Untethered Access: How Wireless Can Help Brownfield Business Soar
Introduction: Retrofit Business
As a security integrator, brownfield opportunities are certainly a lot less glamorous and lower-profile than new construction projects, but they are likely the foundation of your business. A huge percentage of facilities have aging access control solutions in place, and vigorous competition between security integrators means that the winning proposals for these jobs are those that offer solutions that go beyond the customer’s initial expectations. For example, a customer’s vision for a retrofit might be limited to a door-for-door replacement system that offers easier and more robust management tools and a mobile interface. When comparing today’s access control software with that from a decade ago, there are plenty of ways to deliver on this. How can your company go above and beyond, offering a solution that clearly stands out as the “right” choice?
Smart integrators seeking retrofit business will demonstrate their sensitivity to the unique challenges of a particular site, showing the customer ways that they can deliver added value. These include the ability to add new doors that were previously not considered due to cost or location, offering to minimize the chaos, time and intrusiveness of the installation process, supporting future expansion needs, and offering all of this at a price that’s in a totally different ballpark from the competition. What’s the secret? Wireless access control.
Wireless access control means different things to different people. For the purposes of this article, we are using the term to describe solutions that allow for communications between individual door controllers and the system’s head end without the need for a wired infrastructure. This is done through secure and sometimes proprietary wireless networks that are completely separate from facilities’ “Wi-Fi.”
"Boom. Now There's Access Control"
Many customers with existing hardwired systems have a limited appreciation for the benefits that wireless solutions offer. In fact, some may not be aware of the wireless option at all, believing that they are limited to hardwiring.
These customers don’t yet realize, but you can quickly assure them, that a wireless solution offers an easy and cost-effective way to expand their access control system to doors left unsecured due to the past difficulty of running hardwiring. In fact, in a number of cases, the newly illuminated customers will end up adding more doors than planned.
“Wireless is giving customers the option to install doors where they haven’t done so in the past,” says Jeffery Perri, President and COO of ProdataKey (PDK), a pioneer of wireless access control technology. For example, this occurred during the recent retrofit of a commercial building with a vulnerable outside gate. During the previous installation, the customer opted not to connect the gate to the system because of $5,000 to $10,000 wiring costs. With a wireless solution now possible, the gate was easily and inexpensively secured with a wireless outdoor gate controller.
Customers are also requesting more doors be added to retrofits because of the increased need for lockdowns. This likely wasn’t on customers’ radar when they installed their last system perhaps a decade ago. With wireless, customers can design or expand their system based on security considerations rather than on budget constraints.
Cutting Customer Costs
Elevators, which are often cost-prohibitive with a hardwired solution, are another area where wireless can entice customers to expand their system. “We had a retrofit customer with nine elevators to which they didn’t want to run new wires. For a wired system, you’d need to get the elevator company to run a leader cable, which can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 per elevator,” explains Perri. “Instead, we put a wireless device on each elevator’s cab and one at the top or bottom of the elevator shaft. That bridged the gap wirelessly for about $700-$800 per elevator instead of more than ten times that price.”
Perri stresses that actual savings of going wireless will be different for each project based on its own unique attributes. However, in general, longer and more complicated runs are where savings from wireless really make a difference that customer can see.
Take, for example, the cost of installing just a single door with a 150-foot cable run. A wireless solution eliminates the per-foot cost of wire, materials such conduit and zip ties, and much of the labor cost, which in this case would require a few hours of more than one technician. Now multiply that by a whole bunch of doors. “When you look at the comparable cost of installing a wireless system, almost all of that gets stripped out of the equation, making you look all-the-more like the right integrator for the job,” he says.
When customers think of retrofits, they often picture the chaos of deconstruction and reconstruction and the cost of business downtime. Another reassurance that you can offer them is the how much less intrusive it is to install a wireless system, with no need to turn the site into a construction zone since all work occurs only at each door. This is particularly desirable in older buildings made of traditional construction materials like stone, brick and plaster, and where preservationist policies may restrict the ability to drill holes and lay wires.
Perri provides this example. “PDK solutions integrate with Assa Abloy’s Aperio wireless locksets. In a retrofit, we swap out the door hardware with the Assa Abloy locks, in which the reader is built right in. They communicate with our system just like any other door controllers and, aesthetically, they’re highly desirable as they eliminate the need for a reader next to each door. We recently did a retrofit that included hundreds of doors, and it only took about 45 minutes to do a complete swap out of each lock. It made it possible to add just about every door in the facility to the system.”
By offering brownfield customers the promise that not only can the system be easily expanded, but that the costs are going to be reduced and the installation will be low impact, you can be just the retrofitting hero they are searching for.
Making the Right Choice
Before wireless existed, the old-school advice for working on brownfield projects was to take advantage of the wiring already in place. There are still some situations where this approach can be cost competitive, in installations with centrally located controllers, where existing wires are available and in good share, and so is all the locking hardware and reader hardware. For example, an eight-door controller, or a number of them, can be swapped out at the head end when performing a complete system change out. But as soon as you start wanting to add additional doors to the system, it’s time to start looking at wireless. In fact, a hybrid approach can be very effective in these situations.
Perri explains, “What we’re seeing is that, in some cases, installers are able to take advantage of wiring that’s already in place, if the gauge is heavy enough, to provide centralized power to the new system instead of harvesting power locally. That solution—wired power to devices through the older infrastructure combined with wireless access control—creates a very streamlined and cost-effective install.”
By honestly evaluating what is right for each aspect of the retrofit, customers will know they are making the best choice of an integrator.
Wireless access control “opens doors” for your retrofit customers, providing them with options that they may not have otherwise considered. It also opens doors for you. Upgrading an aging access control system is often an entryway to additional lucrative opportunities, as it’s likely that other security systems are also in need of replacement, including surveillance, burglar and facility management systems. Making your proposals stand out and showcasing your company as an innovator, through all the benefits inherent in a wireless access control solution, is your key.
PDK is a team of security integrators with decades of hands-on, in-the-field experience. PDK believes that the best technology is created by professionals who know what it takes to secure a facility properly and provide the end user with a solution that instills confidence and safety. The company’s innovative PDKio access control integrates patented WiMAC wireless mesh technology within the system’s hardware, allowing for secure communication between devices without the need for wired infrastructure. The network is self-configuring and self-healing, meaning that as doors are added to the system, they automatically make use of fastest and most efficient communication route. Installation is truly plug-and-play.
PDK is passionate about creating technology to enhance the security, safety, and overall experience of both the professionals installing electronic access control and those that live with and use the system. PDK continues to create technology every day to enhance its products and the products of its technology partners.