Protecting Portals: Enhancing Visitor Management

Access control delivers a high degree of protection to any site. By managing authorised and non-authorised persons, the systems not only can be used to manage and report on all entry and egress transactions, but can also reduce the need for receptionists and concierge services. When it comes to managing visitors to a site, the usual procedure is to install a video door entry system. Visitors then interact with staff on site and are either granted or denied access. A common ruse to gain unauthorised access is tailgating, but a smart approach can help overcome this.

Previously the Benchmark Smart Solutions article focused on access control, and explained just how easy and fast it is to implement video integration with Paxton’s class-leading Net2 access control system. This approach, which is a standard feature of the software (even the free-of-charge Lite version) can be implemented with ease and carries no additional costs.

Net2 allows the addition of single cameras or entire systems using a compatible VMS. With single cameras, these are added directly to the Camera list via the Net2 software. In the case of cameras attached to a VMS, it is a simple case of adding the server and then allocating cameras to specific doors.

When dealing with visitor management, the most common approach is to install a video door entry system. These options have been around for many years and come in a variety of configurations. Choices range from low-cost systems with very basic functionality, up to advanced solutions using mobile connectivity to allow remote interaction and control of doors.

The vast majority of unauthorised entry attempts make use of the tailgating technique. This relies on people being too polite to question others about their actions and intentions. By acting in a confident and friendly manner, those carrying out tailgating can defeat advanced systems, because the flaw they are exploiting is other users.

As people leave a building, someone coming in smiles and maybe even holds the door for them. The average person wouldn’t think about questioning the helpful and friendly stranger. Equally, as someone gains access another person appears, maybe carrying bags. It’s unlikely that they’ll be forced to wait until the door has been closed to put down their bags, find a credential or use the entry system and gain access.

There is one thing that tailgating attempts have in common. The person attempting to gain access must be close-by. They have a very short time window to reach the door without making it look like they are rushing, as that might arouse suspicions. Their arrival must seem coincidental for the ruse to work. This means that they will be loitering near the portal, waiting for the right time to act.

A smart solution?

When sites typically had receptionists or concierge services, part of their job was to monitor the entrance to the building, and to be aware of what was happening outside. They also were tasked with talking to everyone gaining access who was not a known user, and of monitoring the flow of authorised persons.

The role of video door entry systems is different. A visitor requests access, they are connected to a member of staff who has a one-to-one conversation, and access is either granted or denied. The knowledge of what is happening in the immediate area, or of how many people are at the entrance but out of camera view are all minimal.

There are two things to consider when eliminating such tailgating attempts. The first is that a wide angle view is desirable. The second is that the addition of a relevant on-camera app can monitor the external area when an active call is not occurring.

Adding intelligence

Axis Communications offers the AXIS A8105–E video door entry IP-based door station. It delivers 1920 x 1200 video streams at frame rates of up to 50fps and its 2.8mm lens has a horizontal field-of-view of 180 degrees and a vertical field-of-view of 120 degrees. This makes it ideal for capturing wide-angle views outside protected doors.

Duplex audio streaming with echo cancellation and noise reduction ensures a good degree of audio quality. The door station, which features an integral speaker and microphone, can support SIP connections. This makes it compatible with a wide range of VoIP systems.

The interesting thing about the door station is that at its heart it’s really an Axis networked camera, albeit with enhanced audio and a call button. This means that it includes a number of proprietary technologies. More importantly, it also shares the options associated with Axis Communications’ cameras in terms of integrations.

This allows the introduction of smart functionality, as the video door station can be loaded with third-party applications supported by the ACAP scheme.

This allows, for example, the door station to also detect loitering attempts and via the Action Rules function the device can instigate various notifications and actions. Of course, the ACAP options go far beyond detection of loitering. For example, analytics can be added that detect directional motion, and flow against expected direction of travel, enter/exit violations, object-based incidents, etc..

ACAP has a whole range of supporting video analytics which can be added to the Axis door station, ensuring that the visitor management system also has a degree of intelligence.

Aside from ACAP applications, the door station also features integral video motion detection, active tempering alarm and audio detection.

With regards to audio, if SIP connectivity is to be used, the device includes a setup wizard to simplify this. There is a high degree of flexibility.

It must be noted that whilst use of the Axis door station does allow a single device for video and audio communication, surveillance and detection (using ACAP applications), a slightly different approach can be taken by deploying an ACAP-compatible camera. This allows different angles of view to be accounted for. Camera positioning is also more flexible, as it is not essential that visitors can interact with the device.

It is also worth remembering that ACAP applications do not only offer video analytics. Where reliable and robust detection, or even laser-based detection, can also add value, this is again easily integrated via the ACAP platform. OPTEX offers two ACAP applications which allow connectivity with external detection devices and the RedScan laser-based detector.

The use of these application eliminates the need for complex interfacing to link analogue detection outputs with digital surveillance systems.

Another approach can be taken if the application is based upon a flexible VMS solution, such as XProtect from Milestone Systems. XProtect has a high level of third party compatibility, and too often installers and integrators only think in terms of codecs and cameras when considering this. However, the VMS also supports the addition of access control systems such as Paxton’s Net2 access control system and range of peripherals, and detection devices from OPTEX which can be connected via the cost-effective PIE-1 module.

This small easy-to-install module allows the addition of OPTEX analogue detectors to digital systems such as VMS, and is fully supported by Milestone’s XProtect packages.

Putting it together

The decision as to how best to integrate the modules to add a smarter edge to visitor management and the wider access control system in general will very much depend upon the application and its operational requirements. Also, it has to be accepted that budgetary constraints will typically have some impact on the solution.

If a site is high risk with heavy traffic, there may well be an argument for implementing a time-of-flight solution such as the Accurance 3D solution from OPTEX. This piggybacking and tailgating detection system has been designed for sites using a two-door airlock. It analyses the secure area, identifying the number of people in the airlock.

However, for many applications a simpler solution will be required. Having said that, simple can also be smart.

At the most basic the system would include a Net2 access solution backed up by the Axis door station with a relevant application. This does not add extra devices to the system design. If surveillance is also required throughout the site, the approach could incorporate a VMS, either a door station or camera for the entrance (typically entry points will be covered by a surveillance system anyway) and intruder detection. By adopting a smart design, the external detection can work as a part of the smart solution rather than the site’s intruder alarm system if required.

The actual configuration of the integration is remarkably simple. It generally involves little more than basic interactions with either XProtect’s rules engine, Axis’ GUI or Net2’s interface, dependent upon the route taken.

The simple and quick implementation to Net2 has previously been covered, as has the connection of a PIE-1 device to OPTEX detectors. Neither is taxing or long-winded, and will be within the capabilities of any installer or integrator.

Loading an ACAP application is also very straightforward. Once the relevant application has been selected, a visit to the Axis Communications website will allow you to obtain a trial licence. With these two elements, you simply log in to the camera or door station, select the Applications menu and then navigate to the file to be uploaded. The process is quick and simple.

With the application loaded, you simply enter the licence details (often this is another simple upload) and select the application to run. A new menu will appear for the application, and you can configure it for the specific site requirements.

If you take the route of integrating the system via the XProtect platform, when adding hardware the VMS will show all options for any given device. These include – when supported – multiple streams, inputs and outputs, VMD, IVA, applications and any other signalling or notification options for the device. This is possible because XProtect offers deep-level integrations with supported devices. Note that if a third party device is only supported as ONVIF, all options might not be available.

Rules are created using AND/OR logic, and are set via drop-down menus and clickable links. There’s no need to write code or create Macros. This also means that only possible options are shown, making it difficult to mess things up!

In summary

Adding value need not involve long and tedious installations, expensive interfaces or dedicated convertors. In many cases the functionality is already provided, and often carries little or no additional cost.

For the customer, the attraction of a value-added bespoke solution which introduces genuine benefits for their business or organisation is more of an important differentiator than saving a few pounds on a ‘dumb’ system.

Benchmark Smart Solutions
Benchmark Smart Solutions is dedicated to supporting those seeking innovative and bespoke value-added solutions for business and the home environment. Through real-world field trials it assesses the potential available from current technologies and integrated systems. Benchmark Smart Solutions is produced by the team at Benchmark magazine.