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Access Control

Physical security access control

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Access Control Methods, Technology, Components 

A discussion of what access control is, common access control technology, the methods employed and the components used.

  1. We can look at a ladder for a pictorial depiction of access control, the first, or lowest rung, being what the user has, a key an access card or fob etc. The problem with what the user has, is that it can be given to someone else.
  2. The next rung up the ladder would be what the user knows, a code or pin number, or has and knows, has is still the same, knows would be that they know a code or pin number. The problem with the has part is still that it could be given to another person, the problem with the knows part is that it can be told to another person.
  3. Further up the ladder we get to what the user is, a fingerprint, a hand profile, a face profile, an eye iris, etc. a physical part of the user that cannot be given to someone else and/or has or and/or knows, the risks of the has or knows are still the same.

There are many levels of access control, ranging from an open door to very elaborate bio-metric control devices.

Mechanical key-operated lock hardware is the most common access control, if you have a key you can gain access, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There is no capability for an audit trail, you cannot track who accessed an opening or when. This would be an example of “dumb” access control. If the key is lost or duplicated you no longer have access control.

From there you could go to a full time guard, this would also be access control, you could have all of the benefits of an electronic access control system.

  • Accountability
  • Audit trails Convenience – no need to rekey
  •  Security – no one enters without permission
  • Control of time and people who can access – who can enter and when, commonly called time zone capability.
  • Time and Attendance – no need for the old time clock.
    • This solution would be very expensive.

Mechanical Push Button locks are used extensively for access control, the limitation is that all users would have the same entry code.

The next step might be a stand alone battery powered lock, these locks have and are still evolving at a very rapid pace, they have many useful features, and are becomingvery popular.

  • No hardwiring
  • Range from single to multiple user, some allow groups and management levels.
  • Some can “learn” existing controls. 
  • Units that keep audit trails are available.

The range of fully integrated access control systems is so broad, that we really can’t discuss them all, in any detail. Listed below are some of the features these systems offer.

  • Can integrate with alarm systems, fire alarm systems and CCTV systems.
  • Can be remotely controlled – i.e. via modem and computer.
  • If a card or credential is lost – no need to “rekey”, you just delete the lost credential and issue a new one.

The type of system that will be right for your needs will depend on many factors, including;

  • Fire and Building codes
  • Inspection by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).
  • Can wires be run.
  • Does your system need to integrate with your alarm or fire system.
  • How many openings, or buildings are involved
  • How many users.
  • Types of controls
  • What type of egress control can be used
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