Single Switch Promises Lower-Cost RFID Access Control

By Claire Swedberg

FEIG Electronics is selling a Wiegand switch with its RFID readers to enable companies and communities to deploy a single reader for two gates or lanes, thereby reducing the cost of RFID deployment.

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As vehicle access-control systems utilizing UHF RFID are gaining traction among gated communities, parking lots and other controlled areas, the cost has still been challenging. Readers deployed at each gate, entrance and exit can add up, since many readers for that purpose cost upwards of $1,000 or more apiece. FEIG Electronics has developed one way to reduce that cost and thereby lower the cost threshold for installations: a Wiegand switch that enables a single reader to cover two access-control gates.

The new product is aimed at a growing market, says Mike Hrabina, Feig Electronics’ executive VP—namely, intelligent and networked access control. The technologically simple switch is intended to provide companies with an affordable RFID-based solution, he explains, without the high cost of infrastructure based on an RFID reader for each access point or gate.

Traditional access-control systems consist of independent hardware installed at a facility to provide entrance and exit coverage, but without capturing or storing data or sharing that information online. Increasingly, though, technology has been enabling companies to change that model so that they can manage or view what is happening on their premises via access control, even when no personnel is present.

According to the Security Industry Association (SIA) and London market-research firm IHS Markit, the access-control market for cloud-based systems is seeing strong growth. In fact, they report, global sales of cloud-based access-control technologies is expected to exceed $530 million this year and reach $1.8 billion by 2025. Currently, the firms found, 5 to 12 percent of new access-control jobs tend to be Web-based or hosted.

While RFID installations in most applications can employ a single reader with multiple antennas for multiple gates, access control has unique requirements. A reader must interface with the access-control panel to identify and authorize each unique tag ID, and then prompt the gate to open—which means one reader for every gate. That can prove expensive for many of Feig’s customers, Hrabina notes, who are often mid- or small-sized communities or businesses.

The Wiegand switch in the Feig solution offers a low-cost alternative, Hrabina says. Access-control panels typically come with a Wiegand interface (a de facto wiring standard), as do RFID readers—but only one. So Feig developed a solution in the form of a small device with two outputs, enabling a pair of access-control panels to be plugged into the switch, which then forwards the connection to the single reader.

The system can be deployed with a single reader and be connected to antennas across two lanes for the control of two gates at parking areas or gated communities. The switch itself, Hrabina says, costs around one-tenth as much as purchasing a second reader. It can be installed with the reader inside an access-control panel.

Feig Electronics Mike Hrabina

When a vehicle approaches a gate, the antenna captures its tag’s unique ID number, and the switch routes the signal from any of the antennas to the reader. The system then simply detects whether the transmission is received from the first antenna or the second.

The switch comes in a housing measuring approximately 4 inches by 3.5 inches by 8 inches. The switch enables companies to upgrade their existing RFID system to cover two lanes or gates, or to install an RFID system for the first time with their existing access-control system. It employs a DIN rail mount to simply slide into place for mounting. Typically, Hrabina says, costs for RFID readers to cover two gates range from $3,500 to $5,000. That cost would be cut nearly in half with the use of the Wiegand switch.

Feig is selling the switches this month in conjunction with the Intertraffic Amsterdam conference. “We’ve been making a commitment to make it more affordable to deploy RFID,” Hrabina says. Feig’s readers are provided for access control in low, high and ultrahigh frequencies.