Texas City Goes State-of-the-Art with an Enterprise-Based Access Control System
The City of McAllen, Texas, saw an opportunity to upgrade its citywide access control into a state-of-the-art security system when the recently-completed $28 million Anzalduas International Bridge Facility to Mexico began construction in 2007.
“We wanted an enterprise-based, centralized access control system, and the Anzalduas International Bridge Facility’s security mandates gave us a starting point to standardizing security throughout our municipal buildings,” said Rudy M. Juarez, IT project manager, City of McAllen.
During the last few decades the 83-year-old city of 130,000 people had gradually accumulated an array of access control and key/lock security methodologies throughout its buildings. When government funds included an access control system for the Anzalduas International Bridge Facility offices, the city’s information technology (IT) department seized the opportunity to exercise a long-awaited plan to standardize city buildings under the same access control system in a phased roll-out. “Without the enterprise-based system we eventually chose for the bridge, access control would have been just business as usual where each city building would continue to use a different vendor or security method with no uniformity or accountability,” said Juarez.
The city’s new system is anchored with Matrix Systems’ Frontier™ Standard access control software. Frontier Standard’s scalability will help postpone expensive equipment add-ons until future budgets are available, according to Juarez.
The city also saved money by purchasing only one building controller and stationing it at the IT Department. Via connectivity through the city’s existing gigabit Ethernet and fiber optical combination network, the city employs less expensive Matrix System Gateway (MSG) IP-based devices at other locations. The MSG’s accommodate up to eight reader control modules (RCM), alarm cards or other devices while serving as inexpensive substitutes for building controllers in locations with only a few doors.
The first phase roll-out includes the Anzalduas International Bridge Facility offices, City Hall, and an IT room at the central fire station’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Although the City Hall rollout is ongoing, access control card readers are now located on perimeter doors and on the mechanical and telecom room doors. The city controls approximately 20 doors with the new system.
One illustration of the system’s state-of-the-art capabilities is the IT Department’s server room door, which uses a biometric fingerprint reader by Bioscrypt, Toronto, Ontario, for ultra-secure access by authorized employees and is easily integrated because of the access control system’s open architecture.
Another state-of-the-art feature will come into play with the integration of closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance when the city’s 200,000-square-foot library is completed in 2011. The city already uses CCTV at several sites with cameras by Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass., visual management software by Milestone Systems U.S., Beaverton, Ore.,, and video storage equipment by Pivot3, Spring, Texas. The library’s future video surveillance might be the impetus to someday integrate all CCTV into the centralized access control system, according to Juarez.
Self-Sufficiency Will Save Money in the FutureMcAllen will also save on maintenance and installation costs because city technicians will receive hands-on training and certification for access control hardware maintenance and installation from Matrix Systems’ onsite trainers. “We expect to be self-sufficient on smaller projects such as bringing one or two doors online at a time, which will reflect a great savings to the city,” said Juarez.
Currently 50 city employees now carry photo ID iCLASS® badges by HID, Irvine, Calif., that not only allow access, but also function as time/attendance cards because the access control system easily integrates with the city’s existing time/attendance clock system by Kronos, Chemsford, Mass. ID cards are printed with a Digital Identification Solutions (DIS), Piedmont, S.C., Model 340i and an Inline Lamination Unit (ILU) that are all integrated and operated through the Frontier Standard software. “We’ve improved efficiency and accountability because instead of two or three cards, employees carry only one card that serves as a combination ID, access card and time/attendance card,” added Juarez. “Security is improved because any city that relies on keys/lock systems or has iCLASS badges without accountability loses control of which employees have access to restricted areas.”
Not only are employees accountable, but any card reader door can display a history by employee, times and frequency with just a few keystrokes from the workstation. It’s a great improvement over the previous myriad of systems, Juarez said. As in all cities, keyed locks are vulnerable to unauthorized duplication or lost keys. PIN-pad access locks were an improvement over keys, but PIN numbers are susceptible to unauthorized sharing and they have never been tied into an administration program for accountability. The iCLASS badge readers were perhaps the most secure method, but offered no standardization or citywide supervision capabilities the new system provides.
The access control standardization the city envisions will save thousands of dollars annually and significantly improve security and accountability, according to Juarez. He sees a great reduction in costs versus the previous systems.