Hidden Readers

I am designing an access control system, and the interior architect has a requirement that I have not come across before: for aesthetical reasons the architect wants readers (contactless, iClass) which are "hidden" in the wall next to the door. The readers shall be ducked in the wall and be flush-covered with some aesthetical appealing material which does not disturb or obstruct the signal between card and reader. Does anyone have experience with such solution? What are the caveats, and what materials qualify for covering the reader?

I worry it would be confusing for the card users that don't work at the facility everyday and long term durability.

I have seen this done successfully. It was with prox, not iClass, though, so the read ranges were longer. In one instance, the reader was covered with stucco, and in another it was installed behind marble or granite. In the second case, a key symbol was sandblasted into the stone to indicate where to present cards.

Use the biggest reader possible, test with the desired materials beforehand, and have a plan for future service. Most non-metallic materials should work, such as wood paneling or drywall, but I think the biggest issue is likely to be read range. Even a piece of drywall is going to introduce a separation distance close to the limit of iClass's read range with a standard reader. To Brandon's point, some indication of where to present cards is necessary not just to avoid confusion, but also to get the cards as close as possible to the target to ensure a successful read. I would guess iClass fobs are not likely to work in this scenario - stick with cards.

I have had projects in the past where architects requested that we conceal the proximity card readers in the walls. Here are a few suggestions:

- As others have mentioned, you definitely need to have some type of indicator on the wall so that users know where to present their card. Watching users trying to locate a reader without some type of indicator is a pathetic sight. I have seen stickers with the company's logo successfully used as indicators, I have also seen the use of just a colored dot.

- You can expect the wall surface surrounding the reader location to get grimy and scuffed up fairly quickly. Many people keep their cards or fobs on their key ring and the keys will scratch the wall when the card is presented. So will rings and other jewelry worn by the user.

- You need to have some method of servicing the card reader. In some cases, we were able to install an access panel in the wall just behind the card reader. In cases where this was not possible, we installed an access panel above the ceiling, allowing us to raise and lower the card reader up and down within the wall cavity to the correct height on the wall. If the wall that the card reader is installed on is fire-rated, providing service access can be tricky, as any access method used must maintain the fire-integrity of the wall.

For these reasons, I try to discourage the concealment of readers whenever possible.

Many years ago, I had a project where the architect insisted that the card readers be concealed. He wanted absolutely nothing showing on the walls. A few months after the building became operational, users continued to have difficulty locating the readers, and the wall surfaces were showing severe signs of wear in the vicinity of the reader. The owner's solution was to glue a 12" x 12" piece of black Plexiglas on the wall to identify the location of the card reader and to protect the wall. In my opinion, the end result looked worse than any surface mounted card reader would have looked.