Access Control

Insights into access

by Mark Rowe

As people look to integrate more and more security and other business-critical elements, Lee Herrington, pictured, UK Security Product Portfolio Manager for Siemens Building Technologies examines how access control is increasingly enabling technology to optimise building efficiency and the growth in mobile working and flexible office concepts.

Many organisations are considering their existing processes and systems and looking at how to leverage further value. Security is part of that focus, and access control and time attendance systems are a central component in the move towards a more integrated approach which results in significant benefits. By drawing data from a number of different sources and subsystems, including building automation, it is possible to move towards a truly smart environment.

An important area of integration is to enhance energy efficiency. Security, and particularly access control, has a role to play in this process as the security systems contribute to providing information relating to the occupancy of a building. At its simplest, if the access control system knows that no-one is present in a given room, the heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems can be automatically adjusted to reflect the situation. However, it is even possible to set the conditions based on the person that has entered a building as the access control reader will know the identity of that person and their role. An example would be cleaning staff who would be on site for a relatively short period of time. The temperature could be lowered as they are active on site in comparison to an office worker carrying out a more sedentary role for a longer period of the day.

Issues and advantages of biometrics

Biometric technology has improved significantly in accuracy and reliability and it has generally become more accessible and affordable. When planning the use of biometrics it is vital to select a reliable partner with expertise and experience in deploying biometrics projects. Guidance and training during the initial enrolment phase is fundamental for system performance. Sufficient time and discipline is required for this phase of the project. We clearly need to differentiate between two distinct customer requirements for biometrics:

1. Security: Customers with high-security requirements who demand biometrics to ensure verification of the identity of individuals. Biometrics, in this instance, are mostly deployed as a second authentication factor in addition to the smart card.

2. Convenience: Customers wanting to adopt biometrics to increase efficiencies; these customers are looking to remove the need for any kind of physical card or keyfob and therefore eliminate the associated lifecycle costs such as card issue and lost or defective card replacement. Furthermore, it can improve the user experience.

Privacy concerns and user acceptance affect the growth of biometrics, these concerns are understandable as identity theft is a growing problem. It is therefore critically important to carefully select the right biometric methodology for authentication. Physical biometrics include DNA, fingerprints, facial recognition, and eye scans (iris, retina). Behavioural biometrics include voice recognition and handwritten signatures.

How smart cards have the potential to enhance workplace security

The emergence of smart cards has opened up new opportunities; it has enabled the use of the card beyond access control. Cards that had previously carried data to allow access to the building are now being used for multiple applications. These can range from parking to electronic cashless purchase of food, with the potential to enhance workplace security through the inclusion of authentication for accessing the IT network and applications, digital signature and email encryption, biometric data and printer access management.

Increasingly, standardised and certified interfaces are being established with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software systems such as SAP and HR (Human Resources) systems, as well as facilities management. Interfacing with HR or other identity data sources enables an automated process for identity management, including automatic assignment of access entitlements based on the individual’s role and responsibilities. This aids in the protection of both brand and reputation by identifying, verifying and authorising individuals with access to applications, systems or networks and the operational cost savings, increased data consistency and improvements in security can be significant.

The introduction of offline and wireless electronic door fittings has also contributed significantly to the growth of access control in recent years. This has allowed us to extend electronic access control to encompass low traffic or lower-level security access points, which in the past were not economically viable for online systems.

The role of smartphones

Smartphones are opening up new opportunities for access control. Smartphones and tablets are high-performance and location-aware connected devices with a multitude of sensors (voice, video, accelerometer, touch-screen, biometrics) and communication means such as cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC. These factors are going to open up a wide range of applications and services, the most obvious being the use of the smartphone to replace the access card. Modern platforms that enable the use of smartphones within access control systems make use of Near Frequency Communication (NFC) and/or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and research studies predict that the market for mobile credentials is set to grow considerably. Increased security can then be further achieved with the adoption of biometrics and location verification. It is worth noting that within enterprise environments the corporate ID card is still very important for visual identification, therefore a combination of smartphones with corporate visual ID is likely to be with us for some time, enabling a mix of identifying credentials.

Looking ahead

Access control is increasingly enabling technology to optimise building efficiency and there is a growth in mobile working and flexible office concepts. Access control systems can now provide valuable information on office occupancy and present this information as dashboards and trends. Mobile workers can check on the availability of desk space, office areas and parking spaces via apps. Facilities Management can gain insights and trends on the utilisation of their buildings and parking amenities; this valuable data then enables improved decision-making, optimisation of building space, greater efficiencies and increased employee satisfaction.

A specific example is deployed at a large Siemens office campus in Belgium where sales representatives who travel frequently are classed as having a high “mobility index”. These personnel are given priority parking that is a short walking distance to their office location to minimise delays during short visits. Conversely, non-mobile office workers who tend to remain at one location for most of the day are provided with parking spaces further away from their office.

Many organisations are considering their existing processes and systems and looking at how to leverage further value. Security is part of that focus and access control and time attendance systems are a central component in the move towards a more integrated approach which results in significant benefits. By drawing data from a number of sources and subsystems, including building automation, it is possible to move towards a smarter working environment.

About the author

A graduate in electronics from Kingston University, Lee Herrington has worked for Siemens for over 21 years. Visit www.siemens.com/buildingtechnologies.

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