Access control systems have come a long way from the days of simple locks and keys. From on-premises point solutions to sophisticated cloud-based platforms, the journey has been marked by innovation, integration and a relentless pursuit of efficiency. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the four major phases of this evolution, highlighting key developments that have shaped modern access control. See how antiquated on-premises access control systems are being replaced by solutions operating within a single pane of glass.

On-Premises Point Solutions: Birth of Security Pioneers 

Electronic access control began with the emergence of on-premises point solutions. These early systems marked a significant departure from traditional locks and keys. Key players in this phase included companies like Lenel, Avigilon, and AMAG. These providers introduced single application video and access control systems. These systems were connected through a server kept on-site. As a result, these solutions provided a more centralized means of managing access to physical spaces, enhancing security and control. However, while revolutionary at the time, these solutions were limited in their ability to scale and integrate with other systems

Scalability was one primary drawback of on-premises access control systems. Organizations with multiple buildings—such as enterprises, commercial real estate portfolios and schools—were forced to purchase expensive servers for each of their buildings. However, this presented issues. Firstly, having more hardware meant spending more time maintaining it. This proved costly for organizations and the IT and security personnel tasked with keeping the systems up to date. Secondly, credentials redundancies occurred. If users no longer needed access privileges because they left the organization, they would often not be removed from the system. In turn, this jeopardized security and safety.  

Perhaps most importantly, integrating on-premises access control with other systems was difficult and costly. Property managers in commercial real estate often depended upon multiple systems such as visitor management and access control. Without an efficient method of integrating, these systems remained disparate.  

A solution to these issues was needed.  

Combined On-Premises Access Control and Other Systems: Converging Capabilities 

As technology advanced, the need for more comprehensive solutions became evident. This led to the rise of brands such as Genetec and Avigilon, who recognized the potential of combining video surveillance and access control. These systems allowed for a more holistic approach to security. They enabled organizations to monitor and manage multiple aspects of their operations from a unified platform. The integration of video and access control data paved the way for smarter decision-making and improved incident response. 

Despite advancement in integrations, on-premises still posed significant challenges and risks. However, this would soon change.  

Cloud-Based Solutions: The Virtual Horizon 

The advent of cloud technology heralded a new era for access control. Cloud-based solutions offered single application access control systems hosted remotely, reducing the need for on-site hardware maintenance. Companies like Genea and Brivo pioneered this phase, leveraging the cloud to provide more agile and scalable solutions. Integrations became more commonplace, enabling organizations to connect their access control systems with other business tools, such as identity management (e.g., Azure, Okta, etc.) or visitor management systems. 

One of the hugely beneficial aspects of cloud access control systems was the ability to perform software updates remotely. Service providers could immediately deploy new features and updates without being on site. Additionally, unlike on-premises systems which required system downtime and physical disks to perform updates, the cloud limited downtime and no disks were needed. This meant that new features could be implemented exponentially faster.  

Still, IT and security teams needed something more. They called for a connective experience for all their systems.  

The Evolution of Access Control

Single Pane of Glass: A Unified Experience 

The pinnacle of access control evolution arrived with a “Single Pane of Glass.” Cloud-based applications, now enriched with video, access, visitor management and more, provide a comprehensive and intuitive user experience. This phase revolutionizes security operations, allowing organizations to monitor and manage their entire security ecosystem from a single interface. In this stage of the access control evolution, silos of information are broken down, leading to quicker response times, increased efficiency and enhanced collaboration among security teams. 

A “single pane of glass” is a unified interface or dashboard that provides a comprehensive view of various security systems and devices within a facility. It’s a centralized platform that consolidates information from different hardware and software components such as access control systems, video surveillance cameras, visitor management and more. 

From humble beginnings as standalone access control systems to the sophisticated cloud-based platforms of today, the evolution of access control has been a testament to the power of innovation and integration. We’ve witnessed the transformation from single-application solutions to unified platforms that transcend the boundaries of traditional security systems. As technology continues to evolve, access control will undoubtedly continue to adapt, offering even greater capabilities and efficiencies to safeguard our increasingly interconnected world. 

For more information about Genea’s “single pane of glass” solution, contact one of our knowledgeable representatives.  

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