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When Should Your Campus Adopt Wireless Access Control? – Part II

Re-posted with permission from Campus Safety Magazine and edited.

This is a continuation of last week’s post regarding the case for campus wireless access control solutions.

Wise to Be Wary?

Bengtzen cautions that many things can cause wireless signals to diminish in strength, including steel, vegetation, thick concrete, rebar and even water. It’s wise to be mindful of the construction of a building and the environment around the facility.

Manufacturers that offer wireless systems should provide guidance on the correct placement of nodes and the distances they can support so as to provide needed coverage.

The flexibility of self-healing wireless mesh networks, where signals are automatically routed in the most efficient manner, may provide the most reliable performance. Bengtzen cautions that many people remain wary of wireless, and some prefer not to install it at all.

“They believe that wireless is less reliable; that interference can cause communication errors and result in system failures,” he says. “In most scenarios, these are not legitimate concerns.”

There is still often great concern about the risk of transmitting data wirelessly. However, according to Corte, there’s been a tremendous effort to protect against such dangers.

“Wireless electronic access control technology is highly secure, capable of using AES 128- or 256-bit encryption for protection of data based on user needs,” she says.

There’s also been some concern over battery life, but today’s energy-efficient locksets are designed to last for years on standard sources, such as inexpensive AA or camera-type batteries. Most are designed to start giving tiered warnings through the access control software and/or at the door as batteries age and voltage drops.

“Also,” Corte adds, “in practice, most users maintain a program of preventive maintenance to replace batteries at regular intervals, optimizing reliability as well as cost savings.”

Price agrees that, if the wireless devices are battery-powered, building owners/ managers may be worried about product dependability or the need to change batteries. These are valid concerns, he feels, and the campus will be able to get answers from the manufacturer on how their system works in their offline network condition.

“If the remote device is battery-less, such as is the case with Camden’s Kinetic wireless door control system, all their questions about ongoing battery maintenance and hazardous waste disposal do not apply,” he notes.

Lewis adds that wireless has limits regarding signal congestion and range. Adding physical barriers such as walls or floors can reduce range and signal strength.

“In those instances when the shared airspace is known to have a high degree of RF noise or where power cannot be provided, wireless may not be the best solution,” Lewis advises.

Making the Transition

Many integrators are considering making the move to wireless installations, if they haven’t already. So what specific skillsets are needed to install wireless?

“It depends on what type of wireless technology is being used,” Price says. “With common signal wireless devices, no training is required. The integrator simply wires a receiver module in place of the peripheral device.”

However, he adds, most manufacturers’ solutions using Zigbee or WiFi require mandatory product training on antennas, addressing, configuration and testing gear to reduce technical support calls.

Campuses wanting to go the wireless route should select integrators that have educated themselves on how wireless works.

Integrators should “Know where it can thrive and know where it has its limitations,” says Bengtzen. He further advises that integrators should always conduct range tests prior to an installation.

“Range tests can tell you exactly where wireless signals are the strongest,” he adds. “That way you will be able to maximize the level of signal strength.”

Campuses should work with their integrators to help them understand how they could better secure their facility at a lower cost than they may be expecting. Integrators can help identify openings on campus that are good candidates for wireless equipment.

“With wireless access control locks becoming so feature rich, combined with the flexibility of the types of wireless systems available, this type of system can be a fit for nearly any application,” Corte says.

Rely on Your Local ISG Expert

The ISG offers a wide range of wireless access control solutions that can be integrated with your campus card solution. Whether you are a K-12 school, a college or university, a healthcare facility, government agency or a corporate campus, we have physical and logical access control solutions that will satisfy all of your identification and security needs.

Contact us today!

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