Get the Edge

Intelligent access control has been around for some time – but traditionally, the brains of the operation were actually hidden in a mechanical room, where a controller managed multiple doors via miles of custom wiring. This approach could make adding new doors and upgrading systems costly – particularly since most components of the systems (except cards used for access) were proprietary. Accordingly, facilities wishing to add new features would often have to perform a ‘forklift upgrade’ and completely replace their systems.

However, a new alternative has hit the market: IP Edge access control.  IP Edge consolidates controller and reader functions into a single device that connects directly to the network – essentially, taking access control “to the edge.” This system brings a new level of intelligence to every access point and provides significantly more flexibility – as well as savings. 

As stated by Thomas Heiser, Vice President of Product Marketing at HID Global, “It saves money, saves time and just plain makes sense.” But is IP Edge the right solution for you?  

Out of the closet
Today, most systems use door-mounted card readers which selectively grant access based on data stored in a remote controller, which is usually placed in a nearby equipment closet. Most components of the system are proprietary, so readers, controllers and often the network software all came from the same manufacturer – restricting customers to the feature sets that were commercially available and making it difficult for them to switch vendors.    

IP Edge systems combine both the reader and controller into a single compact device that is directly connected to the existing corporate network.  No additional proprietary network wiring is required – enabling a much higher return on investment.

Some use a PoE (Power over Ethernet) approach, so the Edge device only needs a single Ethernet cable to stay connected and powered, Other Edge devices use WiFi for network access, permitting installation in as little as an hour. And since IP Edge systems are typically based on open standards, customers can choose best-of-breed components from multiple manufacturers and also upgrade easily.   

This approach offers significantly more flexibility, allowing organizations to easily add individual doors to their security network, or even mix and match open-standard products from different vendors.  “You can buy all these components separately and marry them up to your desired software solution,” explains Martin Huddart, Vice-President of Electronic Technologies at ASSA ABLOY Americas. 

With this approach, organizations can gradually upgrade their security, adding new doors and new capabilities as needed to their existing systems. And cost savings can be considerable, with Huddart estimating that the installed cost of some Edge solutions can be as much as 50% less expensive than traditional systems.  

Of course, IP Edge solutions have drawbacks as well, although some have already been addressed. Network connections could be tampered with if run outdoors, making reader/controllers impractical for exteriors. A reader-only device can be combined with a separate indoor controller in these scenarios. Network reliability and vulnerability to hackers are additional concerns; however Edge systems offer encryption and can usually continue functioning even if not connected to the network.  

Case in point
While Edge products have only been widely available for less than two years, customers like the Lehigh Career & Technical Institute have already begun to implement them.

Located in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, Lehigh is the third largest vocational school in the country “Each day, roughly 3,000 students pass through our doors,” states Facility Engineer Dan Kotran. However, the school’s 500,000-square foot facility was equipped with offline locks, forcing staff to visit each doorway whenever changes needed to be made. Fortunately, Lehigh does have a WiFI network, making a wireless Edge system the ideal solution.   

Lehigh has now installed a system of 22 Sargent v.S2 locksets, which link into its existing IP infrastructure via the WiFi network. “Installing the locks couldn’t have been any easier,” recalls Kotran. “There were no wires to run and, since the locks do not require any proprietary wireless infrastructure, they instantly worked with our WiFi network.”

The new system has allowed Lehigh to enhance security and convenience at an affordable cost. “The new locksets allow us send commands to the locks from a central location,” Kotran explains. This improves security and reduces the burden on our facility personnel.”   

Meanwhile, the Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC) takes advantage of a wired connection to provide even greater intelligence and flexibility. “With medication errors continuing to be the most common and harmful threat to patient safety, [we] embarked on a journey toward Bar Code Medication Administration,” says SOMC Nurse Manager Julie Irwin.

SOMC chose a system of wall-mounted medication cabinets equipped with HID Edge readers. A central pharmacy fills the cabinets at the beginning of the day and staff uses proximity badges to open the cabinets, and then check out medications with a handheld scanner. All the while, the Edge system is continuously controlling access – for example, by preventing a staffer whose shift has ended from returning and removing drugs.  

To the Edge – and beyond?
Overall, IP Edge systems offer compelling cost and flexibility benefits today – and the potential for exciting new applications in the future. As HID’s Heiser, notes, an Edge device is more than just a controller; “It’s a computer, it’s a phone, it’s a camera and it’s at the end of a CAT 5.” 

As a networked device, Edge devices can, for example, be linked to the same LDAP directory used to control application access. Organizations can then create role-based security for both the physical and virtual worlds. For example, an HR staff member could be given access to payroll applications – and the employee records room. Meanwhile, computer systems could reject a log-in if that user’s ID was not read at the office door.  

For Edge solutions, opening doors is ultimately only the beginning. Instead, organizations interested in adopting Edge should bring their IT staff into the loop – and encourage them to experiment with entirely new applications. Although widespread adoption may still be some years away, it is clearly only a matter of time before Edge solutions are front and center.

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