Access control: The time to adapt and evolve

October 21, 2021


John Davies, Managing Director of TDSi explains how we can ensure access control software evolves to meet challenges ahead.

There is one common thing we have all learnt from the last 18 months – you never really know what is ahead and you need to be as flexible to change as possible. It is proof of the old cliché that you need to expect the unexpected. Whilst there has been a huge shake-up in the way society uses technology day-to-day, there still seems to be hesitation in some parts of the security industry when it comes to evolving access control systems in terms of flexibility.

It’s a topic I recently examined during an open presentation at The Security Event at the beginning of September, which was perfect timing to reflect on the rapidly changing security landscape of the last 18 months. I passionately believe that access control systems need to evolve to meet the challenges ahead – we need easy-to-use, powerful, fully cybersecure and easily integrated solutions that synchronise with the wider business systems mix, whilst ensuring they are not compromised in their core duties.

Broadening choice

It’s always interesting to gauge security market reactions and demands and it’s fair to say greater integration of security and business systems has been a popular topic for some time now. However, having discussed this recently with many security installers and end users it’s clear this has accelerated even faster during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not enough now to have a dedicated, secure access control system that can link to other security and business technology as buyers also want flexible systems which are simple to install and use as part of their overall IT mix.

Many secure access control systems still require a dedicated proprietary desktop-based application that is running on a specific server. These systems may integrate with others, but ultimately, they are tied to one client server and need hardware that is configured for the job. In an age where most IT hardware is just an endpoint to specific services, this is an antiquated approach.

From a security provider’s point of view this isn’t helpful either. Solutions are often a one-off sale that leaves less room for upgrades and requires a continuous sales churn to be profitable. The upgrade process is also more complicated and limited; the end user must choose to upgrade the solution and changes must be made to the installed software to gain new or improved features. All too often, upgrades are either forgotten or the end user is unwilling to pay for it.

Making access control more flexible

With the disruption of the pandemic and the subsequent retention of remote working for many employees, we are clearly seeing a shift in demand towards a more flexible approach to delivering physical security. This makes a Software as a Service (SaaS) model for security and access control systems the obvious choice.

By using a browser to access the service, you do away with the need to host it on a powerful server or PC. All the storage and processing is accessed via a powerful but streamlined online portal. It’s very easy to add additional client connections without having to install new software applications on each individual hardware unit and integration with other systems is all managed from a centralised hub – this can be securely hosted on premise or in the cloud depending on preference.

The speed of installation and use saves time and money whilst locating the solution remotely with full encryption ensures it is harder to hack or compromise. At the same time, it makes integration with other business systems easier but also more secure. It also makes the addition of software upgrades/updates simpler to perform and less invasive on the operations of the security operator and end users.

Protecting your legacy

The other half of the equation is ensuring software support for all relevant hardware – physical security isn’t much use without it! Backwards as well as current/future compatibility provides greater flexibility to end users, allowing them to ‘mix and match’ existing and new components to find the right combination for the security needs and budgets available.

Developing software without this flexibility is little better than employing proprietary solutions. Equally, by adding up-to-date security protocols in the software you are immediately extending and improving the cyber and physical security of the existing working system, adding even further value but with minimal disruption.

Bringing secure access control up to date

Clearly SaaS is starting to dominate many other areas of technology for both businesses and individuals – just think about all the cloud-based business, banking and entertainment solutions you probably already use. It makes complete sense for access control to offer this powerful flexibility.

Moving security to an affordable ongoing cost and doing away with the big capital expenditure investment patterns of the past is inevitable. With modern cybersecure encryption and authentication, these powerful access control systems can be safely accessed by authorised people from virtually any location and on any modern device.

The security sector was already experiencing considerable changes in terms of not just technology, but also the way our customers want to procure and run their solutions. Over the last year and a half this has accelerated even more rapidly, however, there are still a surprisingly large number of inflexible solutions on the market.

As we all face a less defined future, it is essential that the systems that protect our security and safety can adapt and evolve rapidly to ensure these essential services don’t get left behind by the wider changes taking place in the way we live and work.

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This article was originally published in the October edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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