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In The Boardroom With...

Mr. Angelo Faenza
General Manager
ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions
Stockholm: ASSA-B.ST Thank you for joining us today, Angelo. Please give us an overview of your background and your role at ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions.

Angelo Faenza:  My role as General Manager of PERSONA is P&L responsibility, along with managing a team of professional sales managers, project managers, and software and technical support professionals. I spend a good deal of my time with end customers, potential end customers, channel partners and industry association groups. I have been with ASSA ABLOY for 16 years, starting on the door and hardware side of the business and migrating over to the access control side of the business. We understand that PERSONA is a best-of-breed leader in “intelligent stand alone access control systems.”  Please give us an overview of PERSONA solutions.

Angelo Faenza: PERSONA offers both stand-alone and hardwired intelligent access control solutions. To fully understand what that means, it helps to have some background information on the various access control technologies.

Many facilities have security needs that exceed the capabilities and practicality of traditional mechanical lock and key systems. This is not meant as a disparagement of mechanical lock and key systems; when strict key control is followed, they remain a viable security option. But the end-user might want additional capabilities, such as tracking the time and identity of a lock transaction, which is not available in a mechanical system. In addition if a mechanical key is lost, the end-user must make adjustments to all cylinders that functioned with that lost key. A large facility with many doorways can incur much time and expense re-keying a mechanical system. So mechanical lock and keys may not be practical for all end-users.

The next step up from mechanical locks and keys is electronic access control. End-users have the choice of an access control system that is either powered by electrical wiring that runs through the door or from batteries incorporated into the lock body. A lock powered by wiring is referred to as “hardwired,” while the battery operated version is commonly known as “stand-alone” meaning it can be used anywhere in a facility without the need for wiring infrastructure.

Aside from powering options, locks can also provide either “online” or “offline” access control. An online lock is able to communicate with a centralized access control system while an offline lock does not have this communication capability.

Until recently, hardwired locksets were the only option if an end-user wanted online access control. But the advent of wireless networking has enabled stand-alone locksets to also acquire online capabilities. This is a significant development that gives end-users the ability to connect almost any doorway into a centralized access control system without incurring the infrastructure expense of running wiring to every doorway.

Earlier I mentioned PERSONA offers both stand-alone and hardwired access control solutions. Now I can expand on that by saying PERSONA offers online, hardwired access control solutions as well as offline and online stand-alone access control solutions. The recent introduction of our WiFi-enabled locksets allows these stand-alone devices to connect into an online system.  What are your target markets and what is your perspective on the market drivers for PERSONA solutions at this time?

Angelo Faenza: Our primary target markets are campuses—university campuses, prep school campuses, military bases. The main drivers in this market are the need for enhanced security and greater convenience.

A campus tends to have many buildings with lots of doorways spread over a large area which makes mechanical key systems less than desirable for security and convenience reasons. Instead, most campuses tend to rely on locks that operate off the same magstripe cards used for other campus transactions including dining, vending and retail purchases. The locks are opened using a standard high coercivity magnetic stripe card, with tracks one or three open for encoding. This configuration provides maximum programming flexibility, allowing security access information to be stored on tracks one or three and leaving track two for encrypted ID information.

From a security perspective, the PERSONA locks enable facility personnel to establish access control by programming the key cards. Based on the information stored on the card, each individual lock is able to discern if the card holder is authorized to access that particular room or building. In addition, the locks can be programmed with time and date restrictions that prohibit access when the facility is closed—during a holiday break, for example.

The audit trail capabilities of PERSONA locks allow security personnel to interrogate the lock if an incident occurs. The locks record: if a door was propped open (a feature offered only by PERSONA), if access was granted or denied, reason for denial, and identity of the card user. 

Aside from the security market driver, there are also convenience issues that are addressed with card reader locks and their compatibility with one-card systems. PERSONA locksets integrate with the most commonly used campus transaction software systems. This means a school or military base using our locksets is able to issue key cards using the same database that controls the campus card transaction system. This interfacing simplification, coupled with the stand-alone capabilities, helps campuses achieve cost savings when implementing a locking system. PERSONA Campus software, can also easily integrate with existing enterprise level software and housing software.

By eliminating the need to maintain separate databases, data accuracy can be dramatically improved.  Changes to data brought about by enrollment or other status changes can be easily communicated to all systems with greater speed. Campus personnel spend less time maintaining data, while students and military personnel are able to access buildings, rooms, meal plans, vending machines, POS systems and other verified systems with a single card.

The online WiFi-enabled version provides additional levels of security and convenience by permitting facility personnel to issue lock programming updates without having to visit each door.  We read with great interest about your success story at Quinnipiac University, a 32 building and 11 residence halls complex. Please tell us about the solution PERSONA provided here.

Angelo Faenza: A few years back, Quinnipiac decided to transition the campus from a locking system that relied on mechanical keys to one that operated off card keys and was compatible with their Q-Card system—a network of services that are accessible and operate from a multi-purpose ID card. In addition to opening their doors, students use the cards for meals, laundry, vending machines, copy machines, checking out books and equipment and accessing the fitness center. The cards are also an accepted form of payment by nearly 40 local merchants. Another goal was to improve security, provide accountability, and eliminate the costs associated with metal key systems.

Quinnipiac conducted a trial of the locks in a single, newly constructed residence hall. The locks performed so well and the students liked them so much that the school decided to complete a major overhaul of the entire campus residence hall locking system.

While the locks were being readied for installation, we worked with Quinnipiac and the providers of their transaction system database to ensure a seamless interface with their software. The locks are now in place in all residence halls and many other buildings on campus. Thanks to the software interface, the housing enrollment process is greatly simplified when students arrive on campus at the start of the school year.

The campus has begun installing PERSONA Wi-Fi locksets that operate off the school’s existing 802.1 1b network. This technology allows the locks to be networked into a centralized campus control system without having to run wiring to each door. The Wi-Fi capabilities give facility personnel greater flexibility in the academic buildings on campus.  It allows them to utilize card technology for access outside the traditional residence hall areas.  Can you provide other examples of end-users that have expanded their access control network to take advantage of the functionality offered by a card system?

Angelo Faenza: Card-based access control has traditionally been relegated to residential buildings. But recently we have seen a number of end-users expanding their card systems to include non residential buildings. 

In one ongoing example, we initially replaced offline card reader locksets on a residential facility. At about the same time, the end-user was laying the ground work for an initiative to expand access control to other buildings. The end-user was so pleased with the performance of our locksets that they invited us to participate in the process.

The first step was a meeting with their database personnel where we explained how our software could interface with their enrollment system and enable them to manage multiple data platforms from a single program. They realized this feature would allow them to upgrade their non-residential access control system with locks that recognize the enrollment status of individual card holders. Since this meeting, the end-user has installed PERSONA online hardwired card readers on a number of administrative building doors in addition to more than a thousand of our stand-alone offline locks on residential facility doors.

UWGB now gets more functionality out of their card access system than most other schools. They have taken their Peoplesoft system, which manages student class schedules, and interfaced it with the PERSONA software giving housing/class registration personnel the ability to change campus-wide access control privileges by re-encoding the cards rather than the locks. And they have accomplished all of this in less than 18 months. They now have an automated card system with extremely low operating costs.

The University of Pittsburgh has a similar setup that uses an automatic updater to successfully check in 7,300 students each semester. Congratulations on the recent announcement with Adirondack Solutions which is now offering a dedicated button on its software configuration panel for PERSONA-powered locksets, making it easier to integrate the card reader locking system into a campus run by Adirondack’s housing management software. Care to elaborate?

Angelo Faenza: This configuration update makes PERSONA the only locking system to be featured on the Adirondack software setup panel. The PERSONA and Adirondack software are interfaced together, eliminating the need for schools to maintain separate databases for access control and campus transaction systems. Changes to data brought about by enrollment or other status alterations can be easily communicated to all systems with greater speed.

With an integrated system, every ID card is automatically encoded with access control privileges recognized by the PERSONA lockset and all on-line systems associated with the Adirondack system. The compatible software platform provides convenience for both campus administrators and students; campus personnel spend less time maintaining data, while students are able to access buildings, rooms, meal plans, vending machines, POS systems and other verified systems with a single card.  Angelo, let’s turn to the military market for a moment. This huge space would seem to be a natural fit for PERSONA solutions as well. Do you agree?

Angelo Faenza: Absolutely. Military bases are large and diverse. They are actually small towns and feature a mix of end-user applications such as private residential housing, group housing (barracks), offices, healthcare facilities, credit unions and retail establishments. Military bases are similar in many respects to today’s college campuses. As I mentioned earlier with Quinnipiac University’s Q-Card System, many schools now utilize a one-card system that not only handles access control, but also financial transactions at off-campus retailers. So our locking system has the flexibility to adapt to the diverse needs of a military base. At the same time, the mag stripe cards are cost effective which addresses the value proposition the government seeks when making purchases.

ASSA ABLOY products are used in military bases around the world. PERSONA products are installed in a few select bases with facility infrastructures that fit the campus model for card-based access control systems. Any other projects, “wins” or case studies you’d like to mention?

Angelo Faenza: Rhode Island College recently constructed a new residence hall that is secured with an offline PERSONA stand-alone locking solution. The college was interested in using a card reader system and was swayed by our software superiority. The University of Pittsburgh I mentioned beforehand, also employs a PERSONA card access system. So too does the University of Wisconsin-Greenbay, Providence College, Johnston & Wales and Rhode Island School of Design, to name a few.  More and more customers, in both the public and private sectors, are facing an explosion of new access control technology offerings, and need more than just the hardware. They also need the consulting and services expertise to guide them throughout all phases of a project, from security evaluation through installation. What are PERSONA capabilities in this area?

Angelo Faenza:  Our project managers and software technicians are trained to understand the needs of campus end-users. When they walk onto a campus, they are well versed in the challenges faced by this group—such as software integration and enrollment status changes—and the goals they want to accomplish. When a PERSONA solution is installed on campus, the end-user can expect our software technicians to provide thorough training for both the campus personnel and our channel partners that supply the locks. We offer post-sale support directly to the user or directly via the channel partner. Every project is installed by a certified installer to ensure the system functions according to the end-user’s needs. What resources are available for end-users on

Angelo Faenza: Our revised website was launched in the first quarter of 2009 and features downloadable information on the technical features of our products. Sales brochures are also available as well as case studies, product specifications, parts lists and links to our sister ASSA ABLOY Group companies.