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Access control systems play an essential role in a comprehensive commercial security system, protecting people and property in government properties, airports, healthcare settings, office buildings, retail outlets, apartment complexes, school campuses and many other types of business premises. Their role in commercial security is to manage and control access to properties and restricted areas within buildings by only allowing entry to users or visitors who are authorized. 

Access control systems have replaced traditional door locks and keys for uses like school door locks or healthcare office locks with electronic systems that provide users with a variety of credentials they can use to gain access. These systems depend on fast, reliable network communications between door readers, where users or visitors present credentials, and an IP door controller that validates the credentials against a database of authorized individuals before releasing an electronic door lock. 

Increasingly, IP-based communications are replacing other forms of networking for security systems such as access control and providing a wide range of security, operational and financial benefits. 

This article describes what IP access control is, how it works, why IP-based communications benefit access control systems and how IP access control systems can be integrated with other elements of new or existing commercial security systems such as school security systems or commercial building security infrastructure. 

Defining IP-based communication

So, what is IP control for access? IP, or Internet Protocol, is the technology used to transmit data over a network such as a Local Area Network (LAN) or Wide Area Network (WAN). IP-based systems organize data into packages suitable for transmission on IP networks using a set of rules or protocols. 

The rules enable data to be exchanged in both directions between IP-enabled devices that have individual IP addresses. In IP-based access control, these devices would include door readers, controllers, management systems and electronic door lock systems. 

IP and other access control technologies

IP technology can also be used in conjunction with other widely used access control systems, such as Wiegand or OSDP solutions to provide additional benefits to existing installations. 

Wiegand systems, which provide one-way transmission, can take advantage of IP’s two-way communications, for example. Because Wiegand systems require dedicated hard wiring for power and data transmission, IP-based systems can be used to extend a Wiegand system without installing additional cabling. Adding will also support the installation of IP access control readers in locations that Wiegand cannot reach. Integrating IP technology with Wiegand can allow the existing system to accept a wider range of credentials, including those that require faster communication speeds such as video or biometric credentials. 

OSDP systems are also compatible with IP technology. While OSDP provides two-way communication and supports a wide range of readers and credentials, it is a wired system. Integrating IP with an existing OSDP system will allow easier scalability with no need for additional wiring or daisy chaining to reach more distant access control points. 

How IP access control readers and systems work

IP door access control systems incorporate four main components: door readers, IP controllers, management software and electronic door locks or strikes. Each of the components in the system has a unique IP address, which enables communication between the devices. 

This is the normal sequence of operations for users with authorized credentials: 

User presents credentials to a door reader — Depending on the configuration of the IP access control reader, users can present different types of credentials, including key fobs and key cards, smart cards, smartphones and biometric credentials.

Door reader transmits credentials to a controller — The reader sends data from the credentials via an IP network to a controller that houses a database of authorized users.

Software validates the credentials — Management software in the controller compares the credentials with information in the database. Depending on whether the credentials match, the software permits or denies access. 

Software activates the IP door lock system — If the system grants access, the software sends a signal via the IP network to unlock the IP door lock and allow the user to enter.

Visitors can use the same basic system to request access, as long as they have a credential. In some cases, they may receive temporary visitor key cards or passes, or regular couriers and vendors may be given an authorized credential for streamlined access. Some IP access control reader systems are equipped with audio or video intercom technology to enable guests to identify themselves and request access from specific users or security teams.

IP door lock and access control options

IP-based access control systems are compatible with readers that support a wide range of credentials, including: 

  • PIN codes
  • Key cards
  • Key fobs
  • Mobile credentials
  • Biometrics

In addition to accepted credentials, IP door locks are an integral part of an access IP control system. They remain closed until a signal from an IP access controller unlocks them. There are two types of IP smart door locks: 

An electric strike is fitted to the inside of a door frame, replacing a conventional lock strike plate. A small motor on the strike is connected to a power supply and the current holds the strike plate in the locked position. When an access control system submits a signal to release the lock, the strike plate pivots allowing an authorized user to open the door.

Magnetic strikes, such as fail secure electromagnetic locks, incorporate an electromagnet attached to the door frame, which bonds to a plate on the door. The door remains locked when an electric current passes through the electromagnet. When a user’s credentials are validated, the access control system cuts the power, breaking the bond and the door can be opened. 

Data storage and management for IP access systems

Data from access control systems must be captured by an access controller and stored in a database for analysis, audit and evidence in the event of an incident. The servers used to store this data can be housed on the premises, in the cloud or a combination of the two. 

While both types of storage are compatible with IP access control, they offer significantly different features and benefits.

On-site data management systems may require multiple servers with the capacity to handle current and forecast volumes of data. If data exceeds forecast capacity, IT teams have to install additional servers. High server capacity is essential if IP access control readers capture video or biometric data, which creates very large file sizes.

Cloud storage for security cameras and other data is more easily scalable. If capacity requirements increase, IT teams can pay an additional subscription and new capacity is available on demand. 

On-site servers are maintained and updated by the IT team. This requires more internal resources, but gives the company full oversight of their servers and systems, usually with greater capacity for customization. In the cloud, all maintenance and updating is handled by the host company as part of the regular subscription. Some enterprises also enable hosting IP access control data on private cloud networks for stricter control over distributed locations. 

Security teams access and review data from on-premise (vs cloud) security servers on monitors located on-site. If data is stored in the cloud, security teams can also access the data from any location using an Internet-connected fixed or mobile device. This increases flexibility, allowing teams to remotely monitor and operate access control systems outside normal business hours. Cloud storage also allows businesses with multiple sites to centralize operations and manage access control at all sites from a single location. 

Network requirements for IP door access control

The network in an IP-based access control system has one main role: to support communication and data exchange between system components. 

IP-based communications are technology-agnostic but typically use Ethernet or Wi-Fi networks as the transmission medium. One of the benefits of an IP access control system is that you may be able to use Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) to supply power to your devices. 

While IP-based access control networks are capable of transmitting high volumes of data at high speed, their performance depends on high bandwidth availability and functionality such as traffic prioritization. High bandwidth is important so that the IP-based access control system can transmit access requests and door opening signals with minimum delay to users. 

Traffic prioritization is essential because the underlying network may have to support other corporate services, such as mission-critical applications. Network administrators should set rules to prioritize access control traffic so that it is not subject to delay due to network congestion or heavy traffic. Slow response times could lead to frustrating delays for users.

Strong network security is critical to prevent hacking or other forms of attack, which could lead to loss of sensitive personal information or other data breaches. If the business is subject to regulatory compliance, network security is even more critical. 

The network must also be reliable, as any downtime could lead to access problems as well as create security risks. To maximize uptime, networks that support IP access control should incorporate automatic rerouting in addition to redundancy and failover facilities. 

Power supply for IP-based access control systems

IP access control systems require power for door readers, controllers and door locks. Unlike traditional access control systems, PoE door access control systems do not always require dedicated power cabling for each device. 

This simplifies installation and reduces costs because no separate cabling is required. If the system expands with the addition of new door readers, no further power cabling is required. Some IP-based access control system devices are compatible with PoE adapters, but are also backward compatible with existing wiring structures to simplify installation when replacing outdated hardware. A professional commercial security system installer can advise on the specific needs for your building or system.

Integrating IP door access control with security and building management systems 

IP access control systems are just one part of a comprehensive commercial security system. While they control access to the building and to restricted areas, security video cameras such as cloud-based IP cameras add an additional layer of visibility by monitoring doors and vulnerable areas, enabling security teams to identify any incidents that might threaten property or people. Intrusion alarms protect other vulnerable areas such as doors or windows, where it would not be practical or cost effective to install cameras or access control systems. 

Integrating these disparate components on an IP-based network can give security teams a 360-degree view of activity throughout a building, and enables them to monitor security in a more holistic way. For example, integrating retail store security cameras can strengthen an existing alarm system or security system for retail settings.

IP access control systems can be integrated with analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve security control. As security technologies continue to evolve, IP-based access control systems provide a platform that will be compatible with future developments and support even stronger levels of security.

Access control systems can also be integrated with other elements of building management. The data gathered by IP access control systems provides valuable insights into occupancy levels, which can support better planning and utilization of heating, lighting, ventilation and other facilities by automating the allocation of resources in line with actual occupancy. This can improve resource efficiency and reduce overall costs, particularly for businesses with a hybrid workplace model. A professional security system integrator can assist you in properly integrating your IP access control system with existing security systems.

Benefits of an IP door access control system

Stronger security. High-speed communications ensure that an IP-based security access control system can transmit and exchange information quickly between system components to ensure rapid identity verification with minimal delay or inconvenience to users or visitors. The rapid exchange of information also enables security teams to quickly respond to incidents. 

An IP-based security access control kit allows security teams to implement the strongest methods of verification, including IP-based biometric access control. By integrating an IP access system with commercial security camera systems and other devices, teams can implement multi-level security at critical points with a single dashboard to view all activity simultaneously. 

Because IP-based security systems with cloud capabilities can support remote, mobile monitoring, security teams can maintain full situational awareness and maximize protection 24 hours a day without having to remain on site. 

Convenient access for users and visitors. An advanced IP door access control system can support a wide range of door readers and credentials, enabling security teams to offer users and visitors a choice of convenient methods of identity verification and access. 

Simpler security management. Many IP-based access control systems can be managed remotely on an Internet-connected device, especially with cloud software. This enables security teams to easily update and roll out directory information and permissions so that the system is always validating access requests based on accurate information. Integrated IP door access systems can automatically sync with identity providers and scheduling apps for efficient management as well.

IP connectivity with the cloud also gives security teams the benefits of scalable data storage, access to security and access control data from any location and the ability to build disaster recovery capabilities into security operations. 

Greater scalability. With an IP-based access control system, security teams can add new door readers and other devices without the delay and disruption of installing new dedicated power and data cabling. The additional PoE door access control devices are simply connected to the existing IP network. This enables security teams to extend access control and strengthen security without a rip-and-replace project. 

Powerful integration capabilities. IP-based security access control kits can be integrated with existing Wiegand or OSDP solutions and other security systems, as well as advanced technologies like analytics and artificial intelligence to provide comprehensive coverage and the highest levels of security. They can also be integrated with building management systems to provide building owners with a holistic property management solution. 

Cost savings. Compared to a traditional access control system, IP-based solutions can offer significant cost savings during installation thanks to simplified cabling; IP-based systems connect to existing LANs or WANs and can use PoE technology as a power source. Where the IP infrastructure uses existing WANs or LANs, there are no additional support or maintenance costs as the network is managed at a corporate level. 

IP-based systems also reduce costs by supporting lower-expensive credentials such as mobile, which require minimal administration. When IP access control is integrated with other security and building management systems, management costs are also lower because all systems can be managed through a single interface, saving time and reducing redundancies.

Is IP access control right for your business?

An IP-based access control system can be integrated with existing security technology systems or used to replace a legacy access control system. It helps overcome challenges with growth of the system, slow performance, weak security levels, limited opportunities for integration or increasing costs. Instead, the many benefits of an IP access control system offer opportunities to optimize security and reduce costs while developing a fully integrated and futureproof security solution for your business.

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