access to multiple credential technologies.

IP-based access control is here and growing in adoption.  It delivers valuable benefits including simplifying operation, expansion and customization, while enabling a PACS to be integrated with many other solutions on the same network.  By moving intelligence to the door, it also streamlines system monitoring, management and reporting.  Ultimately, the concept of networked access control will be extended even further, moving access control intelligence and decision-making into NFC-enabled smartphones, and enabling us to secure far more doors electronically than ever before.