BOSCH’S access control system is a capable solution built around the Access Modular Controller (AMC) that combines door control and smart access control functions in a single housing. When you think about Bosch PE, you must think modular – think multiples of AMCs across single or multiple sites operating in a client server environment. When we first reviewed Access PE, each AMC in a system offered support for 8 readers and 2000 cardholders. But this latest upgrade gives Bosch’s AMC the ability to handle 10,000 cardholders and 128 readers. Originally inputs and outputs were restricted to 2 apiece but these have been massively expanded. Each AMC now supports 768 inputs and 768 outputs across 8 areas.  But there’s plenty more new functionality. The system can support multiple card and reader formats at the same time, it can support up to 5 cameras per door, which are viewable on Access PE software. And there’s integration with system including CCTV, intrusion panels and lifts. Along with these capabilities, the system is also able to manage cardholder data, right down to design cards, taking photos and printing cards on a third party printer.According to Bosch’s Paul Donnelly, the modular nature of the AMC is reflected in every part of the system’s hardware allowing for easier installation and maintenance.  “Inside the lockable AMC panel there’s a modular power supply and a modular 4-door controller,” Donnelly explains. “The AMC also has a native network port integrated into it. There’s also an RS232 port for servicing and there’s a pair of RS-485 ports.”As Donnelly explains, there are 2 different models of the Access PE solution. “We are only promoting the Weigand version this year but in 2011 we will bring out the 485 version with additional boards that are installed at the door for request to exit and door status – this configuration means you just run 2 wires to the door,” he says. While we’re looking over the system, Donnelly points out the nice features to the hardware side of the AMC module, which is a neat unit, with everything laid out simply.  “Something that’s good for the installer is that you don’t need any screwdrivers to maintain an AMC module in an Access PR installation,” he says. “The AMC is easy to maintain and service. There’s a flash eeprom and a compact flash card to store databases. Standard it comes with 128Mb but this can be expanded to 1GB – this gives you thousands and thousands of events in your log.” Each AMC incorporates a DIN rail power supply inside the enclosure and is 12/24V switchable. “There are alarms for mains fail, battery fail and DC output fail alarms,” Donnelly explains. “The system also has a resistive thermocouple sensing device to manage battery charging subject to enclosure ambient temperature. “A 12V output can handle controller and strikes for typical installations, while a controller can also handle a wet mode or a dry mode power configuration configurable to relays.” Expansion is integral to the system. “The APE server will support up to 32 AMC controllers, in which each controller is capable of 4 readers, 8 Inputs and 8 Relay outputs. The AMC may be expanded to add a further 16 Inputs and 16 outputs for each AMC. “This works out as 32 controllers x 8 inputs giving 256 inputs + 32 controllers x 16 inputs = 512 inputs giving a total of 768 inputs,” Donnelly explain. “The same for the relay outputs to give 768 outputs.“The software will suport other variations of controllers as well, including 16 x AMC 4-door controllers + 16 x AMC 4-door expander boards. The software will also support 128 Bosch IP cameras.”

“The system can support multiple card and reader formats at the same time, it can support up to 5 cameras per door, which are viewable on Access PE software. And there’s integration with system including CCTV, intrusion panels and lifts”

According to Donnelly, the key thing about the AMC is that the same hardware is managed by three different software platforms, including the Access Professional Edition software. “It’s compact, easy to use and program, it has an IP connection, it takes no time at all to set the system up and the configuration is all remote,” he says.  “There’s an LCD display available to the system integrator that shows the current status when it’s communicating with the host – it shows firmware details and allows you to look at serial number of the device, and to see and change the states of inputs and outputs. You can also do a single button re-configuration of the system from the AMC if you need to. “There are built-in diagnostics allowing installers to check the state of a door without having to pull out a multimeter. You can see the MAC address and you can give the device a name.”    Another neat feature is that if you need to change controllers you just pull the plugs out and pull the controller out and slot another one in. “Once you’ve assigned an IP address to the device it downloads everything fully from the computer and it resynchronises,” Donnelly explains. “The system is also stand alone so if you lose connection between the controller and the host the AMC operates completely offline. It contains times schedules, card holder database, door configurations on the flash so it can operate autonomously.”  The system is programmed using door templates. “With a lot of systems you have to signify inputs and outputs and associate them within your program – this means the take more time to program,” Donnelly explains. “With our system you just assign an IP address to a device and tell the system that channel 1 is this type of door. “The system automatically downloads the preset template for that type of door (single entry, entry exit, time and attendance, elevator control, etc), to that controller. This means all the behaviours of the door like request to exit, door open too long, entry exit delay is downloaded automatically and all you need to do is adjust some parameters if you want to. You don’t have to program all the inputs and outputs and associate them together.” Important for larger and more complicated systems, things like time and attendance (time, date, card number in a text file picked up by third party software), and elevator control are all built into the system. It’s also possible to customise an AMC controller to handle basic logic control for gates, timers, AND, NOR, OR gates. In further integration, Access PE is able to link to intrusion detection systems. “Installers can put a direct link between a Solution alarm panel and our access control hardware and this link offers functionality including users having permissions to arm and/or disarm the alarm system as they badge in and out of a site or area.

Access PE software

The Access PE software is powerful and easy to use. As Donnelly explains, in this new Access Professional Edition, the system has been expanded to support 10,000 cards and 128 readers, as well as 768 inputs and 768 outputs across 8 areas.  “A valuable new feature is that the user interface has been expanded to support video – Bosch DVRs and encoders driven through the Bosch SDK. What these means is that it’s possible to display live images on screen,” Donnelly says. “The strength of this is that is gives us the ability to view video associated with an alarm or access event directly from the access control workstation. This surveillance capability allows us to manage video verification for computer rooms or sensitive areas of the building,” he says. “A dialog box will pop up, the reference image will pop up and an image of the event will pop up showing a face shot. You can have up to 5 cameras per door on either side of door allowing you can see what’s happening around an access point.”

“This latest upgrade gives Bosch’s AMC the ability to handle 10,000 cardholders and 128 readers. Originally inputs and outputs were restricted to 2 apiece but these have been massively expanded. Each AMC now supports 768 inputs and 768 outputs across 8 areas”

Donnelly says the system’s online card swipe is another good feature of the software. “In a tenanted building as card swipes are carried out an image and details pop up on a reception screen – you can monitor whichever door you want using online swipe. There’s also an attendance list which gives you a list of everyone in a building at a given moment, including their phone number and can include notes relating to the person. There are also muster reports that tell you who is in the building at a given moment – supports OH&S. “Instead of graphics there’s a device list and you click through the list to view camera views. This helps the installer – we’ve found that drawing the site plans can take as long as installing the system. It can be very time consuming.” Other strong features of the system include migration allowing the import of cardholder databases. “Assisting this, each cardholder can support 3 prox tags at a time – this makes running old and new systems side by side much easier. To facilitate this we assign the rights to the person, not the card, and give the person a token. If lost or stolen the card is black-listed, not the user. “We support up to 5 different card formats at once. We support multiple card formats – a 26-bit, a 32, a 35 and a custom format all running at the same time. We can use old cards with new cards in the same system, which is very useful when you are upgrading your solution. “One thing I really like about the system is the acknowledgement form – a simple file that can be edited and handed out with a new card or a vistors’ card. The system produces a little replica of your card and the person signs this and the security department/reception desk/HR keeps the acknowledgement of card receipt.” Along with all the basics of cardholder management, there’s also the ability to do random screening for drug and alcohol testing, or for random bag searches – it’s powerful stuff for a modular system that can start off handling just a few doors. We are very competitive price-wise against the competition. Much easier to program, we have had a lot of positive feedback from installers.

System features

In terms of system features, Access PE’s feature set is designed to support installers as much as it is end users. For a start there’s that big range of pre-defined door models designed to allow the fastest and easiest possible hardware setup. From an installers’ point of view you simply select standard door, turnstile, elevator, entrance/exit reader and the system does the rest. The broader capabilities of the system are plentiful. There’s real time activation of reader and cardholder configs in access controllers, time schedules for time-based access permissions on the basis of weekdays – including holidays. There’s pincode with alarm code feature, temporary activation and deactivation of cardholders by clock or manually, antipassback, card personalization, full archive and restore of system data, and time schedules for auto activation and deactivation of system settings. You also get definable input fields for cardholder information, full card personalization, importation of cardholder images, creation of logical areas for assignation of access control points – these can include floors, rooms and areas, complete event log, and integrated filter and reporting features.Access PE 2.0 is driven via a graphical user interface (GUI) in Windows format, which is well structured and easy to learn and operate. Things like access privileges, time models and door parameters can be defined from a host workstation. Along with hard drive storage of events there’s non-volatile fail-safe functionality thanks to AMC intervention in the event of network failure, with all data saved locally if there is a system failure. Data is automatically re-balanced when the system comes back on line and AMCs are updated by software download to save maintenance time.

“Access Professional Edition is also able to manage cardholder data, right down to design cards, taking photos and printing cards on a third party printer”