Tyco Kantech New Combo Door Controller Reviewed

By Brian Rhodes, Published Feb 18, 2014, 12:00am EST

Installing enterprise access control is expensive for just one door and creates a challenge in specifying small or stand alone systems.

While new controllers are rare, Kantech has released a combo door controller to bridge the hardware gap for standalone deployments. Is this a smart move that will allow Kantech to keep customers away from the likes of Lenel, Honeywell, and Software House? We examine the controller and its impact in the note below.

Kantech Dealers Only

Access Control is typically proprietary to a single vendor and wall-to-wall one brand both hardware and software. Unlike video, where 'interoperability' standards like ONVIF assist mixing and matching components, efforts in access are much slower. Indeed, when an access dealer encounters an application that is not easily addressed by the existing product mix, they are often left trying to work with awkward solutions or worse, not being able to meet the need at all.

Kantech, a Tyco company, is no exception to these 'old' boundaries. While one of the bigger and more common brands, Kantech is proprietary and closed. Other 'large' access brands like Lenel, Honeywell, Software House, and DSX all face this same problem - design hardware to meet the need, or risk being replaced by other platforms.

SA-550 Key Features

Enter Kantech's newest single door, combo controller intended to meet the needs of customers with only one door, or a number of remote non-networked doors:

Institutional, retail, or franchise customers may only have a single door (ie: cash office) to be controlled, and rather than specifying a non-Kantech controller for that application potentially supplied by another vendor, the SA-550 permits the existing Kantech dealer to bid the job.

Key Features Include:

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  • Integrated Card Reader & Keypad: The controller includes two forms of credential readers in the controller itself. The unit supports Kantech's ioProx line of 26-bit cards and/or keypad ID codes.
  • Audit Trail: The unit stores up to 3500 transactions, downloadable via a USB dongle.
  • Client Programming: The main software for configuring the SA-550 is setup on a workstation and passed to the controller by USB dongle.
  • 1000 users: For a single door controller there are plenty of assignable users and PIN codes available.
  • Non-Networked: When it comes to programming the controller, it must be done at the unit itself, since there is no provision to network to a main server. All card or schedule changes must be input via keypad or by downloading settings by USB dongle.

Price: The SA-550 is less expensive that many 'single door' controllers, with a street price ~$250 from dealers. While this price does not include mandatory components like power supplies, electrified locks, or credential cards, the notional price for a complete installed door with all components is <$850 for many doors:

  • One SA-550 controller: $250
  • 12 VDC Power Supply: $35
  • 12 VDC Electric Strike: $250
  • Miscellaneous Wire/Cabling: $15
  • 5 Hours labor @ $60/hr: $300

Contrast this cost against other 'standalone' locks that may install more quickly, but cost ~$1000 for the lock alone, and the SA-550 may be a compelling alternative for Kantech's installed base to consider.


Existing Kantech dealers stand to benefit the most. In a market flush with new standalone access controllers, the SA 550 allows them to address the problems of a customer base who may be forced to look elsewhere.

Combo Readers: Another benefit is the integrated reader and keypad within the unit. Not only does this speed up installation time, but it reduces configuration time and wiring runs as well.


This controller is not for everyone. Here is why:

  • Kantech Only: The single biggest drawback with this unit is unless you are a Kantech Dealer or Customer, it is not available to you.  Even despite its 'standalone' operation that needs no main (proprietary) server, the unit is not for sale via normal security distribution.
  • Not Networked: The key constraint of the SA-550 is that it is not networkable to other controllers or systems. There is no provision for central management or 'lockdown' commands.
  • Limited Integration: Aside from being non-networked comes the fact the SA-550 can only be integrated with other systems via a relay output on the controller. In this case, tying access into a video system meaning connecting the contact to a camera, encoder, or NVR/DVR which will only trigger the camera to record, not display information like card ID number or credential holder picture IDs.

The Combo Risk

Indeed a tactical weakness of the device is that it is a combo controller, with reader and door controller wrapped in a single device. In high-security or perimeter applications, the risk of unsecuring (unlocking) a door comes with knocking the combo unit off the wall. Kantech addresses this risk by selling a separate door reader and relay modules so the controller can be installed safely on the secured (safe) side of the door, but the additional cost of these units (~$110) and increased install labor open the door to less expensive, more secure options.

Filling the Gap

Kantech competitors Lenel, Software House, and Honeywell all offer small system products, but they often are more costly and designed for networked operation.  For example, Lenel goEntry/ Interlogix Truportal system is poised to meet the 1 or 2 door system need, but varies between $650 - $1200 per panel, less hardware and installation.  Even the HID Edge Solo, which must be networked to program, costs ~$450 - $600 for the controller/reader combo placing it ~$200 more than the SA-550.

For existing Kantech customers, the SA-550 will not be a 'mainstay' option for widespread use, but could prove a valuable stopgap that keeps systems from creeping into multiple platforms and other products.

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