You interact with access control systems every day, like when you:
- swipe a keycard to enter your office
- unlock your car with a remote
- adjust your home security network
The technology seems easy enough. You swipe your ID card, click the remote, or tap your phone for a seamless experience. Behind-the-scenes, however, lies an intricate web of technology activated by that swipe, click or tap. Let’s explore how all of this works.
The End-User Experience
To activate an access control system, you use a device with programmed user credentials. The “card” could be an actual key card, fob, smartphone, employee badge, or other devices that stores login qualifications.
To enter a secure area, you must input credentials into a card reader or control panel. Most often, the reader will accept a keypad entry, biometric data, or a proximity reader using contactless card technology. All readers grant entry by matching credentials with a pre-established list. Once the system approves the credentials, the door unlocks.
- Keypads accept a PIN or password.
- Biometrics use personalized data such as a fingerprint, retina scan, or voice recognition. The use of biometrics offers a high level of security because the system verifies an individual, not a code.
- Proximity readers are the future of access control. The technology allows the control panel to “read” the code when you come within a few inches of the reader, providing a secure yet seamless experience. A proximity reader does not require you to physically enter credentials. No PINs or card swipes, just place the key-card within two to six inches of the reader and the system approves or denies entry.
Administration or Management Experience
Managers or administrators have the authorization to make changes to the control panel or reader, giving them the tools needed to increase security, conduct audits, and identify areas vulnerable to a security breach.
Access control readers come in three types: Basic, semi-intelligent, and intelligent readers.
- Basic readers store data inside the unit. Adjustments to passwords or log in credentials occur at the reader. These devices have a limited ability to store data and, in most cases, do not offer data retrieval.
- Semi-intelligent readers work in conjunction with a central control unit and can operate multiple locks on the same system. Managers can access the control unit remotely or at the reader to change credentials or retrieve stored data.
- Intelligent readers also work in conjunction with a central control panel but have more capabilities. These readers, for example, can integrate into an existing security network. In some cases, they are also compatible with other company software. Administrators with access to cloud-based portals can connect to the control panel or dashboard remotely to add or delete credentials, change passwords or PINs, and establish parameters for entry.
The best technologies can differentiate credentials down to the door or drawer. Administrators can establish which individuals can access which secure areas under what circumstances. One set of credentials may allow access to a particular floor of a building, whereas another might only grant entry to specific rooms, file cabinets, or drawers. For example, a doctor’s office might grant office staff with access to file cabinets containing patient files, but not access to cabinets storing pharmaceuticals.
The ability to track access down to a specific drawer in a file cabinet gives management better control over which staff members have access to certain materials or information.
To create a system of checks and balances, multiple people can have administrative authority, which might include IT, security departments, or HR staff.
In addition to establishing employee access parameters, advanced access control systems can also track login activity, run reports, and automate security protocols.
Systems with web-based capabilities can often integrate with existing systems. The ability to add new access controls through integration rather than creating a customized system can save companies time and money.
Integration can occur in different ways. Access control systems can improve security by working in conjunction with video cameras or alarms to enhance notifications in the event of a breach. These systems might also be compatible with human resources software, allowing the HR department to add or delete credentials during the onboarding and termination process.
While some access control measures require manual inputs, many processes can be automated, saving company resources and ensuring consistency throughout the firm.
The Infrastructure of an Access Control System
While each system may operate a little differently, interaction with an access control system involves six steps in the user verification process:
- The user presents credentials to the reader.
- The control panel or access control unit receives the credentials from the reader.
- The access control unit processes the information, comparing the information with a master list.
- The entrance remains secure when credentials do not match the approved list.
- When the credentials match, a signal goes to the lock relay to unlock the door or drawer.
- The system logs both acceptances and rejections into a database.
Every access control system includes a locking mechanism, a reader or access control panel, a server, and cables that connect the server with the control panel.
- The locking device could be a deadbolt or e-lock used to secure the door or drawer and restrict access.
- The reader or control panel contains the means to store data and, in some cases, connect the system to the server, increasing the system functionality and storage capacity.
- The server stores credentials in a database, which communicates with the reader. Servers often use cloud-based storage for greater flexibility. Intelligent readers allow real-time adjustments to credentials from a remote location and store information on the server.
Access control technology adds a range of capabilities to locking systems, enabling both companies and homeowners to integrate access control with current security measures. It also offers flexibility to quickly add, subtract, or change user credentials. In many cases, administrators can operate the device from a remote location through a secure internet connection.
Access control can streamline security while adapting to the demands of consumers and businesses. Whether you need an on-site or remote application, there is an access control solution for your needs.
Senseon is here to meet your access control needs. Whether in the home or at the office, Senseon secures valuables using access control technology for a seamless experience. Contact us to learn more about our award-winning systems.