Access Control – An Overview

Access Control means exactly that – controlling access of workforce and visitors alike throughout your building. This page gives you an overview of the various forms of access control and our system designers can advise what is right for you.

What is access control?

Although it can be as simple as a physical door lock, the term access control more commonly refers to electronic security systems which control multiple doors or entry points throughout a building.

Its purpose is to allow authorised users access whilst restricting access to others, and protecting against unwanted visitors.

In simple terms, access control systems control entry (or exit) through nominated doors via a control panel and some form of electric locking facility.  These systems can be simple or complex, but the solution should always provide authorised persons easy passage around the building.

Access control systems can also act a valuable management tool by incorporate additional features such as time and attendance functions, integration with payroll systems, car park management and even vending machines.

Points to consider, when planning an access control system:

  • How many and where are the entry/exit points
  • The desired level of security
  • The movement of staff around the building
  • A method of operation
  • Future growth of the building
  • The turnover of employees
  • Access for the disabled
  • Interface with other systems – eg fire alarm, intruder alarm, CCTV

Door entry technology access control

There are various ways for a permitted user to operate an access control system, as follows:

PIN code entry

A basic mechanical or electronic keypad system requires the user to key in a PIN to activate the lock release mechanism via a control unit inside the entrance.

Magstripe readers

The user has an encoded keycard a bit like a credit card, sometimes worn on a chain around the neck; each entry point will have an associated card reader and by swiping the card, the user gains entry.

Proximity readers

The user carries a card or a tag but instead swiping it, they simply present the card or tag up to a reader, which typically will read the card from a distance of about 100mm; this non-contact makes for a faster method of entry.

Smartcard readers

Smartcards are access cards or tags which also carries additional information which can be used for accessing other building services, such as vending machines.

Long-range readers

Using active cards, long range proximity readers can automatically unlock or open a door when the reader detects the card – particularly beneficial in respect of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) as no action is required by the card bearer.

Biometric readers

Biometric readers significantly increase the level of security by using unique human characteristics – finger prints or the retina.  Unlike cards or tags, these cannot be lost or stolen.

What about visitors?

In a building with access control, there are three common ways for visitors to announce their presence:

  • A simple door bell system will alert your staff to the fact that someone is waiting outside
  • An audio intercom panel will allow a two way conversation between the visitor and a member of your staff and, if appropriate, the door can be remotely released
  • A video audio intercom panel will allow your staff to see who is there, as well as speaking to them, before remotely opening the door

Visitors can then be issued with a card or PIN number which will allow them access to permitted areas.

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