LANCASTER, N.Y.—Building access control solutions have emerged as some of the key measures for making public spaces safer during the COVID-19 pandemic. With combinations of cameras and signaling devices, these building access control solutions can detect and alert users to high temperatures, overcrowding, and more. Technology has been adapted from industrial process control applications to make these functions not only possible but highly accessible to businesses and organizations of all sizes, thus helping to protect the public as a whole.
Pandemic Increases Need
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a need for accessible, effective building access control solutions. These solutions, used for tasks such as regulating the number of people inside a public building, confirming proper face covering usage, or checking temperatures to exclude people with fevers from public spaces, all can help to comply with local public health guidelines. Solutions such as these could easily be prohibitively costly, though, or too complicated for easy implementation.
The wisdom gained in industrial settings, though, and the innovative technologies that have been built for process monitoring and other critical tasks in these settings, have been effectively used for public building access control during the pandemic. For example, camera systems for thermal sensing or status monitoring, often used for industrial process control, are now being marketed for fever screening and for counting the number of people who enter buildings.
In order to use such cameras effectively, operators must be able to interpret the data provided by the camera, or to program signals to alert to alarm conditions like fever or overcrowding. Here, also, industrial technology has proven useful; visual and audible alarms can be paired with cameras of varying types to form a comprehensive building access control system.
In such systems, used by shop owners, government workers, or other members of the public, care must be taken to ensure that the industrial technology is accessible to everyday users, without overly complicated or expensive components.
Simple Yet Effective Signaling Technology
Pfannenberg, a global leader in signaling technology, has been helping customers to put its PYRA L-S LED visual signaling device to work in such building access control systems to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus for most of the last year. The PYRA L-S can be paired with any camera with closed contact output capacity. For example, a temperature sensing camera may have software that allows it to be programmed to create an output signal voltage if the scanned temperature is higher than, say, 101ºF. Such a signal would be sent to the PYRA L-S, which could in turn be programmed to turn red, flash, or even be used in tandem with an audible signal for a critical alert.
“The simplicity of the PYRA L-S requiring only closed contact output capabilities makes it easy to use in combination with a wide variety of camera and sensing technology,” said Jake Vernon, Signaling Product Specialist at Pfannenberg. “Unlike other signaling devices, the PYRA L-S doesn’t require a high current output that a camera or PLC can’t handle.”
Set points for whatever is being controlled—temperature, volume of people, or other conditions—can be programmed in the camera’s software, while the PYRA L-S itself is easily programmed during installation for different signal types: blink, flash, multi-flash, or steady-on, all in multiple different colors.
Choosing what type of signal to display depends in large part on the criticality of the event that the signal is indicating. The signal for a high temperature on one person in an individual screening might be an indicator of steady-on red, for example, while exceeding a building’s legal capacity might require a more significant warning or alarm. Just as is the case with fire alarms in building control and other warnings and alarms in industrial settings, highly critical events can be signaled with easy-to-see, readily understandable signals.
“This is a very low current consumption, plug-and-play, easy to use device that can adapt for use in a wide range of critical conditions,” Vernon added. “Our history of working with industrial process control solutions has prepared us to pivot quickly to meet this emerging need; after all, the technology is much the same, just being put to a new use.”
Flexible Signaling Technology Delivers Extensive Benefits
Flexible visual signals, like Pfannanberg’s PYRA L-S, have been designed to replace older industrial stack tower signal designs. These older signals can be difficult to see, and don’t offer the same kind of robust functionality in allowing choices of color and signal type. The PYRA L-S is, in effect, a more streamlined and powerful version of modular stack lights, with a longer lifespan and greater capacity for adapting to each application’s specific needs. This flexibility is, in part, what makes products like the PYRA L-S ideal for pivoting from industrial process control to building access control applications. Other aspects of the device’s installation and use prove to bring important benefits in the emerging space of building access control for COVID-19 and beyond.
“The PYRA L-S can be installed easily, either mounted on surfaces or built in to buildings or devices. That fast and easy installation means that companies and organizations don’t need to wait to put new building access control technology to use,” Vernon said. “With fewer components thanks to its direct control by camera systems, and plug-and-play design, it’s more cost-effective than complicated signaling technology, and yet still has enough flexibility to convey a number of signals of varying criticality.”
Building access control technology has emerged as an important pandemic mitigation measure. Functions like temperature scanning and counting people to ensure compliance with public health guidelines have become key to businesses and organizations mitigating risk of exposure to customers and employees. The application of simple yet flexible signaling technology, designed primarily for use in industrial process control settings, has helped to complete these building access control systems by ensuring proper signaling of indications, warnings, and alarms. Visual signals, like the PYRA L-S from Pfannenberg, are easily paired with camera technologies to help make public spaces safer.