Advancing Campus Access Control One Door at a Time

Installing an access control system for future growth is everybit as important as making sure it is backwards compatible. Whetherdeploying standalone electronic locks, networked and/or integratedsystems, or high-level technology such as biometrics, campuses shouldadopt solutions that can accommodate their changing needs.

The initial role of an access control system is to manageingress and, in some cases, egress. When all is said and done,one’s baseline defense is at the controlled opening. Not onlymust campus administrators be able to keep the bad guys out, they needan access control system that easily lets the good guys in. Today, theoptions are innumerable.

By itself, a door lets people in and out. But, once a lock isput on the door, we now have an access control system. You may notthink of it as one, but a locked door is just that – acontrolled access point. Only authorized individuals with a key are tobe let through that particular door. Thus, the old standby -the mechanical lock and key – continues to be the mostpopular access control “system” in usetoday.

Indeed, most access control starts with a standard mechanicallock. Then, one day, there is a call for a little more protection fordesignated openings. To upgrade from mechanical keys, campus decisionmakers often determine that an electronic lock is the best option. Theycall for a device that will let them secure doors, manage lists ofauthorized users, and provide an audit trail from the lock to see whowent where and when.

Electronic locks can be standalone, connected to anenterprise’s network or hooked into their own designatednetwork within the enterprise. In addition to electronic locks, thereare many branches of the access control tree offering myriad solutionsfrom simple to complex.

ElectronicLocking Systems Come in Many Different Flavors

Electronic locking systems can range in price from about $400 per door
to as high as $3,000 per door in a fully networked system. Between the
strictly mechanical system and the totally networked system exists a
wide range of electronic solutions that can be considered.

Some electronic devices provide economical solutions forincreased security and convenience without forgoing aesthetics. In manycases, the electronic locks can fit the profile of the mechanical lockand be backwards compatible from an installation standpoint.

For easy migration from the traditional mechanical orelectrical locksets, there are standalone keypad programmable lockingsystems that fit a standard ANSI/BHMA cylindrical and mortise lockpreparation, requiring only minor modifications to the door. Theyaccommodate standard door widths without the need for spacers or shimkits.

For retrofitting older, PIN code locksets, doorplates areavailable to cover door preparation scars left from the priorinstallation. Facilities with cylindrical locks, mortise locks andaluminum door latches can deploy one common solution to meet basicaccess control needs.

If more automation is required, a hospital, school oruniversity may choose to graduate to a software-managed solution thatcan use credentials such as proximity cards, fobs or magnetic-stripecards. Campus officials may also want these locks to automatically lockand relock at certain times of the day.

At prices ranging from $300 to $1,000 per door, programmableelectronic card locks are a solid choice for facilities with numeroususers and access points. A step above the strictly mechanicalpushbutton lock, keypad programmable electronic locks are standalone,microprocessor-based, battery-powered locks that provide increasedvalue. With them, you can quickly program more than 100 individual usercodes, right at the keypad.

With these locks, facilities managers or campus administratorscan add or delete users in seconds. User codes are typically keptbetween three to seven digits and entered via the keypad by the user togain entry. There is no external wiring required, and the locks willprovide up to 80,000-plus activations or the equivalent of two to threeyears of use with common AA batteries.

Sometimes,Standalone Access Control Devices Are Best Solution

Programmable PIN code locks may be appropriate for certain openings,
but not for others. A hospital, school or university may want to add
credentials such as proximity cards. In this case, there are several
options to consider.

Among them, there are several standalone electronic lockingsystems averaging $400 to $1,000 per door, including installation.Electronic card locks have become the subtle workhorses of the securityindustry, providing features found previously only with online,networked systems.

Whatever the credential used, intuitive, user-friendlysoftware can program the locks and/or access trim from a laptop or PDA.New users, access points and access privileges can be entered into thesystem in minutes.

With such computer-managed standalone systems, campus accesscontrol solutions can be customized. Multiple openings can be managedwith a variety of standalone locking systems that share commonsoftware. Without any network connection, campuses can have thebenefits of a networked system at a fraction of the cost.

The only concession is that system administrators do not havereal-time management of the opening. To change access perimeters, andin some cases user privileges, you will have to reprogram thelock.

With the standalone lock, an administrator can easily controlboth users and access points based on time of day and/or day of week.The lock also retains audit events and reports of access privilegesgranted or denied, use of a mechanical override and, in some cases,door status.

With a laptop or PDA, the administrator can go to a door, plugthe interface cable into the lock and then add or delete users,determine which users can have access to specific doors at specifictimes throughout the day, and upload audits.

NetworkedSolutions Allow for Real-time Management

If real-time management of the opening is required, then the next move
would be to a networked system with hardwired or wirelessly connected
readers and locking devices. In some cases, an integrator can create
the networked system and incorporate a campus’ standalone
electronic locking devices and databases.

Systems that can manage both online and offline devices willenable educational and healthcare institutions to realize true returnon investment (ROI). This makes the standalone electronic lock an assetthat the campus can redeploy.

Today, campuses can commingle multiple access controltechnologies in one system. From one database, they can manage onlineand offline locking systems, integrate other critical securitymanagement functions such as CCTV, badging, visitor management andmore.

To make the most of what is available today, campuses mustplan for the future while designing systems for today. It is wise todeploy flexible, forward-compatible systems. From simple standalone tonetworked access control, there is a migration path and, in a selectfew systems, both can coexist.

Build aFoundation for the Future Via the Systems You Deploy Today

When planning for electronic access control system, campus personnel
should be certain it is built from the door out. Their requirements
will likely change, so the system should be able to grow with

By deploying versatile systems, a campus can maximize theeffectiveness of multiple security applications. Access transactions,associated video and alarms can be viewed simultaneously, eliminatingthe need to access multiple systems or flip to alternate screens.Integrated digital video management, visitor management and alarmgraphics can all be included to expand the system’seffectiveness. Offline and online hardware offerings become uniquelyintegrated and can include standalone, networked, hardwired andwireless access devices.

The access control system world is not one of feast or famine,a choice between strictly mechanical or only networked alternatives.There is a new generation of electronic locks and access controlsoftware offering many options to meet campus needs. Such sys
tems canbe considered a security asset, built to design and grow, instead of anecessary evil and expense that will become obsolete soon after it isinstalled.

Felix Mira isthe marketing manager for Schlage Electronic Security in Forestville,Conn., part of Ingersoll Rand (IR) Security Technologies. Mira has alsoworked for ASSA ABLOY and Compass Technologies. He can be reached at(972) 378-1191 or

For the unabridged version of this article, please refer to the March/April 2007 issue of Campus Safety Magazine. To subscribe, go to

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