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Proximity Control

Roger Wills, Technical Director for BPT Security Systems (UK), discusses proximity access control.

As electronic security has developed over the years and is able to provide customers with greater security and convenience than ever before, so we place further demands on it. We now expect CCTV, intruder detectors and access control equipment to work in places we would never have thought possible ? technically or cost-effectively. Yet technology is indeed keeping abreast of our requirements and we can now place such security equipment in some very demanding environments and be assured that it will function as intended. In the case of electronic access control (EAC), these environments include external conditions where the weather can be severe, areas of high pedestrian traffic, and locations where the equipment may not be treated with a great deal of respect.

But that doesn?t apply to all EAC equipment; as you would expect, some technologies are better suited than others to the more demanding installations. The traditional keypad and swipecard systems, with which everyone is familiar, suffer from wear and tear and are relatively slow in letting authorised people through the secured area. However, a proximity system avoids these problems without breaking the bank. A proximity EAC system is made up of a control unit, readers and tags, the latter of which are each encoded with an individual number. Unlike swipe systems, the tags do not have any physical contact with the reader but once valid tags are presented within the pre specified reader range, the door is released. This is achieved using radio frequency energy. The very fact that there is no physical contact involved with a proximity EAC system automatically means that there can never be a wear and tear or a maintenance issue. Most tags are guaranteed by the manufacturers for a lifetime, which shows you how reliable and durable they are. Keypads cannot compete as the buttons wear out and the magnetic strip on swipe cards easily becomes damaged. This also brings up the cost issue. Wear and tear and maintenance (things can and do get stuck ? deliberately or otherwise ? in the swipe card readers) leads to on-going expense. With a proximity system it?s a ?fit and forget? situation, although the equipment tends to cost more up front; over a relatively short time, this balances out in favour of the proximity system. The lack of physical contact between the tag and the reader also has other advantages. Because they operate using RF energy and don’t require contact with the tag, the readers can be very small and can even be made ‘invisible’ by installing them in the very fabric of the wall, without any detrimental effect to the read range. What good news for any area suffering from vandalism – or the weather, as schools in the Shetland Islands can tell you.

Schools across the Shetlands have been fitted with Impro Multi-Scan II proximity access control systems, from BPT Security Systems (UK), on the main entrances. The reason is to restrict access to the schools to one point, which makes monitoring visitors far easier. Stainless steel vandal-resistant panels have been chosen, but not because of vandalism as you might expect, but due to the severe weather – snow, rain and strong winds which regularly lash the islands quickly render most external electronic equipment inoperable. The vandal resistant stainless steel panels are potted, sealed and totally waterproof, so all the electronics are protected from the weather.

Similar stainless steel vandal resistant panels have been used at Bradford Royal Infirmary?s accident and emergency department, but the weather wasn?t an issue. In this instance, the combined proximity EAC and door entry system has been selected to cope with the wear and tear as this is the UK’s third busiest A&E. Not only can it happily deal with the large number of people that want to gain entry to the department, but it doesn?t halt the flow of pedestrian traffic as authorised staff do not have to stop and make contact with the reader. This is particularly important for nurses and doctors with incapacitated patients. In sum, an EAC system that requires no maintenance, copes with a large flow of pedestrian traffic, is vandal and weather resistant, cost-effective and is also very secure. So why then do many electrical installers avoid proximity systems? The main problem seems to be tied up with the installation procedures. Installing a proximity system requires complex computer skills and wiring, right? If we are talking about the very large sites then a network EAC is indeed more complex than your average electrical installer wants to get involved in, but stand alone proximity EAC couldn?t be easier to install! Products such as Impro?s Multi-Scan II and Supakey from BPT Security Systems are not about to challenge any electrical installer. They are easy to fit and programme, users can be taught how to operate them in minutes (including how to delete lost or stolen tags) and there?s no further visits required once installed.


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