Oct 17, 2019 Last Updated 10:52 AM, Aug 14, 2019

Key criteria for specifying access control systems within public sector buildings

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Matt Haynes, UK and Ireland Business Head at Vanderbilt, explains the key criteria for specifying access control systems within public sector buildings.


Thanks to Internet protocol (IP) based access control, smartcards and readers are rapidly replacing traditional locks and keys. This exciting technology provides electronic security that operates over the local area network (LAN), safeguarding entry into buildings and keeping people, property and assets safe. The latest state-of-the-art systems offer an entirely multifaceted access control experience and are easy to configure and operate. Furthermore, their virtually unlimited system expansion capabilities equate to an abundance of cost saving benefits.

Recent research commissioned by Vanderbilt (formerly Security Products from Siemens) found that out of a total UK market value of £500m, 35% of this figure was spent in the public sector, suggesting that access control is a serious consideration within these environments. Not only does this point to a desire to control external threats, but authorised personnel can even be granted or denied access to certain areas at different times, making it not only good for security but also, in some environments such as hospitals, for health and safety. Let’s not forget theft either, where it is possible to pinpoint exactly who was in specific areas of the building and at what time and, when linked to CCTV, access control is particularly effective.

There are a number of factors driving the requirement for access control. The rise in terrorist based activity has put some locations, organisations and establishments at higher risk of attack than others. Legislation is also playing its part and schools, for example, now have an obligation to put safeguarding measures in place and have designated personnel to focus on them.

In these austere times, investments made by a public sector body are under intense scrutiny and any technology that is implemented has to be as future proof as possible and provide maximum return on investment. This means that initial cost should only be one aspect of wider selection criteria. Therefore, systems that operate over an open protocol, to allow other manufacturers’ hardware and software to be interchangeable, are proving popular, as they are less restrictive.

As well as the economic benefits, open protocol means that if legislative and regulatory changes occur, then a system can simply be augmented. This offers the further advantage of allowing the cost of a system will be proportional to the number of doors to be controlled. Vanderbilt’s research found that the vast majority of access control installations are initially quite small – only 20% cost in excess of £100,000 – making modularity and the ability to ‘add on’ even more vital.

Public sector buildings often change their uses, so a flexible solution will be able to adapt to meet different needs and still fit into a standard IT platform, whether hardwired, wireless or a combination of the two. The ability to assign access control rights to both wired and wireless components offers a cost effective solution for any additional internal doors that are required.

Meanwhile, contactless smartcards that utilise Mifare technology can be used for a variety of purposes including car parking, time attendance, cashless vending and accessing the IT network. As a transportation device that facilitates flexibility within the workplace, these ‘one size fits all’ smartcards can be uniquely configured for individual needs and multiple system integration will continue to be a key market driver, whether at point of construction or as part of an IP migration strategy.

No two buildings are the same and only technology that is flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of uses, both now and in the future, should be considered. As well as acting as a centralised security management system, today’s high performance access control systems are cost effective and provide a sophisticated level of operation.

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