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New technology for access control systems is being constantly developed. Peter Ward examines the new products available and asks: what lies ahead for the security industry?

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By  Peter Ward Published  September 5, 2008

New technology for access control systems is being constantly developed. Peter Ward examines the new products available and asks: what lies ahead for the security industry?

Controlling the ins and outs is vital for any business - and this is true in both physical and monetary senses. It is rare now to enter a commercial building and walk straight in without passing a security check first and the most common form encountered is the access control system.

Bosch sales manager, access control Gaurav Mahajan reports that the access control market in the Middle East is currently worth around US $50-60 million (AED183-220 million). Compare this to the market value three years ago, $15-20 million, and the speed of expansion is clear.

Mahajan stresses: "The market has almost tripled in the last three years and we see it increasing further. People are becoming more and more aware [of the need to use security measures]."

Intelligent Biometric Solutions' chief operating officer Flavel Monteiro is also quick to stress the business potential in the region: "The market in the Middle East is brilliant because there is a boom [in construction] at this moment of time; there are new office and commercial buildings coming up [that will need security systems installed]."

Market challenges

There are challenges to the market however, the first being fierce competition; and the second, a lack of understanding from customers over the systems they need.

Genetec's Synergis product manager Jimmy Palatsoukas stresses that the importance of being informed works both ways: "In terms of installing access control products, like everywhere in the world [the challenge is] understanding the local regulations." He adds that having a good understanding of how local companies operate and tend to use the systems is also important.

Access control is a changing industry. As with most technical sectors, the market is constantly evolving and some products are rising in popularity while others fall out of favour. The current trend in the Middle East is for the use of card-based systems.

Mahajan estimates that 60-70% of systems currently sold in the GCC market are card-based. These systems can be split into two categories: traditional and smart cards.

Traditional cards are merely used to open doors and are currently facing a downturn in popularity. Instead, employers are looking towards the use of smart cards. These systems can be used to track when an employee enters and leaves the office, providing human resources assistance as well as security measures.

Future prospects

The future of the industry revolves around a concept that has been around for some time but has needed both popularity and perfecting of the technology in order for its practical implementation - biometrics.

Biometric solutions use genetic make-up such as fingerprints instead of cards to identify a person, making it much harder for someone to enter a building illegally. As Mahajan points out: "you can steal a card but you can't steal someone's finger". And it is this fact that has inspired the biometric solutions already installed in some buildings.

Several biometric products are now available in the market, including Intelligent Biometric Solutions' iGuard system, which combines biometrics and smart card access control and includes time and attendance features.

Product availability and choice is expected to increase in the near future. Bosch, for example, intends to launch its biometric products into the Middle East by the end of the year.

A further technology that is expected to be used in the future is iris scanning. Monteiro reveals: "We are looking at [introducing] iris scanning systems; they are in fact working on the principles in Hong Kong [for a system that combines] an iris scan with a biometric system and password-control."

Integrated access

CCTV cameras can also be combined with biometrics and smart card systems in order to further increase the security measures. "It can be as simple as monitoring one door with a camera and an access control terminal or reader. When people try to access the door they use their card then the camera takes snapshots for further identification," explains Axis Communications' regional sales manager Baraa Al Akkad.

"You can also integrate the data transaction of the access control system through the video to make sure that the right cardholder accessed the doors," he adds.

Such integration with other security systems and the central control of these solutions through a building management system (bms) is becoming commonplace in the market.

Monteiro explains: "If you use [iGuard] with a bms it works hand-in-hand [with other products in the security system] because the interface is very similar...we don't make cameras, but we can use those from different other companies, which work with [the iGuard system]."

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