SIEMENS SiPass is a Windows-based Client server system with a modular architecture that allows access control and alarm management across a range of applications. This system displays event information in a split pane Active Audit Trail window. Central to the flexibility offered by the hard are optional available software modules which include Photo ID, Image Verification or Guard Tour.  
If you think you’ve never heard of the Siemens SiPass access control system before, you’re wrong. SiPass’ ancestry stretches back to Aussie tech house ASCO, founded by Roger Whyborn and Phil Knowland in the digital pre-history of 1984. 
While the digital revolution is a term much bandied about in relation to video surveillance, ASCO was carrying access control onto networks nearly 15 years before video surveillance made the hop in the late ‘90s. As a result, the ASCO product went through all the permutations you’d expect of a solution with such deep ancestry, including the challenges of developing a version to successfully run on that titanic beast, Windows NT. 

“We’ve since appointed 5 partners, including Silox, Secom, T & A Group, Border Security and ARA, to sell, manage, support and maintain these systems” 

Released in 1993, Windows NT was a language-based, multiprocessor and multiuser, 32-bit operating system that supported OS/2 LAN manager along with a STREAMS TCP/IP stack for networking. If it sounds clunky now, rest assured that developing this sort of solution was a seriously big deal for any electronic security company in the early-mid ‘90s, let alone a modest Aussie outfit. 
It goes without saying that ASCO was well and truly at the cutting edge of networked access control solutions when it was acquired by Landis and Gyr in 1995 and when Landis and Gyr was acquired by Siemens BT in 1997, the ASCO product went along with it. By then ASCO access control solutions were installed across Australia’s major cities and the company counted Caltex and Ansett Airlines among its stellar clientele. 
If you’re tempted to rue the loss of another clever Aussie business to offshore ownership and control after reading this there’s good news. All the expertise for the current and ongoing development of SiPass remains in Sydney at Siemens’ North Ryde office where 40 software engineers support the product for the worldwide market. As for local distribution and support – that’s back in local hands, too. 
While I’d seen a couple of versions of the product back in the old ASCO days, getting a walk-round of the latest version of SiPass at this year’s Security 2011 Exhibition was a revelation. Now distributed by Alarmcorp and selected partners, this powerful solution is going to make some waves in the access control market in 2012. 
A key element to the momentum building around the product is Siemens’ decision to put the product in the hands of Alarmcorp, which has handled a wide range of the Siemens’ product since that company withdrew from direct distribution in the local market a couple of years ago. According to Alarmcorp’s chief technical officer, Jeff Rushton, up until last December, Siemens was the exclusive agent for SiPass. 
“Siemens was the company who could buy SiPass, the only people who could install it, maintain it. That limited the market because consultants knew of end users’ need for more openness in this area, most companies prefer a choice of supplier when it comes to maintenance and support.” he says.  
“But this year Siemens decided to open distribution up and seeing that Alarmcorp has exclusivity on all the other Siemens products SiPass was a natural fit,” Rushton explains. “We’ve since appointed 5 partners, including Silox, Secom, T & A Group, Border Security and ARA, to sell, manage, support and maintain these systems. 
“We’ve had access to SiPass for less than 12 months and have quoted systems totalling tens of thousands of doors, with many of these systems being holes in the ground, not at completion stage but we are now starting to see the jobs come in. The momentum is definitely starting to build.”

Features and Functionality

The core of SiPass is the AC5100 advanced central controller, which can be programmed with up to 500,000 cardholders and up to 96 doors. It’s designed for flexibility and that means you get 6 separate field level network (FLN) channels. Each FLN is capable of hosting up to 16 local devices for access control monitoring input devices or controlling output devices. With a range of input and output modules and supporting software solutions and extensions, there’s plenty of room to move. 
The ACC5100 also has a diagnostic port that provides a direct connection to its microprocessor to facilitate the download of operating instructions (firmware). Firmware updates can be made without having to visit the controller cabinets. Communication to the host system occurs via a 10/100Mb Ethernet connection. This allows communications over any WAN or LAN where devices on the network can be assigned a unique IP address. There’s also multimedia alarm reporting. 
For installers programming up SiPass is a simple process. Software installation takes just 7 clicks and all the access control components are automatically detected and immediately made ready for operation, including the dual reader controllers and the card readers.
SiPass networked can be expanded to a maximum of 8 door control units, which means that up to 16 doors can be monitored and controlled in two-door mode. If all controllers operate in one-door mode (with entry and exit readers), a maximum of 8 doors can be monitored and controlled.
While the ACC5100 is the beating heart of the system, SiPass is completely modular and can be expanded in layers depending on what sort of application you’re working on.
“The ACC5100 controller gives fully distributed intelligence with inbuilt capacity of half a million cardholders and 96 doors,” explains Rushton. 
“But if you have needs greater than this you simply increase the number of ACCs and expanders and upgrade the software accordingly. 
“These ACCs can be located anywhere on a network and each ACC has 6 buses that can each handle up to 16 devices depending on the device connected. There’s a single door reader, a dual reader, an 8-door reader, input/output boards, lift relay boards, keypads, area control and then hanging off the door readers you install your choice of card readers.” 
Rushton says that as well as providing distributed intelligence, each ACC will talk to all the others and activate inputs or outputs, or exchange cardholder information. The software handles programming or cardholders, monitoring and response to alarm events. The software is installed on a server.
“In terms of the hardware there are around a dozen components and in terms of software there are 20 options, depending on what you want to do. There are also high level interfaces – these connect to say, an HR system,” Rushton explains. 
“Other management systems that can be integrated include building management, lighting control, OPC server, HLIs for a third party management console that allows customers to retain their legacy management solution incorporating all the legacy alarms, cardholder information, outputs gets sent to the legacy front end.” 
According to Rushton, SiPass is a very high end system whose competition is limited to the likes of Cardax and Pacom Data.
“SiPass is at that same level – major infrastructure applications,” he says. “The specifications are virtually unlimited and if you do reach the limits there’s a platform that sits above this that is unlimited in every way – number of cardholders, doors, number of inputs, outputs, workstations – SiPass Enterprise. It’s capable of managing national or global access control solutions.”  
There are also plenty of new developments in the pipeline. 
“In November a high level integration engine will be released that is integrated into the controller and there’s a new ACC that will quadruple the current capacities yet is physically about half the size – the next upgrade is support for biometrics – there’s continual development.” 

“The ACC5100 controller gives fully distributed intelligence with inbuilt capacity of half a million cardholders and 96 doors. For systems larger than this you simply increase the number of ACCs and expanders and upgrade the software accordingly”