In this article I’ll be sharing the fruits of my research on home and small business access control systems. I’ve been doing some research in this area recently and figured if I had to spend a bit of time researching it I might as well share the fruits of what I find. Feel free to raise questions, comments, and suggestions. I’m always open to hearing about new products and services! Enjoy. 🙂
Home Automation Protocols
While we will be examining access control systems in particular we need to first discuss home automation protocols in general. Access Control Systems are part of a move within homes and businesses towards automation and as such these ACS systems oftentimes use various communication protocols specifically designed for this purpose.1Not all devices utilize communications protocols, some are stand-alone. We will look at some of these products/services as well, but our emphasis will be on ACS systems which provide some scope for scalability and interoperability.
- ZigBee – Based on the IEEE 802.15.4-2003 standard, similar to Bluetooth. It utilizes wireless mesh networking and is an open standard.2Unfortunately, this is still hobbled by a requirement to join the Zigbee Alliance if manufacturing products, thus diminishing the open nature of the standard. It operates in the 900 Mhz range.
- Z-Wave – A proprietary protocol3This is a major negative, imho, for Z-Wave. Any protocol which is proprietary is a turn-off to me immediately. There is too much likelihood that the protocol will eventually die and that when this happens devices programmed on Z-Wave will be rendered obsolete. licensed to various manufacturers by Zensys. Operates in the 900 MHz range4This allows the network to avoid interference from WiFi and other traffic, but puts it on a frequency that conflicts with some cordless phones., utilizes mesh networking techniques.
- Insteon – A replacement for X10, operates over powerlines and via RF frequencies.
- X10 – The oldest automatic protocol (since the 1970’s), widely utilized, operates mainly over powerlines, and has issues with reliability due to powerline usage in some cases.
Access Control System Options:
*When there are numerous options, I’m generally going with the least expensive most feature-ful option. In other words, I’m not looking just at the cheapest price but I’m also not just going for the highest priced…I’m trying to find the reasonable balance in the middle. See the manufacturer website for more product options.
** The software is an extra expense, in the case of LockState, $150. In the case of TimePilot, $150. Meanwhile, Schlage charges a low-monthly recurring fee for remote management functionality.
Other Access Control Options:
- Lockey – Offers a number of products, but not to my liking, so I didn’t spend much time on their site.
- Seco-Larm – Offers a number of products, but the site presentation isn’t very aesthetically pleasing and the process is not very intuitive.
- BioLock – Can support numerous users, no programmability outside of unit.
- Rutherford Controls (RCI) – Offers a number of systems, from simple to advanced.
- Home Automation (HAI) – Looks to be around $1.5k for starter kit.
- Fingerprint Door Locks – Number of options, probably deserves to be on list above.
- InterLogix – Site gets confusing with number of options.
- David-Link – offers a Biometric solution called the A-1300 which can connect via usb, ethernet, etc. for reporting, stores 60,000 accesses, and 3,000 fingerprint templates.
- Honeywell – Appears to be fairly expensive – e.g. around $2k to get started.
- Futronic Technology Company – I’m not particularly impressed by their website presentation, though the device listed on Amazon looks fairly slick.
- AKe – Could not find a website for this company, though their device runs around $300 and is sold through Amazon.
- Skylink Home
- KwikSet – A division of Black and Decker. Has simple access control systems which can handle two codes.
- Samsung – Their technology looks nice, but their websites are all broken – only showing some functionality.
Unfortunately there appears to be a sad lack of open source access control systems for physical entry. One option for the very adventurous is cerberus-prox.
I Don’t Need No Automation!
It is true that we don’t need many forms of home automation, but before you are too quick to dismiss home automation as something for techies and/or the wealthy, consider that your home is already an example of many instances of automation. For example, your heating/cooling system provides automatic mechanisms to provide for a comfortable environment, your boiler provides hot water to your bathtubs and sinks, a dishwasher automates the process of cleaning dishes, and a refrigerator/freezer provides the ability to keep food edible over long periods of time without laying it out on ice or seasoning it.