Access Control Puts Sales At Your Fingertips
A systems integrator installed fingerprint access control units as one part of a beverage distributor's larger security solution.
Before now, biometric access control was a futuristic concept portrayed in the movies or used by high-ranking companies that could afford to guard their properties from unwanted intruders. As the cost of biometric technology decreases and desire for heightened security increases, the ability to unmistakably identify employees by their physical characteristics is becoming more possible.
"Companies can control access to their buildings with numeric codes or magnetic cards, but those are both identifiers that can be shared among employees," said Kevin Zabel, security specialist at Sentra Protective Systems, Inc. (Brookfield, WI), a security systems integrator. "Biometric information, whether it be a fingerprint, retina, iris, or hand, cannot be shared."
More companies are educating themselves about biometrics to ensure facility integrity, as was the case with W.O.W. Distributing (Waukesha, WI), a beverage distributor for Miller beer. The beverage distributor was in the process of building a new distribution facility and wanted to upgrade its security features. But the biometric access control devices the company installed were just one part of its overall security system. "An integrated security system provides an audit trail for the end user," Zabel said. "W.O.W. now has the ability to track an individual not only at the front door, but also throughout the building with the help of biometrics, CCTV [closed-circuit television], an intrusion alarm system, and RF [radio frequency] technology."
Additional Control Gained From Biometrics
Although many of Sentra's customers look to upgrade their access control systems in response to a security breach, W.O.W. Distributing was proactive by equipping its new facility with improved equipment. "The company wanted to install the proper systems to limit access right away, rather than reacting to an incident in the future," Zabel said. Although biometric technology has decreased in cost in recent years, it is still 80% to 90% more than card access units. W.O.W. could have saved money on its new building by installing card-activated access units, but it understood the risk of employees sharing access cards with each other or unauthorized users. The beverage distributor didn't think a card system would be any more secure than the numeric code locks it used in its old building.
W.O.W. installed 9 V-Pass fingerprint access control units from Bioscrypt (Toronto) and is wired to install 11 more in the future. The distributor chose to control access at its perimeter doors and into some interior areas as well. Sentra added functionality to the V-Pass units by integrating them with access control software from Northern Computers (Oak Creek, WI). The software regulates door access based on times of the day and employee restrictions. "Just because there is a fingerprint reader on the door doesn't mean people can enter that area 24/7," Zabel said. The software can restrict certain employees from entering the building or specific areas after certain times of the day. Additionally, an access control system can work in accordance with time and attendance software to provide access only when an employee is scheduled to be there.
Systems Integration Provides Wide Security Coverage
Sentra earned W.O.W. Distributing's business based on its broad understanding of access control as an integrated solution. Although biometric access control units serve as initial security blocks, if the units work in conjunction with CCTV and intrusion alarm systems, companies have more ways to track an intruder throughout a facility. The W.O.W. facility includes 16 CCTV cameras from ADEMCO Group (Syosset, NY), which provide both perimeter and interior images of the building. The images are stored as digital video recordings. There are also 16 unique zones protected by an intrusion alarm system. "If an employee gained access to an area through V-PASS, the intrusion alarm may beep, prompting the employee to enter a code to disarm the system," Zabel said. "It is possible for an employee to have access to a door through a finger scan, but depending on the time of day, that person may need a code to proceed." Each piece of the security system backs up the other and records the activity as it occurs on an N-1000 series controller from Northern Computers.
An additional security feature W.O.W. wanted to incorporate into its new building was gate control, allowing it to restrict tractor trailer access. W.O.W. mounted RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to its 35 trucks, and Sentra installed a ground loop sensor to identify the presence of a vehicle at the entry gate. When a truck approaches the gate, its tag triggers an RF antenna connected to the Northern software system. If the code is accepted, the truck is permitted to enter the facility.
Look At The Pros And Cons
W.O.W.'s access control system provided the company with more visibility and functionality, but there is still one limitation to fingerprint scanning. The system records a template of both the right and the left index finger to allow for injuries or bandages, but there is no solution for employees with skin diseases or disabilities who are unable to save an initial template. "W.O.W. tried to enter one employee whose fingerprint could not be recognized in the system because his skin was split and cracked from a skin disorder," Zabel said. Unfortunately, there was no way to override the system, so another employee has to admit him into the building each time.
But despite that particular access problem, the company's overall security has been improved. Zabel said unless a company experienced a loss due to lack of security, it is difficult to assign a return on investment to a security system. "Companies need to be proactive about security technology." And if the system is integrated, sales opportunity is at your fingertips.