Today's Access Control Products
By: Ed Chandler, CPP

Although there are exceptions, these are in products and systems used today.

Cards and Readers

Access cards and access-control readers usually are supplied by a single manufacturer. A card from one manufacturer usually will not work with another's readers. The biggest manufacturers of cards and readers are not access control system manufacturers.

Smart-Remote Boxes and Application Software

Smart-remote boxes are generally manufactured by the same organization that creates the application software for the access control system. The relationship of all card-to-door relationships, the timing, and system security must be connected through the smart-remote box and the host application. It is uncommon for a company to sell smart-remote boxes to a company that only develops software. Buying smart-remote boxes and software from separate manufacturers limits flexibility and development of new applications.

Computer Hardware, Operating Systems, and Database Engines

There are many common operating systems, platforms, and database engines in use today. The application software usually is installed in an off the-shelf hardware platform running an off-the shelf operating system, and probably with an off the-shelf database engine. Very few products now use proprietary operating systems or central processing units.

Installation Providers

Most manufacturers do not install their products. Instead, authorized dealers or business partners are trained to install the products. Some manufacturers merely sell boxes. Some manufacturers provide more support to dealers and installation contractors than others. Service support is judged best by existing customers and programs and the size and breadth of the service organization.
Some manufacturers who also install equipment sell the concept of one-stop responsibility. Some individuals prefer being able to change installation service providers without having to change all of the installed system base. There is no right way to operate. Each way has merits and must be evaluated based on the situation. A company that has many sites that are widely dispersed might be served best by a large one-stop shop that has service at many locations. Another company with several large sites spread across the country might do better with independent installation companies that all use the same manufacturer.
The decision to buy a system should be made on the technical assessment of the features and reliability of the systems and software. Find the most economical and reliable way to purchase the system based on overall life-cycle cost analysis.

Reproduced with permission from the National Safety Council. Accident Prevention Manual for Business & Industry: Security Management. Itasca: NSC Press, 1997.
(For more information, please contact the National Safety Council at or 800/621-7615, ext. 2374)

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