Paving a highway for access control
Paving a highway for access control

May 1, 1999 12:00 PM
Michael Fickes

Networked technology facilitates access control for 15,000 employees, vendors and contractors working for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Jeannie Bailey and a single assistant use two PCs and a laptop computer to manage a far-flung access control system for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NC DOT). One PC manages the access control system - logging in new employees, terminating others and setting access codes. The other PC houses the badging system, while the laptop provides remote badging capabilities. Supplied by IDenticard Systems Inc., Lancaster, Pa., the IVIS PLUS 2000 integrated digital imaging system works together with the Series 9000 access control system. When Bailey logs a new employee into the badging system, the access control system receives an automatic update of that individual's name and access privileges.

The department's head of security, Bailey operates the large system from an 8x12-foot office in the Raleigh-based headquarters. A small adjoining room houses the system's main server, which connects Bailey's PCs with those at a dozen security consoles in the lobbies of eight NC DOT buildings in Raleigh.To date, Bailey's system has issued about 6,000 employee badges. Plans call for another 6,000 or so employees to receive badges as more buildings tie into the department-wide access control network Bailey is building with the help of Tech Systems Inc., an Atlanta-based security integrator with offices in Raleigh.Before installing the access control system, security officers - working nights, weekends and holidays - handled security with limited back-up from technology. Door contacts connected to a Simplex fire alarm panel, which signaled when a locked door had been forced open. Today, security officers from Cincinnati-based Burns International Security Services provide 24-hour security, monitoring employees and the public, and providing customer service. The new technology has enhanced the quality of facility access control available to security officers.

Now, officers staff one or two security consoles in the lobbies of each access controlled building. From their consoles, the officers use PCs connected to the system to monitor people entering and exiting. Should someone force open a door, a text message alerts an officer, who then investigates. In addition, the consoles provide officers with access to badging data - the individual's name, department, phone number and office location. When a visitor asks for a departmental employee, the officer can call up the information on the screen and direct the visitor.Officers also can call up photos from the imaging database. After hours, employees use designated entrances near security consoles. When a badged employee enters at night, on a weekend, or on a holiday, an officer at the building's console is notified. A double click on the message will bring up the individual's picture.

The system has proven effective in the 18 months since the original installation. "Since installing the IDenticard system, we have had just one break-in and attempted theft," Bailey says. "That incident wasn't associated with the card access system. A person broke in through a window, and a security officer caught him as he tried to leave through a monitored door. The building where this incident occurred recorded 35 incidents in the year before we installed the system.""The ability to prevent theft was the biggest selling point in Jeannie's efforts to lock down the building," adds Ron Luchene, a branch manager with Tech Systems.

In addition to the head-end access control and imaging software, IDenticard supplied magnetic stripe card readers and field panels for the system.Door control comes from Securitron magnetic door locks, Sentrol door contacts and Detection System's motion-request-to-exit devices, which automatically unlock doors as individuals approach from inside. After hours and on weekends, Bailey disables the motion-request devices and people inside card-out through readers at doorways adjacent to security consoles.Tech Systems installed the system in October 1997. Seven other buildings have come on-line since then. As budgeting permits, Bailey plans to include more than 40 other state facilities in the system, taking advantage of the flexibility in IDenticard systems.

When the IDenticard system came on-line in 1997, its Open Data Base (ODB) compliant capability enabled Bailey to import the personnel database of 15,000 names, tagged with appropriate departments, social security numbers and other data. "That saved weeks of data entry labor," Bailey says. "From that time on, we have keyed in the names of new employees during orientation."In most cases, new employees visit Bailey's office during orientation to receive a badge. Several times a year, however, Bailey travels to remote sites to make badges for employees. She takes her IBM Thinkpad laptop, an Agfa digital camera and a Hewlett Packard inkjet printer.Badges may provide access to NC DOT buildings or may simply identify the individual as a departmental employee. Overall, the system has proven so easy to use that Bailey has agreed to print photo ID badges for the state's legislative services group and other state groups. These cards do not provide access. Used only for identification purposes, they include a departmental logo, picture and name.

The mag-stripe IDenticard cards accommodate a photo, an NC DOT hologram icon, the employee's name printed with a large first name over a smaller last name and a card number. These fully-loaded mag-stripe cards cost $3 each."The system also enables us to signify if the person is an employee, a contractor or a vendor," says Bailey. "When we enter the name, we simply check the appropriate box on the screen."The printer automatically prints the departmental logo, a vendor icon or a contractor icon as the case requires.Big changes are under way in the system. Tech Systems is upgrading the Windows 95-based Series 9000 to an NT-compatible IDentipass system, which will create an on-line WAN between Bailey's office and each of the present and planned field networks.

"We're using the department's Ethernet to do this," Luchene says. "Originally, the system was hardwired within individual buildings. To monitor activity in those buildings, you had to go on-line using PC Anywhere software, which allows you to call up another PC and take control from your keyboard."With this system, Bailey had to log into a database at each facility and download information on new employees and access privileges. A department as large as the NC DOT requires daily database updates. "To make this process as easy as possible, we maintained a complete database of employees at each of the individual facilities," Luchene says.

The IDentipass system will use its direct full-time connection over the NT network to upgrade each remote database automatically as soon as Bailey adds or deletes an employee to the system in her office."With the Series 9000 system, I usually waited until the end of the day or until I had a certain number of people to add to the remote databases before downloading data to the remote locations," Bailey says. "New employees often had to use temporary cards during their first day or so. But now, a new employee's card will activate by the time he or she walks across the street or travels to another building."

In addition, IDentipass provides instant control. If a supervisor notifies Bailey that an employee has been terminated, she can bring up that employee and click a box, disabling that employee's card at each of the department's facilities.

It's a big change, but not a complex change for Bailey. "The upgrade is being done at the head-end," Luchene says. "We don't have to make any changes to any panels or other field hardware. We simply install the new system, and it can immediately talk to every other part of the system."

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