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Access Control.

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  "What you can do is post security officers at every door, 24 hours per day," says one of our customers. "Then you'd get the same service that's provided by using access control. But then, you'd have to hand out keys. The minute you hand out one key, the level of security drops dramatically"

  Keys were a beginning, a recognition that not everyone was welcome at any time, any place. But today the problems with keys may outweigh their value. Replacing keys is expensive. Unauthorized duplication represents a constant threat. Key control is a major hassle--there's even expensive software on the market to help with this. And, most of all, keys leave no trail, no record of who went where, when.

  The technological solution that emerged was computer-based access control systems. From one person, one door businesses, to multiple site, 10,000 employee corporations, the trend is computerized access control to allow entrance in and exit out.

  There are four methods for controlling access today. Keypad access control requires that a correct sequence of numbers be entered on a set of pushbuttons to open the door. Portable key access control systems (the most popular) admit the holder of a device (usually an encoded plastic card ) where the device is inserted into a reader. Proximity access control systems require no physical contact between the person and the system. And finally, the ultimate system is biometrics which identifies each person based on one of their unique characteristics (like a thumbprint).

  The most inexpensive access control systems stand alone--the microprocessor is located in the door. This type of unit has no recording capabilities. A more sophisticated access control system links multiple doors to a central computer--either a dedicated computer, a PC, or PC network. When a card is inserted into the access control unit at a door, the information from the card is sent to the computer where validation and recording functions take place.

  Access systems can be interfaced with vehicle access and tracking programs. Information about the vehicle and the driver can be logged on to the computer for validating and the inventory information of the vehicle can be logged, stored and retrieved as well.

  In hospitals, segregation of public areas and inpatient functions is of primary importance. Public access routes must be controlled, particularly into pediatric, maternity, and pharmaceutical areas.

  Access control is playing a larger role in protecting children. From newborn infants in hospitals to daycare centers to schools--these electronic security systems help to keep children in and intruders out. Nursing homes and retirement communities use access control in similar ways. Furthermore, some universities now have access identification cards that function as a meal, library and vending card as well.

  Marinas employ access control systems to control access at the maintenance and also the dock areas. Sophisticated access control systems integrated with inventory software are being used at manufacturing facilities. Access into remote warehouse sites is monitored via a central station located hundreds of miles away.

  Then there's selective access applications. A tenant on one floor of a ten story building wants no public access--employees only. Maybe access to certain offices needs to be restricted to only a few people. The solutions for all of these lie in elevator or door access control.

  The "key" word is "control." You can decide who can have access, where they have access, and even when they have access. We'll get that door for you!

This article was first published in Volume 3, Edition 1 in the Intelligent Security newsletter--a newsletter published for the security professional by PSA Security Network.

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