Examining Next Level Security Systems' Access Control

Published Nov 11, 2011 00:00 AM
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Relative newcomer Next Level Security Systems has built their business model on claims of simple, integrated security appliances. The unification of access control and video surveillance has been the goal of many in the industry. Next Level's appliances are a step towards this goal, but are they a fit for everyone? In this update, we will take a look at their approach, capabilities, and applications it may best fit.

Product Overview

Next Level's offering is based on their NLSS Gateway, a small form factor appliance which manages all functions of the system, including surveillance and analytics, as well as access control. For more details on the gateway, users may refer to our overview of their product offering.

Access control is provided as a no-cost addition to the gateway. No up-front or recurring licensing is required, though the two models of Gateway (Micro and 3000) are capable of handling differing amounts of doors. The number of doors supported also differs based on what type of controller is being used. Higher door counts can be reached with Mercury devices, as opposed to HID or Assa Abloy. Exact quantities can be found on the Gateway spec sheet [link no longer available].


The monitoring and management interface of the NLSS gateway is 100% web-based, accessible from any browser. This interface provides standard functions, such as event monitoring, reporting, door control, and floor plans. Cameras may be associated with doors, and video linked with events, so it may be more easily found, as opposed to manually searching for event video. 

NLSS is currently integrated to controllers from three manufacturers:

  • Mercury: NLSS supports Mercury's EP1501 and EP1502 controllers, and the full range of MR series door interface and I/O boards. Users in need of a higher door density would likely go this route, as the EP1502 supports up to 64 readers per controller.
  • HID Edge: The HID Edge line is normally used when a few doors are needed and PoE switches are in place. It allows systems to be scalable to a single door, instead of requiring purchase of multi-door panels, and simplifies cabling by only requiring UTP to be run to the door, instead of a number of multipair cables.
  • Assa Abloy PoE and Wi-Fi locksets: Assa Abloy's locksets' main benefit lies in ntegrating all functions in the lockset, which reduces device installation time. The Wi-Fi versions especially have become increasingly popular since they require no cabling, and are thus less expensive to install. They're most commonly used in facilities with lighter requirements, looking for little more than a key replacement.

Users should see our previous reports on wireless access control [link no longer available] and IP readers [link no longer available] for further information on these approaches. Between these three manufacturers, NLSS supports a range of controllers that could be used for many different applications.


The most likely users of NLSS' access control are those seeking an all-in-one platform, but with low to mid-range door and camera counts. For a small office or multiple small sites, the NLSS Gateway Micro's $2,995 MSRP is reasonable, compared to purchasing a server to run a VMS, associated licensing, and then an access control system which may or may not integrate to it. Lower-cost access control platforms, usually in the $1,000 range, typically do not offer video integration functions, either.

This is not to say that larger entities could not use the NLSS Gateway, as it's capable of running up to 256 doors using Mercury hardware. The vast majority of access control systems are well below this door count. Users at these levels are often suspicious of new entrants, however. Since reliability is a critical concern in access, larger entities have traditionally stuck to the larger incumbent vendors. These companies, while not often innovative, are time-tested. Because of this, penetrating the higher end of the market may prove difficult for NLSS.

The economics of using the NLSS gateway for access control, without integrated video, vary depending on what number of doors users are seeking. The software for small systems is often run on workstation hardware, at the sub-$1,000 level. Adding $1,000 for access management software, users would be $1,000 below NLSS' starting MSRP ($2,995). However, for users choosing server hardware instead, the final costs are much closer to, or on par with NLSS, as a rack server typically runs between $1,000-1,500 or more. Given this pricing parity, and the breadth of hardware that NLSS supports (not typical for entry-level access platforms, which are normally proprietary), NLSS is a reasonable option.