There are a plethora of wireless access control solutions available today to make gates and doors more secure that simultaneously eliminate the hassle of providing keys. They can range from keypad systems, proximity-based systems, card or fob reader systems and biometric scanners. Determining the best wireless access control solution for your property depends on the installation location itself and what types of features and functionality are most important to you.
For example, how important is it for you to know who entered in a gate or a door each time it was accessed?
Many businesses want the simplicity of keyless entry for gates or doors. But depending on the wireless access control system chosen, some systems will grant entry to anyone as long as the proper code is used or a fob is used that has the same access credential “key” for all personnel. While this is very convenient, unfortunately there is no record of who used that code or the time/date of access because everyone is utilizing essentially the same credential information. These types of wireless access control systems are often called “standalone” systems because none of the wiring for such entry points is connected to a centralized system. These systems also must be programmed manually at the gate or door, so they aren’t ideal for controlling a large number of gates or doors.
Other more advanced wireless control systems are capable of creating unique codes or fob credentials for every user, limiting hours of access and specific areas of a building/property, in addition to having the ability to record the date/time the code or credential was used—providing an added layer of security. And by having unique codes and credentials for each entrant, system logs can inform you who entered and when. These more advanced wireless access control systems are usually connected by either Wi-Fi or cellular networks into a centralized cloud-based portal that gathers the access information in real time.
When choosing a wireless access control solution for a particular location, deciding how important (or not) having centralized control and detailed log information for each entry point is one of the first big decisions to make.
If your application requires this higher level of detailed information and security, the next decision is what time of advanced wireless access control solution is appropriate—a Wi-Fi based solution or a cellular one?
Wi-Fi-based wireless access control solutions are ideal for smaller properties, due to the need to stay within the reach of the Wi-Fi system—thus you would rarely install one in a large building or a sprawling campus. The gates/doors of Wi-Fi-based wireless access control systems also require batteries to operate, so in your decision-making it is important to keep in mind that batteries will need to be replaced periodically. Because Wi-Fi can periodically go down or have bandwidth-related issues, it is also important to have IT support personnel either on staff or readily available via phone for commercial applications, or have backup methods to grant access to a gate or door if the wireless access control system is experiencing technical difficulties. Most Wi-Fi-based systems have web-based portals for administration, but most do not have also have smart phone apps, so it is important to consider whether smart phone app access to control the system would be important to you.
Cellular-based wireless access control systems are ideal for both large and remote properties, in addition to being more reliable than a Wi-Fi-based system. Depending on the cellular-based wireless access control solution purchased, it can include features like live streaming video, include integrated external cameras and photos of entrants, in addition to the detailed logging of access attempts.
Because it runs on a cellular network, it is important to test that the cellular signal is adequate at the proposed location before a system is installed. Cellular wireless access control systems typically utilize DC 12v batteries, so they do not need to be replaced as often as those in a Wi-Fi-based system. Due to running on a cellular network, however, there are ongoing monthly utilization charges that are required with a cellular wireless access control system(s), the pricing of which can vary based on the features utilized with the system. Finally, many cellular wireless access control systems have smart phone apps, or web-based portals for administration, but not all of them have both options for system management—thus considering the best options for management are an important factor to consider.
If you are looking for a wireless access control system, make sure you have a good understanding of these considerations in order to select a system that works best for your application:
- Current property size and likelihood of property size/access points expanding
- Amount of detail desired regarding entrance/exit activities (dates/times, codes or cards used, photos, etc.)
- Ability to provide IT support in a timely manner
- Battery life
- Ongoing cost considerations
- System management preferences—manual gate/door programming, web-based portal, or smart phone app (or a combination of these)