Monday, June 22, 2009

Physical Access Control - The new way!

Historically, physical access controls have never run over IP networks, but now with Cisco in the game, the convergence for a complete physical access control solution over IP networks is now a reality.

The Cisco Physical Access Control solution is made up of both hardware and software
components. The Cisco Access Gateway connects door hardware (traditional readers and locks,
as well as the new Hi-O® hardware from Assa Abloy) to an IP network. In wired deployments, the device is capable of being powered by Power over Ethernet (PoE). It is also possible to connect to the gateway over a Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g wireless link.

The diagram below depicts a typical Cisco PAC archtiecture:

Since there is a gateway for each door, access control can be deployed incrementally, door by
door. There is no central panel; this simplifies system design, wiring, and planning, resulting in
significant cost savings over legacy architectures. Additional modules can be connected to the
gateway, allowing for extensibility. All communication from and to the gateways is encrypted.
The Cisco Physical Access Control solution offers the following modules (in addition to the Access

  • Reader module: This module can connect to a complete set of door hardware, allowing an
    additional door to be controlled by the same gateway.

  • Input module: Eight supervised inputs can be connected to this module and controlled
    through the gateway.

  • Output module: Eight outputs can be connected to this module and controlled through the

A picture of Cisco's Integrated Access Control Gateway is shown below for reference:

Cisco Physical Security Manager (CPSM) is the software application used to manage the Cisco Access Gateways on the network. The Web-based software provisions, monitors, and controls all the access control gateways on the network. Role-based access control policies are supported for CPSM. You can create access control policies for N-person, two-door, anti-passback, etc.

CPSM also integrates with MS Active Directory, LDAP, and some HR databases.

CPSM is integrated with the Cisco Video Surveillance family of products, enabling an organization to associate cameras with doors, and to view video associated with access control events and alarms.

In addition to basic access control features, Cisco plans to integrate physical access control with
network security to provide a comprehensive solution that spans both areas of security, allowing
enterprises to:

  • Create and enforce policies so that network and application access is granted based on the
    physical location of employees
  • Provide wireless access only if employees have badged into a physical location.
  • Terminate an employee’s active VPN connection when that employee badges into a
    physical location
  • Change an employee’s privileges on the network based on entering or exiting a secure

There is no question that Cisco is accelerating convergence in the physical security industry. The move to integrate physical access control and network security is something I've been preaching for a while now, it will be interesting to see how this evolves over time. I'll keep you posted...

Stay secure,

-boni bruno


  1. Hi Boni,

    Very helpful post.

    You mentioned integration with other systems. One of the key requirements is integrating with video surveillance systems. Outside of Cisco's own system, what 3rd party video surveillance systems does Cisco access control support?

    Also, I notice a key element is that the solution does not require traditional access control panels. Most organizations have substantial investment in those panels. Other solutions I see offer a way to reutilize those existing panels.

  2. Good questions. Currently, Cisco is focusing on supporting their own video surveillance system, which after the aquisition of Broadware, pretty much provides support for every major brand of IP camera on the market or Analog Camera's via the use of encoders.

    I would not count on Cisco providing support for Panels. Look at the Cisco solution for new buildings or when you want to migrate away from the older technologies...

  3. Sounds cool. We've just completed a product to work with the Stream Manager which allows automatic video file archiving into our digital asset management system CMS Flex.

  4. OMG. Please keep this info coming. Finding a truly technical blog on Cisco's VSM platform has just made my entire day.

    Thank You!

  5. Great technology by Cisco. Boni you mean to say that its a initial performance of this device. well, its sound is great or seems helpful in future. from where I read the more information about this? thanks!

  6. Its very useful and informative. The prime purpose of an access control system is to regulate and monitor access at each door.

  7. is there any case study or solution guide

  8. this all are going same as technology and i found your article which gives me best ideas about same industries. now if your shared some more knowledge about this technology so that is good for all readers and researcher. right now i m working with Security System and CCTV Camera which is India based company.

  9. Thanks for the nice post with lot of information clearly stated.

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