All posts by rickfocke

Streamlining Installs with Embedded Lock Power Management

A large percentage of any access control project is in the installation, especially the wiring. This is one of the reasons behind the popularity of wireless locks in our industry. But most customers prefer the traditional wired approach for their critical access control doors, and with newer control panels the idea of “embedded lock power management” is helping to save on costs.

In previous generations of access controllers, the controller did not switch the electronic lock’s circuit directly. The panel’s small on-board relay was used as a pilot relay to switch a larger relay, located on an external board. This external relay was then used to energize or de-energize the actual locking device.  Having this external device in the circuit helped to protect the control panel against damage due to lock inrush current and other transients. The external board also had two other jobs – to provide individual fuse protection for each lock circuit, and, to provide a means of accomplishing fire override on a per-lock basis.

Fire override is obviously important from a life safety perspective. Upon an alarm signal from the building’s fire alarm system, selected locks must revert to their “fail safe” position, allowing free egress. This interlock must be accomplished in a manner that does not involve any software or firmware – it has to be “hard-wired” into the circuit or device. In some locales an additional fireman’s “key switch” override is required – when the main fire alarm signal is deactivated, locks must not go back to their locked positions until a fireman activates a manual key switch, signifying that the building is all clear.

Lastly, this external board normally featured socketed relays, to help reduce service costs. It’s much easier to replace a single relay than to replace an entire board.

But these external boards add tremendous cost to an access control project, not just in equipment cost, but in wiring labor and also in panel real estate required. Every lock output needs to be wired up twice – first from the controller to the external relay board, and second, from the relay board to the actual locking device. And in some cases a separate enclosure may be required for the board, or, the lock power supply enclosure grew in size to accommodate the boards.

Software House

To help reduce these costs, the idea of “embedded lock power management” was introduced. Basically it means taking all the functionality of these external relay boards, and adding it directly onto the access controller, eliminating the need for the external board. Duplicate lock output wiring is eliminated, and the whole system becomes much easier to maintain and troubleshoot.  The access controller must have individual protection on each lock output circuit, and must have a means to accomplish fire alarm interlocking that does not rely on the controller’s firmware. And, the controller must be sure to feature socketed relays, to keep repair costs down. In some cases the controller can even have two distinct lock power feeds, with the ability to select which one to use on a per lock basis – for example, a 12V and 24V feed can be used for the controller, and at each lock circuit you can choose between a 12V and 24V supply voltage.

Embedded lock power management – give it a try. The end result is a more streamlined installation, using less panel space, and, you’ll enjoy tremendous installation savings.

Let us know if you’ve had some experience with this method of installation.

No excuses: Everyone has access to access control

gymIf you’ve ever been on a diet or exercise program, you probably understand the concept of self-sabotage. Even before you get started on your strategy to cut back calories, or run for 30 minutes every morning, or join a gym, you’re already thinking of excuses for why those plans won’t work: I forgot to buy the right food, I twisted my ankle, I need that money for the kids’ field trips.

Getting started with an access control solution, especially for entry-level users, can also be a situation in which the excuses start to mount before the installation begins.

There are concerns that it will be too difficult to manage: Who has the IT background to sit at a PC and install the software? Or that it will take too long to set up: Who has time to configure all those readers and door controllers? Or maybe the objection is that your organization is too decentralized: You’re just one medical clinic within a larger network, so how does this even work for you? Does your company have to invest in an enterprise-level system, or is there a different option?

Fortunately, there are solutions on the market that have been geared to address just  those particular concerns. The new access control network appliances are aimed at customers such as satellite offices and locations for clinics, schools and small businesses that aren’t large enough in scale for a true enterprise system, but still want access control functionality and scalability.

In many instances, these types of sites are looking for access control for a couple dozen doors or more, but don’t have the manpower for full-time system management. But if they can be presented with an out-of-the-box solution that is ready-to-go with preinstalled software and preconfigured databases making it easy to add in access points, they are less likely to turn to that list of excuses for avoiding access control.

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Network appliance solutions are also ideal for those in an expansion or change mode. A new school is built, so you just add an appliance for that location. Your small company buys a competitor, and you now have two offices in nearby cities that need access control, so you bring in units for each of those sites.And because these solutions are web-based, they can be managed from any location. So the office manager at the clinic can make updates or someone at another office can handle them if the situation warrants it.

The days of thinking of excuses for adopting access control are dwindling as more small and mid-size operations tap into the intuitive, easy-to-operate new products on the market. So now you just need to focus on that diet.