The migration from traditional access control technology to newer technology can be costly and painful if not planned and implemented in the right way
A planned migration provides the ability to plan, budget and control the path to an improved access control environment

The installed base of legacy systems presents opportunities and obstacles for providers of newer access control systems. Most end users would prefer not to do a full rip-and-replace upgrade. Therefore, integrators (and manufacturers) have to find a smooth transition path. Access control customers eager to embrace the newest capabilities on the market are often faced with a daunting question: How do I get there from here?

 “The migration from traditional access control technology to newer technology can be costly and painful if not planned and implemented in the right way,” says Jason Ouellette, product line director, access control, Tyco Security. He points out the importance of looking for solutions that allow end users to continue to leverage a legacy installation base while transitioning to newer technologies.

A planned migration provides the ability to plan, budget and control the path to an improved access control environment with very few tradeoffs and avoiding a one-time large budget cost, says Ouellette. “A strong integration platform, unified server capability and flexible collaborative client interfaces can support this type of migration,” he says. “One more important piece of the puzzle is a strong history of being able to support legacy hardware over a longer migration period. Forklift exercises are difficult to manage and justify in the budget, so time is needed to allow for a controlled and phased-in update of hardware from old to new.”

Can yesterday’s product continue to be supported, then upgraded and transitioned to tomorrow’s solution with minimal to no downtime? Greg Hetrick, PCSC’s director of marketing, says technology must support legacy systems and also be backward-compatible and database- and hardware-upgradable.

Where does it leave integrators and end users if an access control manufacturer abandons the ability to accommodate legacy controllers and wiring with their new software? That makes rip-and-replace the only option, says Robert Laughlin, president of Galaxy Control Systems. However, Laughlin says if analog twisted-pair cabling with 485 or 422 protocols is present, it can often be used along with the installed readers and only the controllers need to be replaced, thus saving time and money. “In some instances the existing controllers installed throughout a facility can even be re-engineered so they also do not need to be replaced,” he says. “Only the centralized software at the head-end needs to be replaced.”

Bringing uniformity to an existing or new installation is easier with software-based controllers that are backward-compatible and promote best-of-breed solutions, says Laughlin.

“The opportunity for integrators is keeping end users informed on the latest technologies, upgrading when appropriate, staying ahead of the curve, and preventing risks in all aspects of access control and security”

Expanding the benefits of existing systems is another way to increase business for integrators. Software-based systems have increased the potential for new business development outside the conventional physical security domain, says Laughlin. He gives an example of a school system that was looking for a better way to manage student traffic among a large number of portable classrooms being used while a new facility was being constructed. A main concern centered on children using restrooms and other facilities located in the main school building throughout the course of the day. “School administrators wanted a way to track student movements efficiently beyond issuing conventional written hall passes,” he says. In lieu of hall passes, proximity devices were issued for use with access readers in the classrooms and at all entrances to the main school building. Now students are monitored and allocated a predetermined amount of time to walk from their classroom to the building. If a student fails to report in the given time period, the system issues a general alert.

Innovation is making access control installation easier and more effective, whether in a new application or an upgrade. There’s a trend toward network appliances that come pre-configured for easier and more efficient on-site system setup, application installation and customization. For example, on-board capabilities will allow users to connect to the network appliance by launching a shortcut from any LAN-connected PC. This capability will greatly reduce installation time by eliminating the need to deploy or install software and servers, says Laughlin. 

Access control systems will continue to be a focal point of an organization’s physical security systems. From a single control platform, users can monitor the state of a facility as well as share data with other systems such as video surveillance and video management, visitor management, time and attendance, alarms, photo-imaging, badging, elevator control and building management.

Further in the future, wireless communication will eventually replace Ethernet cables. Also, alternative power (think: solar/battery/conductive charging) as wireless power platforms will replace wired power. Cloud backup for local and offline recovery will become essential. “The opportunity for integrators is keeping end users informed on the latest technologies, upgrading when appropriate, staying ahead of the curve, and preventing risks in all aspects of access control and security,” says Hetrick.

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Larry Anderson Editor, SecurityInformed.com & SourceSecurity.com

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is SecurityInformed.com's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SecurityInformed's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

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