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THE CONCEPT OF GLOBAL ACCESS CONtrol is set to revolutionize the way practitioners think about security. Until recently, access control simply meant locking and unlocking doors, keeping the wrong people out and the right people in, and maintaining security by restricting people's access to particular areas.

In its traditional form, access control involves identifying people through the use of code numbers, cards, or personal attributes--each method having its own disadvantages in terms of efficiency, security, and cost-effectiveness. Add to this the problem of tailgating, in which unauthorized persons pass unchecked through a door once it has been opened, and the limitations of such approaches to access control are beyond dispute.

Short of installing turnstiles or mantraps to prevent tailgating, which is hardly a practical or socially acceptable solution in most circumstances, how can security managers achieve the levels of security modern life requires?

The answer lies in the new concept of global access control, which shifts the emphasis away from simply locking and unlocking doors to total control of who goes where and when. By using an automatic identification system (AIS), it is possible to do away with keys, cards, personal identification numbers, and their attendant problems and solve the problem of tailgating once and for all.

An AIS identifies persons by checking their individually coded tags when they pass within the range of a high-speed detector. The system can then check, record, and memorize the movements of all people moving freely within a security area.

Consider the nature of most areas to which access control systems are applied. A conventional security check at an entrance to a secure area is satisfactory when the restricted area is limited to only one room or is an area in which everyone is allowed free access to any equipment, computers, or data files kept inside it. However, in practice, the area is more likely to consist of a number of different security zones such as laboratories, testing grounds, computer rooms, data libraries, machine shops, and warehouses to which only certain people are allowed access.

Rather than install inconvenient and complex systems to control individuals' access to these different areas, it is clearly preferable to have one system that constantly monitors everybody's whereabouts, one that can trigger an alarm if an anauthorized individual enters. This is made possible by an AIS. An AIS goes beyond conventional access control systems to automatically and continously identify and supervise the movements of all people or objects within a given area.

The few proximity access control systems on the market today have limitations. They only operate at short range and can only recognize individual tags one at a time. This problem is also shared by the longer-range reading systems that have been developed for automatic parking gates. These systems use large and heavy industrial detectors with large antennas.

The real breakthrough in global security has come with the development of an AIS, which is capable of identifying individual tags that pass within range of a detector at the same time, thus capturing the movements of people and even objects automatically and at high speed. The system can also be linked to a management computer to provide continuous real-time information about these movements and the facility and to store the data for later analysis.

The various possible applications for such a system clearly demonstrate its benefits in terms of practicality, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency. Take the entrance to a large industrial plant, for example. Access to the plant may be restricted to several hundred employees. Using the traditional approach to access control, the employees would be required to queue up to identify themselves with a magnetic stripe card or PIN before passing one by one through a turnstile--a process that could take a minimum of five seconds per person. A security officer would also have to be present to ensure that no unauthorized person tried to climb over or under the turnstile barrier.

Contrast that method with an AIS, which allows everyone entrance to the secure area without any time delay. The system would automatically check and register the coded tags worn by individuals and alert the guard by immediately sounding an alarm if anyone entered wearing an invalid tag or no tag at all. No queues to wait in, no PINs to forget, no cards to lose--security without the restrictive trappings of conventional access control.

The same system can also be used to control the entrance to a high security zone protected by a door. Traditionally, an authorized person might have to search for an access control card, introduce it to a card reader, and then type in a secret PIN before the door could be opened. Using an AIS, that same user--wearing his or her personal identification tag--could walk up to the door, key in a PIN matching the code generated by the tag, and gain immediate access.

To prevent accidental opening of the door whenever an authorized person was simply passing within the antenna range, the AIS transmitter would generate a signal covering a maximum range of 10 cm to 20 cm. The same system can also be used to provide automatic entrance and exit information to an online computer running time and attendance analysis software.

Another interesting application for an AIS is in the computer room. Normally, once a computer has been switched on by an authorized user it remains active for several minutes even after the user leaves his or her seat. This provides unauthorized persons with an opportunity to use the system.

To avoid this risk, the computer in an AIS system can be made to stop running as soon as the operator moves more than one meter from the machine. This is achieved by giving the authorized operator a tag bearing a personal code. When he or she boots up the computer, the operator keys in a code that matches the one generated by his or her tag. If the authorized user moves more than one meter away from the computer, the machine will automatically stop running.

An AIS can also track the movement of objects. Suppose, for example, valuable computer disks were kept in a tape library and were at risk of removal by an unauthorized person. Without an AIS, there would be no protection at all. With an AIS, however, the disks themselves could be tagged to be tracked. If a person came to the tape library and removed some disks, the system antenna would receive signals from both the person's tag and the disks' tags. This would enable the person and the disks to be identified immediately. If the person was not authorized to remove the disks from the library, an alarm would go off automatically.

Last but by no means least, an AIS really comes into its own in emergency situations. Whether inside a plant, an office building, or a coal mine, the information fed by the AIS to an on-line computer could literally mean the difference between life and death. If an emergency arose requiring immediate evacuation of a secure area, only an AIS could automatically check the identity of everyone leaving--individually or in a group, at high speed--and provide instant on-screen information about the whereabouts of any persons still inside the danger zone.

This version of an AIS makes the concept of global access control a reality, going far beyong the mere locking and unlocking of doors, providing total management control of who goes where and when in a cost-effective and unobstructive way.

Rene E. Wegelin is a security and access control consultant for Alarm and Access Control Systems in Geneva, Switzerland. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:using an automatic identification system for global access control
Author:Wegelin, Rene E.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Apr 1, 1989
Previous Article:Wireless wonders.
Next Article:When theft is an inside job.

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