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Getting the Access Control Solution Right

Getting the Access Control Solution Right – Introduction

It goes without saying the right decision with regards the best access control solution for your leisure facility is a critical decision. There are several factors to take into account:

• Cost

• Design

• Appropriate Technology

• Security

• Usability/customer preference

• Brand Values

• Legal requirements (DDA compliance, Fire regulations, building regulations etc.)

The Challenge & Stakeholders

The challenge of finding the right access control solution to find the right compromise for your business which satisfies the often competing needs of the various stakeholders. Key stakeholders include:
• The Customer
• Front-of-house staff
• Finance
• IT
• Estates office
• Often a council or 3rd party IT department

Getting the Access Control Solution Right

Some examples of what can go wrong

Below we list some examples we have come accross of how it can go wrong:

Wrong product. Not child-friendly. Getting good advice regarding the products you wish to use is critical to avoid costly refits. For example, a leisure centre installed a non-child friendly speedlane (Glassgate 300) where the sensors don’t register the presence of children due to their height and they were getting struck by the barrier. Luckily there have been no legal proceedings. Cost to replace £18,000.

Availability of parts and reliability. Cost is clearly a key factor when making a buying decision but the total cost of ownership needs to be considered. For example, one leisure centre had a budget speedgate installed and then found three years later when something went wrong the bill would be thousands due to the parts coming from abroad and no local support from the installer. Cost to fix £7,000.

Wrongly deployed. Get the location right or you can cause unforeseen problems. For example, a leisure facility installed three-arm turnstiles in front of the reception desk and didn’t take into consideration the large queues that can build up and had customers queuing out of the door. They also had a big coffee bar that was underutilised. Cost to fix £11,000.

Inappropriate product for an unmanned area. There is little point putting in a security solution if it is easy to circumvent. A leisure centre had speedlanes installed in an unmanned area which led to lots of abuse and alarms and eventually to the removal of speedlanes. The cost to fix: at least £30,000 by the time the cost of the wasted speedlanes are factored in..

Installer not competent. You can have the best system in the world but it needs to be installed correctly. Choosing the right access control partner is a crucial part of a successful project. A recent installation involved a turnstile that was damaged beyond repair by a previous installed. Cost to fix £3,500.

Getting it right – Things to consider

Your access control partner. A critical component is your choice of partner. Having the right advice from a partner who is happy to give you best advice rather than just sell you what they have is key. It is important they can respond quickly to issues too and have the backup to provide a fast, responsive maintenance service. Security is worth little and lost revenue from security breaches can quickly add up to substantial sums.

Location, footfall and ‘traffic’ flow. What are the numbers of customers going through your facility and consider especially the numbers at busy times. Positioning the barriers correctly can ease any issues with the flow of customers through your facility and help prevent long queues.

Type of credential. Cost is a big factor in credentials. Barcodes are the cheapest option. Biometrics of course requires no credential per se but some clubs have struggled with implementation of finger print readers. Face recognition is maturing as a technology but is relatively expensive. You must also consider how easy the credential is to copy or ‘share’ and how you are going to manage.

Type of barrier. Do you go for a Tri-arm budget or an all singing all dancing stylish top end speedlane or something in-between. Perhaps you want an unattended reception so maybe a pod is appropriate or you want to provide that exclusive feel and rely on more staff at reception to verify credentials and add that personal touch.

Cost. Cost of course is a key factor and is just a reality of running a business but the ‘hidden’ costs of not doing something properly such as lost revenue due to unreliable equipment, unhappy customers, frustrated front-of-house staff, queues all have a cost associated with them. So look at the whole cost/benefit analysis of your solution and not just the headline figure.

No barriers. Of course no barriers is a perfectly feasible option. You may decide that you want the personal touch and don’t want your leisure facility to feel like Colditz. This will usually only work for smaller premium facilities where customer service is top of the list and the footfall is relatively low.

Tri-arm steel rotational. These are the cheapest access control solution and the goto option for leisure facilities. They are budget-priced, practical and reasonably child friendly. Throughput is not the best however and they are not DDA compliant so a separate DDA gate is required which can be an issue if space is limited.

Pods. Pods are a hefty upfront cost but are an excellent solution if you have an unmanned reception area which you want to secure. There are a number of ways of implementing them depending on the type of facility.

Budget Speedlanes. Not all speedlanes are equal despite often looking similar. It is always best to roadtest the lanes preferably in a live environment. Ask your installer to take you to a live site. When you are dealing with the public (as opposed to just business traffic) does the technology stand up to scrutiny? Can you push an empty pushchair through without thinking it’s a person? Can it deal with a person coming in and going out at the same time? What about availability of spare parts should a part fail?

High end speedlanes. At the top end they are not the cheapest option but the technology is very sophisticated. Not all types are child friendly and how they are configured is key to a successful implementation. They give a very high throughput of at least 40 people per minute and look very sophisticated.

Doors. The traditional means of securing a door is by some form of magnetic lock. Wireless options are now available and are substantially more cost effective. However wireless only work on single doors as the escutcheon doubles up as the maglock. Both options on doors have an inherent weakness such that once the door is open any number of people can pass through until the door shuts again. There is a product called the Door Detective which provides turnstile-level access control on a door and can be linked to a CCTV system to monitor those going through an open door without a valid credential.

Open technology. As a general principle we at All Right Now have standardised in open technologies. Some manufacturers and systems insist on locked down credentials and only allow their engineers to service their equipment which can be costly and frustrating if you are at all unhappy with the service you are getting.

Biometric. Fingerprint is the most common and the cheapest but it doesn’t work for everyone and we have known people to rip it out and install a more traditional system as it proved to be unreliable in practice. Facial recognition software is available and works across a whole distributed estate of multiple locations but it is also a relatively expensive solution to install. However, it does provide a very accurate and ‘unbreakable’ level of security which can substantially reduce lost revenue due to copying of credentials.

Bar code. The big advantage of barcodes is that the cards are cheap be that a credit card or a key fob but they are not very sophisticated and of course you have to have it with you. In addition, they take longer to reader than a contactless card in general so give slower throughput though the barrier. They are also quite bulk so often require specialist integration into the barrier which increases costs.

Disposable wristband. These are a great option for ad hoc visitors particularly if colour-coded as they provide a visual reference as to whether or a not a customer’s visit has ‘expired’. These are available in self-service kiosks supplied by All Right Now.

Mag stripe. Generally old technology now and not as cheap as bar codes. The readers are clunky too and generally this is just a legacy option.

Contactless/RFID (smart silicon wristband, card, key fob, phone, phonepatch). Contactless (usually some form of MiFare chip) is the standard in most business environments due to its convenience, speed of reading and variety of options. More and more gym equipment are using RFID credentials which means the one credential can be used for multiple uses. The advantage of contactless is that it can be made far more secure than a traditional bar code and it also has space on the chip that other information can be stored and potentially swapped between different systems.

Author: Stephen Goodridge, Product Manager, All Right Now Ltd
Date: January 2017