We recently sat down with Rick Ashmus of Abba Logic to discuss how their recent advancements with the MAC-4Rx MASC Access Controller are revolutionizing the Security and Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) marketplace.
How did Abba Logic get started with PLCs?
Abba Logic started supplying products to security integrators in 1999 by introducing an Echelon based Access Controller into the market. We decided to build quality products that would provide reliable, long-lasting service without requiring a large service commitment. To date, we have hundreds of systems all over the world operating 24 hours a day without any problems. In fact, one police station deployed an early version of this solution in 1999 that’s still in operation. Over the years they have continued to expand their system by adding new buildings, software updates, cameras, and IP connections to their City Hall and the Department of Public Works as needed. Our goal is to provide the marketplace with standard off the shelf controllers that can be used in a variety of software front-ends and applications, across any of the leading Access Control software available.
Where is this technology used today?
Our customers include Correctional Facilities, Police Stations, Courthouses, Airports, County Jails, Military, Schools, Healthcare, and Government to DoD Contractors. Really, anywhere that security is central to operations. We’re also seeing a trend these days where the IT Directors of these facilities are becoming more involved in these upgrades and project implementations.
How do your products help accentuate safety, security, and convenience?
We're the only company in the market that has combined Access Control and PLC control into one unified control panel. So, why do this?It's like having open-ended firmware. Let's say you need something special to happen upon someone coming into work. The first read of the day when the system detects that person entering the building could be to turn on the lights, start the HVAC control system, and disarm all the motion sensors.
It can also be connected to the intercom system so that in an emergency situation, a public announcement can be made while doors are being locked and lights are being turned on. Another example of increased safety is that the solution allowed one customer to create a database link to the jail management system and allow operators to flag inmates as high-security threats, so when a new security guard comes onto their shift, they can see a red box around the cell where an issue occurred during the last shift. This increases reliability and safety because it eliminates human error by not requiring information to be exchanged during a shift change.
We hear that you’re working on IP connectivity solutions. What prompted you to seek alternatives to Power over Ethernet (PoE)?
Unfortunately, most commercially-available locks draw too much power to be supported over PoE cabling infrastructure. Many of the locks are 24v or have a power requirement over 13 watts. So a PoE switch cannot provide power to both a control panel and lock over the same line. Right now, the current offering for PoE solutions for Access Control applications is limited to one lock per wire run at 12vdc power. Because of the power draw, the only kind of lock supported is low-power door strikes.
We believe we can supply a better and more versatile solution by combining IP connectivity with the Echelon communications. We can provide all the functionality the IT directors are asking for and add needed features like peer-to-peer (P2P) communications between controllers, support of 24v locks, and support of multi-drop lines. The industry has been looking for a solution, but the problem is over 90% of all the locks are 24v and the switch doesn’t have enough power to support the lock.
So for example, with one customer, the P2P communications eliminated the need to run cable to the roof where the controls are located so Access readers mounted on a floor by floor basis were tripping relays on the roof. IP also enables WAN capability which provides a tremendous value to a water utility customer that has buildings across the state.
How did Echelon help you change the PLC landscape with your latest Access Controller?
By using Echelon’s 6050 processors and IzoT hardware to create a subnet off the customer’s network we dropped the number of processors needed from 4 down to 2. This increased the speed of operations and we saw a 50% reduction in the overall cost of the product.
This was huge. The controller is smaller, faster, and easier to manufacture. This means that we can give the customer all the advantages of PoE Access Control while still using a single Cat-6e cable and combining that with a separate pair for power. Running the cable this way allows you to extend the line and put multiple controllers on that line. For instance, the MAC-4Rx MASC Access Controller was originally started with a goal of creating a 2-door controller, but we ended up with a 4-door controller.
IT Directors can now have IP connectivity between buildings and areas of control, accessing their central computer from virtually anywhere and distributing user roles and access. As the systems grow larger, Efficiency is also a huge benefit. There might be as many as 10,000 points to monitor. The Echelon solution broadcasts out all changes immediately and tells you if there is a change at one point so you don’t have to continuously monitor each one.
That all sounds amazing. What room is there for further advancements using this technology?
With the new processor, we plan on creating a single door controller that can be located at the door to eliminate all the home run wiring. Today, most IT directors are now looking for as many systems as possible to be supported on Ethernet. By combining Echelon’s flexible 6050 processors, we can harness IP connectivity in a single product to deliver a superior experience.