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System Design

Browser-based Access Control

Developments in the wider technological world mean that security solutions can increasingly leverage advances from a number of other industries and sectors. Even technological progress in the consumer market can be quickly realised in security systems. Benchmark considers the opportunities presented by browser-based access control systems.

In today’s technological landscape, flexibility is a key feature for any solution. Customer-focused flexibility is well established in a wide range of sectors, and is understood and valued by end users. Increasingly it is expected by those with an understanding of technology-based systems.

As with many aspects of system functionality, what the customer demands might not always be seen as the best options by some experts. Despite this, it would require a significant potential issue to create a scenario where the installer or integrator would refuse to deliver what a customer is demanding.

If other sectors adopt certain approaches with great success, then it is inevitable that users will demand the same from their security systems. Inevitably the security industry has to adopt changes from other industries, and that includes the IT sector. This is especially important as solutions become increasingly software-based.

Opening up

In recent years, the computing and communications sectors have invested significantly in the delivery of enhanced flexibility for users, and central to this has been increased use of browsers. This enables a device to host its GUI on an integral web server, and allows users access and control without any need for dedicated servers or software.

Flexibility represents so much more than remote interaction via a handheld device like a smartphone of tablet. Too often installers and integrators can mistake demands for flexibility to mean a security system which supports switching or report generation via an app. Whilst such functionality is in demand from many businesses and organisations, it doesn’t represent the full picture.

Today’s working environment is fluid. On many sites, the role of interacting with a security system often will not fall to one dedicated security operative. The days of the security manager are numbered as an increasing number of organisations leverage the benefits of advanced connectivity.

Various members of staff may have responsibility for specific roles, and this is especially true of the access control system. Multiple departments may need to interact with elements of the system for their own needs, alongside controlling access across the site. These can include receptionists and concierge services, human resources, health and safety, etc..

With traditional access control systems, often these departments have to pass requests for data or system access to the security team, who then interact with the solution via dedicated workstations hosting the software used for the control and management of the system. It is these dedicated workstations which create issues if users require a more flexible approach.

Software licensing costs typically mean that a limited number of machines host the control and management software. This subsequently limits who can interact with the system. If the authorised personnel are not on site, or cannot directly access the workstation, then the system is effectively isolated.

Whilst remote connectivity via handheld devices can go some way towards alleviating this, the reality is that interacting with the GUI of an advanced solution is not best managed via a smartphone. Apps can deliver benefits, but can themselves become constrictive if they are the main point of interaction.

In order to open up the system to suit the users’ needs, an access control solution should be able to offer full functionality and control to any authorised person in any location, as suits them, via a wide range of devices. This demand is not only reasonable but also achievable today using a number of newer access control systems.

Browsing for change

Many devices have integral web servers. These allow access to system configurations, management and control of the device and fluid connectivity via network-based infrastructure. Remote connections are achieved via WAN links, and local networks allow interconnectivity between various devices. The upside of this is that if the installer, integrator or end user needs to connect to a specific device, either for set-up, maintenance or to retrieve data or reports, they can do so with ease. Connectivity can be realised from any network-connected device with a browser, if the user has the appropriate permissions.

Increasingly, this approach is being adopted by access control companies. By adding a web-server to the access system, control and management of the system can be achieved via a variety of browser-enabled devices. Because the software handling system configurations and management resides on the access system’s integral web-server, there is no need for a dedicated workstation. This eliminates the need for dedicated hardware and means that the installer or integrator does not need to install any central software.

This approach has positive implications with regard to software updates and bug fixes. Often such upgrades are managed by the installer or integrator. With an integral web-server hosting the software, updates can be applied automatically.

The use of a browser-based system allows configurations, administration tasks and operational interaction such as creating reports, handling alarms and adding or deleting users to be carried out from any compatible device on the network. The operational framework will retain a high degree of familiarity, as it is all managed in the familiar browser environment.

The implementation of a browser-based system means that the access control system can be accessed immediately, without any need to liaise with the IT department or to create down-time for the business. Such systems also deliver multiple-user support without the need for numerous licenses.

The scalability of browser-based systems also ensures that multiple sites can be unified, with control managed in different geographical locations based upon time zones, personnel allocations, available resources and incident-handling expertise.

Browser-based systems should not be confused with web-based or cloud-based services. The former makes use of established web-browsers as a direct interface to the hardware. Whilst connections are via a LAN, there is no need for an internet connection or third party service.

Browser-based access control systems can retain the hardware with on-board management software at the protected premises, and can use dedicated cabling if required. With no hardware or software based off site, any fears relating to connectivity, downtime or lost links are not relevant.

In summary

A browser-based solution can deliver benefits with regard to user interaction, whilst also simplifying installation and reducing licensing costs. Upgrades will be simpler and faster, and remote connectivity will be enhanced. Browser-based solutions make very good sense in a large number of applications.

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