Friday, January 27, 2012

Door Access Control Review

Door access control systems have been around for many years. The early units used centralized control panels with simple card readers at the doors. To install these systems the readers were wired to a controller and then back to a central control panel. They also required power to be wired to each of the locks usually from a separate control panel.

Over the years more intelligent devices were developed, and now most of the intelligence is located at the reader near the door. The latest IP door readers make use of the Ethernet PoE network and are very easy to install. This article reviews the pros and cons of both systems and compares the cost of installation.

We have used a 6 reader system as an example. Let’s start with the cost comparison. First we looked at the older centralized system with control panel. I’m leaving out the cost for door locks, sensors and Rex buttons because it’s the same in both cases.

Centralized System

Equipment Cost
Cost for the Equipment consists of the readers and the central box with power supply.
Each door requires a door controller and a prox card reader.
6 - Door controllers = $510 x 6 = $3060
6 - Prox readers = 194 x 6 = $1164

The central control box and power supply is required:
1- Site Controller $568
1- Software $768 (This can be a lot higher depending on company)
1- Power supply $495
Total $1831

Grand Total for equipment and software - $ 10,985


Traditional 18-2 or composite wiring from the panel to the reader can range from $0.90 to $1.30 per foot. Assuming the 6 readers average 50 feet from the panel at minimum wiring cost will be $270

Installation is a variable because it depends on the prep work for mounting panel enclosure, distance from the central box, the type of walls and ceilings, and other physical considerations in the building. It goes without saying that multi-building installation adds to the complexity. We used the labor costs at one installation which required about 5 days at about $1000 per day = $5000

Total cost for the system is $16,255.00

IP Reader System
The new all-in-one Isonas door access reader-controller connects right to the network and doesn’t use a central control box. The credential database is entered into a computer running Crystal Matrix software. All this information is downloaded to each of the readers so even if the network goes down, the reader can still control entry.

Equipment cost
Door access control reader-controller $700 x 6 = $4200
Software is free unless you need web based control = $500
8 port network switch with PoE support = $200
Total equipment is $4900


Cat 5/6 wiring from the network switch to the reader-controller is about 0.30 per foot. Assuming the 6 doors average 50 feet from the network switch the wiring cost will be $90.00

Labor cost is again somewhat variable but since there are fewer devices to configure and install at the door physical installation is simplified. As for electrical work, since wiring of the reader-controller to the door strike is contained at the door and PoE supplies power to the lock, we have cut out the need for wiring back to one central point. Thus labor costs are much less. Typically an install requires ½ the time and resources to install so 3 days at $1000 per day is $3000 for labor.

The total system cost is then $7,990.


Classic System
The classic system has been around for many years so there are many experienced licensed electricians available

IP Reader System
Since the new IP systems use computer networks, a new breed of installers with network and computer expertise is required. The good news is that this can be an in-house self-installation for many organizations that have an IT staff. They have been running the network wire to computers so they have no problem connecting to the same RJ45 connections that are used by computers. The only things they may need help with are installation of the electric locks. In this case they can bring in locksmiths who are familiar with these types of locks. The locksmith installs the electric lock and wires to the pigtail of the reader.

Integration with other systems
Since the IP access control uses the network it's very easy to integrate into an IP camera system. By connecting Intercoms to the IP camera, a remote person can manually release the door. The audio connections go through the camera and find their way back to the safety station that's running Video Management Software. When the call button is pushed on the intercom the safety station is notified by an alarm sound, and the safety officer can see and talk to the person at the door. They can then unlock the door by pushing a button on their computer screen.

Deployment across a Campus
IP systems have another major advantage. They can be deployed anywhere you have a network connection, so if you have multiple buildings connected over a LAN or WAN the IP system can make use of this network and easily communicate to the central control software on a computer in one of the buildings.

Network attached IP door access systems are very easy to install and have excellent flexibility. They can be located across the campus or across the city as long as you have a network connection.

If you need help defining your door access control system, please contact us at 1-800-431-1658 (in the USA) or + 914-944-3425 or use our contact form.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Lightning's Thief

Contributed by Virginia Fair

Once upon a time a major university installed IP cameras throughout its campus in reaction to a wave of violence perpetrated against female students. All went well until a passing thunderstorm brought a lightning strike which just happened to hit an IP camera mounted on the parapet of a dorm. Of course the camera was destroyed, but have you ever heard the phrase “greased lightning”? It’s a very descriptive term for within seconds, the surge created by the lightning traveled through the network destroying both the server and the switch, creating havoc right down to the network cards in students’ laptops at the end of the cable runs.

Was there any collateral damage? Only if you count the building’s entire IT backbone, including the surveillance system which went down; in monetary terms, over $100,000. But beyond money, the greater loss was the female students’ sense of security. Without the cameras and network recorders they were left vulnerable until replacements could be secured.

How could this be? Was it possible that no one in the affected building had a surge protector in place? They probably did, but calling a lightning strike a power surge is like calling a tsunami a hot tub. It’s been said that lightning never strikes twice but the university was taking no chances. That’s when they realized the need for specialized surge protection. They could then protect their servers, IP cameras, and networks. But first things first, let’s start with a coup le of definitions

Voltage is a measure of this difference of potential electrical energy. Just as water flows out of a hose because there’s higher pressure at the faucet than at its other end, electric current flows from place to place due to an imbalance. One end of a wire has greater electric potential energy than the other, so, electric current flows from one end to the other.

Power surge
A surge in power occurs whenever the voltage exceeds the designated level, which in the USA is 120 volts and in Europe 240 volts.

Transient Voltage Surge Protectors
A transient voltage surge protector fits between the AC outlet and the equipment it is protecting. These are available with a single outlet or with a number of outlets like a power strip. There are also surge protectors that protect the network, including some that are designed specifically for IP cameras that use PoE.

Most surge protectors have a component called a metal oxide varistor or MOV which connects the hot power line to the outlet’s grounding wire so it can divert excessive voltage away from the device it is protecting. The MOV consists of three parts: a piece of metal oxide in the middle and two semiconductors. The semiconductors connect the hot power wire to the grounding line. The semiconductors have what is called variable resistance that see-saws in depending on the electric current. If the voltage flows below an optimum level, the semiconductors maintain a high resistance, keeping it in the circuit, if it rises above that level, the semiconductors adjust, drops to a lower resistance that dumps the excessive current to ground. If the voltage is correct, the MOV does nothing at all. Surge protectors such as those from Ditek have two modes of operation. In the first, it dumps power to ground. The second kicks in when the power is very high. It then will sacrifice itself by shorting to ground and burning out like a fuse.

Most transient voltage surges are the result of a boost of electrical charge anywhere in the power lines, increasing the electrical potential energy, which in turn increases the flow of current to your wall outlet. The usual suspects are voracious power hogs like air conditioners, elevators, and refrigerators that gobble up a lot of energy when their compressors and motors cycle on and off. Such brief sudden demands for power can upset the voltage flow in the system. Other surges can be attributed to downed power lines, faulty wiring or utility company’s equipment failures. In today’s world, where electricity flows from power plants through a complicated maze of lines, transformers, and more lines to our home and office walls, the possible points of failure are myriad, and any glitch can cause an uneven power flow. So installing a surge protector isn’t a case of preparing for if it’s preparing for when.

The diagram above shows an example of a network system with IP cameras that is protected by various surge devices. More or less surge protectors can be added depending on the environment. One precautionary warning though, is lightning. We travel a slippery slope when it comes to a lightning strike. A direct lightning hit to the wire or device itself will not only fry them but will take out the surge protector, but lightning that strikes nearby causes a surge that can usually be controlled by a surge protector.

Need help with protecting your equipment? We carry a full line of Ditek Gigabit capable protectors. Models range from theMRJPOE, meant for single inputs and protect power, data, and video on up to The DTK-RM16C5 with a 16 port protected panel which can protect a variety of network gear. Also available are 12 port panels compatible with PoE current requirements, and single protectors to protect up to 8 megapixel IP video.

Call us - before lightning strikes. We can be reached at 800-431-1658, 914-944-3425 (outside the USA) or just use our contact form.