We hear a lot these days about the challenges created by the increasing convergence of information technology and physical security. But that convergence also is opening up new revenue opportunities for security integrators to offer products they might never before have thought of becoming involved with.

One such opportunity is time-and-attendance systems. These systems — which are essentially a modern-day, more powerful version of a time clock — are designed to track the hours that employees work. They eliminate the need for employees to punch in, as well as eliminate manual compilation of time card information. These systems include readers that are much like those used for access control, but instead of opening a door, they feed into a system that keeps track of hours worked.

Initially time-and-attendance systems were badge-based, but increasingly, companies are turning to biometric readers as a means of eliminating “buddy punching,” where one employee uses another’s badge to log in and out for him. As much as 5 percent of a company’s payroll can be lost to buddy punching, notes Tom Tombler, marketing development manager for AuthenTec, a Melbourne, Fla.-based manufacturer of biometric sensors. “If you assume a $12 hourly rate, a company with 150 people can easily save $150,000.”

Traditionally, companies’ human resource and IT departments have been responsible for decisions about time-and-attendance systems. Often they deal directly with the hardware and software suppliers, who typically are closely involved in system installation. But increasingly, time-and-attendance manufacturers are offering dual-purpose biometric or card readers that can connect to an access control system as well as feeding the time clock system, which is causing companies’ security departments to be more involved in purchase and installation decisions. Often the task of installing door strikes and other access control equipment may be farmed out to a security integrator.

Rather than waiting to be invited to such deals, aggressive security companies ought to begin forming relationships with time-and-attendance system suppliers. They also should bring up the benefits of using dual-purpose readers and time-and-attendance systems whenever they quote on an access control job for a company that has a significant hourly work force.

Large manufacturers and health care facilities may be particularly good candidates for combined systems, notes Rob Fitzpatrick, vice president of business development for Chicago-based inFRONT, a manufacturer that specializes in such systems.

In the past, security integrators may have been reluctant to get involved with time-and-attendance because such systems often are connected to a company’s human resource system through the corporate computer network, requiring installers to have a basic knowledge of Ethernet networking. But as more and more access control and video surveillance systems also are Ethernet-based, more and more security companies now have the appropriate knowledge set.

It’s important to note that it’s not possible to use just any card or biometric reader for time-and-attendance. Although the readers typically come from the same manufacturers that supply the access control industry, most time-and-attendance manufacturers have partnered with only one or two reader suppliers. Some time-and-attendance manufacturers also have introduced their own access control offerings.

Side bar: Online Resources

Many of the major manufacturers of biometric and card readers have partnered with time-and-attendance manufacturers to develop dual-purpose readers that also work with access control. For more information, these online links are a good place to start: