Automatic for the people

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Ken Price of the Automatic Door Suppliers Association looks at how access control is fast becoming part of a bigger ‘automatic solution’ – linking access control with automatic doors for improved safety, security and smart facilities management

You only have to watch Mad Men to realise sales and marketing moves with the times and evolves within the era it operates. During the 60s and 70s, we demonstrated how products worked, in the 80s and 90s as media channels and customers became more sophisticated, we focused on behaviours. Today, we use our understanding of customer requirements to shape the ‘offer’ of tomorrow – identifying problems and developing solutions enabled by technical advancement, which allow greater opportunities for integration.

This is particularly true of the automatic door and access control sector. Once thought of as very different beasts, manufacturers are now recognising their symbiotic relationship, supported by the likes of BACnet and KNX operating systems which have enabled access and security solutions that easy to control and can form part of an integrated building management system.

In isolation, both product types have earned their place within key requirements. Powered pedestrian doors facilitate accessibility, control environments, support fire strategies and enhance building security. Access control systems enable improved security, controlling and regulating access, and flow of people to a building or sections within it.

The correct specification of access control is imperative. It is important to identify what type of system is required: what it needs to achieve, who are the predominant users, and what access levels need to be set.

There are four principal systems: stand alone, proximity reader access, networked, and door entry.

Stand-alone systems are by far the most cost-effective means of controlling access to premises. All of the equipment necessary to successfully secure an entrance is localised to the door and access is granted upon presentation of a valid code. A pre-determined code is manually entered into a keypad, which sends a signal to the door, granting access for a short period of time.

A proximity reader works in conjunction with a proximity card and an access control panel. The reader emits a small electromagnetic signal known as an ‘excite field.’ When an authorised proximity card is brought within that field, it absorbs a small amount of energy, effectively switching the card on. It transmits a unique number to the reader and verifies this with the control system.

Networked systems are complex but provide a platform for significantly greater customisation – determining security levels and monitoring usage. With a network system, all locally controlled doors are wired together, creating a communication path managed by a computer interface, which runs specific access control software. This offers higher levels of security that can meet the requirements of each specific area and can often be managed by a remote control on a PC or mobile device.

A typical networked system can be programmed for mandatory or role-based access. Mandatory systems provide access to classified personnel and are commonly used within police or military establishments. Role based is more often used in larger organisations where security is extensive but granted based on individual roles. The advantage here is that screening can be reduced for those people requiring access to non-secure areas.

Door entry systems are utilised on secure doors through which visitors cannot gain access via the access control system. They allow visitors to draw attention to their arrival via a call button, which alerts a security desk or reception to their presence. Call panels can be speaker-based but as technology advances, very sophisticated camera images can also be communicated.

Access control systems can be simple or sophisticated – from digital keypads to biometric devices activated by a pre-programmed fingerprint or retina scan.

It’s perhaps easy to understand then, why automatic doors and access control products make perfect partners. As security demands increase against a backdrop of societal threats such as counter terrorism, industrial espionage and the need to protect vulnerable people and children, our solutions and systems need to speak to each other effectively.

There are also practical day-to-day benefits. When combined, they can control door opening speeds, ‘hold open’ times and closing speeds and forces to ensure that once opened, door return to its secure state consistently.

A common question arises when access-controlled doors also need to be used as an escape route. In such cases, they must allow exit. A powered door operator can be easily programmed to operate as a security door in normal operation, but drive to a safe condition in the event of a fire or emergency alarm.

Ken Price is managing director of the Automatic Door Suppliers Association