Intrusion, Access And Fire Combination Panels

I joined this site because we recently started doing more video and access control. After reading the article the other day about “Average Access Control Job Size” I started thinking about how many combination panels were out there. It seems that a few manufactures are expanding their combination panels to allow up to 16 doors on their systems. This seems to fit right in with the findings of the article.

To be clear, I don’t know a lot about access control, we have only done a few projects where access control was used; each time we used Bosch or DMP. We keep getting more requests from our existing intrusion and fire customers to add access to their systems and I am trying to decide if we should continue to recommend these combination panels or go another route for access control.

(disclaimer: we distribute what you describe as a "combination panel") -

I believe that the future (the present?) of the integrated systems market will be high-capacity integrated security systems such as the one you describe. Where the alarm, access control, fire monitoring and building automation will be fully integrated into a single harmonized ("unified") system. These systems exist today (they are quite common in many territories outside the US. The US lags far behind countries such as New zealand, Australia and Canada in unified security system offerings) and they eclipse the features of stand-alone systems (only access control or only alarm).

Some of these unified systems offer Enterprise-class access control (IP based controllers, support for massive amount of sites/doors/users (not only 16 but hundreds per controller), enterprise features (such as elevator control, LDAP support, building automation, multi-platform video integration, photo-ID, Mustering, time-and-attendance and more...) as well as large-scale traditional alarm (UL approved monitoring via Contact-ID/SIA or IP monitoring) AND also UL-approved fire reporting -- all of this on the same panel (and actual single Unified system and not a mish-mash of different hardware from different manufacturers that require a software to be online so that they can talk together).

These systems exist today and are starting to be more common on the marketplace. The US is a market where stand-alone access control (no alarm integration, no fire reporting integration) is still prevalent and where manufacturers of such stand-alone systems are the market leaders. Hopefully, that will change over time - we are working very hard to change the mentality that 3 separate systems (access, alarm, fire reporting) are necessary to give a customer proper electronic security protection.

You should definitely keep on the route of using unified platforms-- the added functionality you get from the single plaform is a powerful selling tool for end-users (arming/disarming wtih cards; preventing false alarms by refusing entry at a door because the alarm is armed an the user does not have diarm rights; automatically unlocking doors and permitting access based on alarm partition status; changing temperature/lighting conditions based on alarm area status; controlling elevator floor permissions based on floor alarm status; auto-arming alarm based on door conditions; transmitting door forced/held alarms to a central station without a separate alarm panel; supervising an evacuation panel without a separate monitoring panel/monitoring service; counting the number of users in an area and arming when the count reaches zero; etc...).

Thanks for the comment, I think we will see more of those larger panels in the future. I would be interested in what manufacture you work for. Feel free to look me up on linkedin.

Hi John,

We distribute Integrated Control Technology (or ICT), based in New Zealand. NZ (like Australia and Canada) are on cutting edge of large scale unified "access control/alarm/fire reporting" systems (as large scale in the access control department as Lenel or Software House or other enterprise-class offerings).

We don't typically see "enterprise scale" offerings like these from the American manufacturers who make unified systems (DSC, Honeywell, DMP, Bosch, etc...).The American products tend to be traditional alarm panels to which thay have added some access control functionality (typically 32 doors, all decisions made by the alarm "central panel", access modules that have no on-board intelligence or decision-making abilities, less than 200 inputs, 8 alarm areas, a few hundred (up to a thousand) cards, limited third-party integrations, basic management software). I believe that these are the products that both you and Brian are referring to.

ICT's Protégé GX is a unified access control/alarm/fire reporting system but on a much larger scale than what you describe. A single ICT main controller can do 128 doors (using intelligent or non-intelligent door expanders), over 1000 inputs, unlimited alarm areas, 5 million cards, wireless door lock integrations with Salto or Assa Abloy Aperio, 15 different VMS integrations, elevator control (high level or relays), IP and dialer reporting on-board, UL approvals, etc...).

This type of system is price-competitive on the smaller systems (due to the fact that a single panel replaces 3 different sub-systems) but has the feature set to compete on the larger projects. I mentioned ICT but there are many other similar systems coming out of NZ and Australia. Those countries never really used "access control only" systems- since the late 80's they have been selling and installing integrated systems in this region (ICT, Inner Range, Cardax, Tecom (now GE), Paradox).

I'll yield to Mark on the international scope (thanks for the feedback!), and speak for the US market specifically:

Indeed, combo panel based systems are targeted at the small system applications. They are inexpensive, easy to install, and pretty reliable.

However, the downside is that it's pretty easy to outgrow them, both in terms of potential size and desired features. If your customer wants to unlock doors with cards or on a schedule, they do great. If your customer wants to integrate video surveillance, add a few standalone wifi locks,integrate biometric readers, do 'time & attendance', and download custom reports - you might be asking too much.

Also, when it comes to physical security, there is a real impact to 'putting all your eggs in one basket'. Asking one panel/system to take care of intrusion alarms, access control, and maybe even fire is potentially leaving a big vulnerability should something break. A separate access system is often more costly, but it comes with an engineered focus to perform that task even when something breaks. Forgive the marketing terms, but 'redundancy' and 'robustness' isn't always the prime intention of combo panel access system design.

Brian good point, I agree redundancy is a major concern for me. I don't like the idea of an appliance going bad and the customer being up a creek for an hour or more for us to get out and fix it.


Everything you write is correct with regards to the smaller unified systems (32 doors, 8 areas, limited 3rd party integrations, limited software offering, etc...) but these concerns/limitations do not apply to the large unified systems. The larger systems will still have a central management controller (or site controller, if you will) and then will have a large number of adressable modules (input modules, relay modules, door modules, analog data acquisition, keypads, communication interface, etc...) that can be "intelligent" (meaning that some can still work and make decisions even if the main controller dies).

The robust larger systems will offer intelligent (or 100% offline) door modules that communicate with the central controller but will be 100% autonomous if the central control falls offline (RS-485 down; network down). This configuration even offers a big advantage: since the master controller is connected (hardware-to-hardware over IP or RS-485; no server software communication necessary for one door module to communcate with another) to the door modules and manages the communications between all the moduls, you can do some high-end functions: offline anti-passback (no software or server involvement) for 128 doors; offline interlock (no software or server involvement) for 128 doors; inputs on IP modules in one city being put into areas and armed on a panel in another city; a single panel to manage hundreds of alarm areas (think: condominiums with 250 appartments (each with an LCD alarm keypad) all being monitored over IP to a monitoring station, all connected onto a single panel).

So there really are 2 completely different segments to the unified system marketplace: the smaller all-in-one systems such as you describe and the larger unified systems that compete directly with the traditional enterprise-class access control systems but offer alarm, fire monitoring and building automation in addition to access control.

I work for a company that pretty much exclusively sells integrated panels as their main thing. They're nice, as they are cheaper, but the system is limited to 32 readers per panel, so if you go above 32 (and we have many customers who do) you start adding more control panels.

I suppose in the end it's not a huge deal, but to me it seems like a pain, especially if there is intrusion integrated, I've found we end up doing two control panels, one stricly for intrustion, and another for access so the intrusion doesn't get split between two or more panels.


Are you asking if Kantech are such a product?