Why Access Control?
Access control systems solve the business problems inherent in having a sizeable staff working a number of different shifts.
A good access control system secures building entryways and controls access through them, often identifying people as they enter, granting access only to those with authorisation.
Staff members use NFC or RFID access cards or other tokens as a means of authorisation and the access control system itself provides central management for these access cards.
This central management makes it fast and easy to grant or revoke authorisation to particular cards, making lost cards a non-issue and making the entire access control system scalable in line with your business growth.
Components of an Access Control System
Access control systems require:
- A central hub unit that powers and connects other system components.
- A mag lock or other types of locking mechanism like an electronic deadbolt or door strike.
- An access control card reader to handle entry.
- A means of opening the door to exit the building, usually simpler with fewer security measures.
- Access cards or tags for each member of staff.
- (Optional) a camera for a secondary view of would-be entrants.
Ubiquiti’s UniFi Access Control Ecosystem
UniFi Access Application
UniFi Access is Ubiquiti’s own access control application and runs on top of UniFi OS, a proprietary operating system that runs only on certain devices like the UDM and UDM Pro.
However, at the time of writing, the UDM Pro is the only UniFi device running UniFi OS that can run all of UniFi’s four applications simultaneously. The UDM, for example, only runs the UniFi Network application.
Since, for Access Control, we need the UniFi Access application running on our network, the UDM Pro is mandatory for anyone looking to use UniFi Access as an access control solution.
UniFi Access Hub
Of course, you’ll need to purchase an access reader for every door you want to control access to. However, you can’t use a single Access Hub to control access to every entryway in your building. You’ll need one UniFi Access Hub per door too.
You’ll connect each Access Hub to the UDM Pro on one end via the Hub’s 1GB ethernet port and to your other Access Control devices via each of its three ethernet output ports. Three ports mean you’ve room for three devices per Access Hub, so you can connect a single Access Reader Pro, Access Reader Lite and a secondary camera (if desired) to each Access Hub.
The Access Hub works with electric door strikes and locks, magnetic locks and almost any other kind of locking mechanism, making it universal enough to retrofit into any existing access control system.
UniFi Access Reader Pro
The UniFi Access Reader Pro is an IP54 rated access reader with a built-in camera and colour display screen. Thanks to its IP rating, this unit is weatherproof and can be installed on an external wall.
The unit has four operating modes; users can enter a PIN to gain access, use it as a doorbell, or as an NFC card reader, or use a linked smartphone’s Bluetooth to gain access.
The built-in camera gives security personnel a view of would-be entrants and can record footage with timestamps to an NVR for later viewing.
Access Reader Lite
The Lite version of the UniFi Access Reader offers similar functionality to the Pro, but without so many bells and whistles. There’s no built-in camera or display screen, though the IP54 rating is still there and NFC cards and Bluetooth can both still be used.
With its wave-to-activate function, though, the UniFi Access Reader Lite is well suited to both exit-control, for any entryway, and access control for lower security entryways.
Wave-to-activate allows users to deactivate a lock by waving their hand in front of the Access Reader Lite, even without an NFC card or activated Bluetooth device. This makes leaving a building convenient, fast and hygienic where strict security isn’t required.
Alternatively, install the Access Reader Lite as access control to a less-trafficked or lower security area where the camera and multiple entry methods aren’t required.
It’s worth noting that you can use third party push buttons as a means to unlock doors from the inside too. You’ll just need to wire the device up to the UniFi Access Hub.
Access cards (UniFi or third party)
NFC access cards and tags can be used with your Access Reader Pro or Lite. UniFi sells its own and you can manage these from the UniFi Access application, making it easy to grant or revoke access permissions to/from any particular card.
Third-party products can be used here too, though, so if you prefer to use NFC tag stickers that can be hidden on the back of a phone, you can use these too. These eliminate the risk of lost cards falling into the wrong hands and prevent staff from having to install an app to enter with Bluetooth.
That being said, with UniFi access cards no more expensive than third party tags and the benefit of centrally managing the cards from the UniFi Access app, it makes good sense to stick with the official UniFi cards.
Importantly, you’ll need a PoE++ (802.3bt) switch to power the Access Hub. If you don’t have a PoE++ switch, you’ll need to use a PoE injector even if you already have a switch that offers a different standard of PoE.
Why do UniFi’s access control systems need so much power? Because the Access Hub itself provides power to up to three other devices, meaning your switch needs to power those plus the hub.
In the UniFi line of switches, this leaves you with either the USW-PRO Gen2 24 port or USW-PRO Gen2 48 port switches, or either of the more affordable USW-Industrial or US XG 6 PoE, the USW-Industrial being the most affordable option of the four.
All of these switches provide 802.3bt PoE++ power, so you’ll need one of these in addition to the UDM Pro as UniFi Access entry requirements.
Whilst the Access Reader Pro is equipped with a built-in camera, you might want a secondary camera positioned more discreetly as a backup, or even just for a second point of view to capture people as they enter and exit your building.
A UniFi G3-Flex can be wired up to the UniFi Hub for just this purpose and, though Ubiquiti doesn’t mention it explicitly, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why other PoE UniFi cameras wouldn’t work as well.
It’s important to bear in mind, too, that the UniFi Access Hub itself represents a single point of failure for any given security door. The Hub itself can easily be tampered with and, if the wiring to your electric or magnetic lock fails or is cut for criminal purposes, your door lock will fail immediately. This makes it essential to invest in some means of securing the Access Hub itself.
Moreover, since the UniFi Access app requires a UDM Pro, one has to ask how suitable the UDM Pro is as a network device for businesses. The truth is that, without much built-in redundancy failover, there are better options out there for large businesses, leaving UniFi Access best suited for home users/prosumers and small businesses.
Thanks to the UniFi Access Starter Kit, the bulk of the myriad devices you’ll need to get set up with UniFi Access can be acquired extremely competitively. You’ll save 30% when purchasing the Starter Kit versus purchasing each device separately.
The starter kit also includes 20 access cards and, while you might think you could save by using third-party cards, they’re no cheaper than the UniFi cards sold individually (averaging about £2 per card).
What’s more, the UniFi Access application gives you the option of disabling all third-party cards for extra security, as well as central management of all your UniFi Access cards, meaning they’re great value for the price.
Though the Access Hub does work with third-party products, like regular ‘push to exit’ buttons and other NFC cards and tags, purchasing the starter kit for each door you’re looking to secure in this manner still represents a significant saving.
As for the UDM Pro and PoE++ switch, you’ll only need a single UDM Pro and a few switches to take care of all but the largest buildings. Since entryways protected by UniFi Access won’t need to be watched by a security guard either, you save on that staffing cost too.
Buy Your UniFi Access Devices Today
NetXL stocks all facets of the UniFi Access system, including PoE++ switches like the USW-Industrial, the required UDM Pro and the UniFi Access Starter Kit, which represents an extremely cost-effective means of getting up and running with UniFi Access.
For product advice, help with your business network, or a best-priced quote, don’t hesitate to contact us today on 0330 043 3000.