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News

Converging technologies bring smarter security

TDSi : 19 March, 2013  (Technical Article)
Mike Sussman of TDSi provides his thoughts on the convergence of technologies and platforms such as smartphones in providing increased security to a wider user base.
Converging technologies bring smarter security

The pace of change in the security industry is staggering and no less so within the access control segment. The last few years have seen a huge shift in the integration of security, with terms such as PSIM becoming an everyday part of the security specialist’s lexicon.  This year is shaping up to be no different with the access control sector happily following the technology evolution. A number of technologies, such as Near Field Communications (NFC), biometrics, Power over Ethernet (PoE) and wireless systems are maturing well and promise to dominate even greater percentages of the market this year – mirroring much wider trends in technology as a whole.

NFC is a particularly interesting development as it can be directly linked to the way in which society as a whole reacts with technology. As a recognised standard, NFC promises to offer open connectivity (in a similar vein to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) enabling far more types of technology to successfully interact with one another. Whilst the concept is tried and tested it’s the unquestionable dominance of smart devices in our lives that have fuelled the possibility and interest in using the technology in security and access control applications.

Many security applications still rely upon tokens, but what if the token were your smartphone or a process using it? At the moment, this is most likely to be a set of security protocols that are embedded in the device, but what if the device in turn becomes the security reader – with biometrics such as facial recognition or fingerprint reading for example? Some Smartphones are already utilizing facial recognition for secure access to the device, so why not take this a step further and use this technology to approve identity for access control. Smart mobile devices are already encompassing highly sophisticated technology and this in turn offers great opportunities for them to be used to help confirm identity. It could also be highly convenient for users, using something that they will naturally carry and keep safe on their person, to authenticate access control.

Biometrics systems themselves are continuing to evolve and looking forward the price point of even more complicated systems will continue to fall. Facial recognition, as mentioned, has become far more accessible and cost-efficient in recent years. But systems developers are also looking at other biometric markers for new and potentially easier to use solutions. An exciting technology that is promising to do this is heartbeat readers. Like fingerprints or the shape of the human face, the electromagnetic signature of the human heart is unique and offers a new way to prove identity. Rather than having to present biometric data at an access point for example, systems could be attached to the body, automatically sending approval to entry doors and allowing authorised individuals to freely move between unrestricted and restricted areas with a minimum of fuss. Good access control systems have always been as much about making life easier for authorised individuals as they have for guarding against unauthorised intruders – something which is central to the more towards biometric systems.

Integration of access control systems is continuing unabated and in common with the IT sector as a whole, there are moves to make use of the Cloud to host systems and store access control data. Survey figures suggest that 65% of new security products will be delivered in the cloud by 2014. As well as the potential hardware cost saving and ease-of-setup benefits (new parts of the network just need to have an IP connection) there are security benefits in that the core systems are physically stored away from premises and can’t be directly influenced by intruders to the building. Other major benefits include highly reliable and easy to use backup facilities to combat failover, scalability is potentially almost limitless and data can be accessed by authorised mobile users at any time.

There is also a growing move towards
PoE, which makes installation easier, quicker and neater – benefiting end users and installers alike by saving costs. This theme is continued with a growing move towards wireless systems. In the past there had been some reservations about using wireless systems with regards to security. The perception by some is that there is a greater risk of systems being hijacked, but as the ubiquitous use of Wi-Fi usage has shown, properly protected, and configured, systems can happily use encrypted wireless signals, make installation much easier and actually remove the physical vulnerability of running wires around the facility where they could be intercepted manually. There is also a growing emergence of hybrid WiFi/wired systems which minimise wireless deadspots but continue to offer the benefits wherever possible.

Energy saving is continuing to be a welcome added bonus to integrated access control systems which talk directly to other security and buildings services systems. Having more automated control over the use of resources such as lighting and heating is obviously more cost effective, but there has also been a distinct move recently towards installing access control systems with switch mode power supplies, also saving money on the running costs of the control systems themselves.

With all the exciting developments in technology that are going on in 2013 it’s easy to overlook another less conspicuous change – IEC and ISO standards. Legislation is a key ingredient to any business sector and the latest IEC 60839-11-1 is set to be an important one for the access control industry if it passes the voting stage later this year. This standard is an important piece of legislation which will affect the manufacturing and interoperability of thousands of access control systems. Like many standards a number of stakeholders need to agree before it becomes available but in a sector that is noticeably less regulated than the intruder and fire markets, it offers a step forward from the current underused and outdated EN standards.

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