Key Card Access Control Systems

Access control is all about WHO, WHERE and WHEN. An access control system dictates who is allowed to enter or exit, where this person is allowed to ingress or egress and when they are allowed to do this.

In the past, access control was enforced through keys and locks. A person with a key can enter a locked door. And that is about as far as access control went. There was no way to restrict access on specific times or dates; so long as a person possesses the key, they were in.

Nor did mechanical locks and keys provide records on who used the keys and on  what doors. You needed a security personnel with a logbook to do this. Looking back at it now, it all seems so ancient and prehistoric. But this is how access was controlled and restricted in buildings and facilities just a few decades ago.

The age of electronic access control systems began in the 1960’s. It was an innovation that addressed problems associated with lost keys and enabled those in charge of security to add, allow, restrict or deny any person’s access to anywhere at any time. It also allowed for an audit trail that shows a report on people’s movements within premises  .Electronic access control eliminated the use of mechanical locks and keys through the use of computers.

How Does Electronic Access Control Work?

You need credentials. No, this does not mean your educational attainment or your degree. A credential can be a physical or tangible object, a piece of knowledge or a facet of a person’s physical make-up that allows access by a person to a facility or property. A credential could be a PIN (personal identification number), an access badge or a biometric feature such as a fingerprint. The most typical is an access card otherwise known as a key card.

In an electronic access system, credentials replaced mechanical keys. These are used to grant access. When access is granted, the door is unlocked for a predetermined time and the entry or exit is recorded. If access is denied, the door remains locked and similarly, a record is made of an attempted access. As an added security measure, the system will monitor the door and sound an alarm if a door is forced open or held open too long after being unlocked.

The Beginnings of Key Card Access Control

Early versions of the system used keypads with PIN codes. This was replaced by “swipe” or insert cards that had magnetic stripes. These were called “card keys” or “key cards”. To this day, these terms are still in use. Swipe cards were replaced with non-contact “proximity cards” as RFID technology replaced the early versions in the late 1970’s. This was because magnetic stripe cards can easily be copied and also can stop working if the magnetic strip is damaged.

Card Key Systems Explained

Though there are many advances to the key card access control system, the mechanics of how it works still remained essentially the same. The access key cards work with an access control card reader.  This is connected to a door controller which contains stored programming information from the access control software. This contains information on WHO is allowed WHERE and WHEN. An audit trail is created by the system and this is used to generate management reports.

Today, there are two common types of proximity cards:

  1. Clamshell – typically cheaper
  2. Printable – allow for double usage with one side being printed to be used as a photo ID

An alternative to the key card is the key fob, which has the same function but can be bundled together with other keys instead of being stored in a wallet or purse.

The Advantages of Using a Key Card Control System

1.  Each Card is Unique. Entry key cards are programmed for each individual.  This allows customized access for each person. A business can choose to grant full access or limit it during scheduled times. This has many practical applications. Just to cite examples : managers may be given full access while limiting access for regular employees to just the office hours of 7:30 am to 5:30 pm.  Or stock custodians may be granted access to storerooms but other employees may be restricted.

2.  A Card Key System is Flexible – can be used for External or Internal Access Control. External control is practiced by businesses or organizations who want to limit access to their facilities. Examples are storage facilities, manufacturing firms or college dormitories. Other uses are for parking garages.

Key cards are used for internal doors to control access to highly sensitive areas such as hospital supply rooms or IT areas where private information is stored. In some cases, they are used by schools for classrooms to prevent theft and restrict access to certain areas of the school such as the computer labs.

Hotels or apartment buildings also use internal card entry systems in elevators to restrict access to just the floor guests or tenants who are billeted or live in, and to the public areas of the building such as the lobby or the restaurant floors.

3.  A Card Key System Allows for Record Keeping.  With a key card access system, audit trails are created and businesses can keep a record of persons who entered and the exact time they entered.  This becomes especially useful if thefts or any incidents occur that can be narrowed down to a specific time period; records can be pulled up to determine who entered the building corresponding to the time period.

What information is stored by the system?

  • Date and time card was read
  • Name of card holder
  • Unique ID number or badge number
  • Name of door or reader being accessed
  • Access granted/denied condition

This information can stored up to several years.

4.  A Card Key System Can Be Used for Multiple Locations. Monitoring several properties, even overseas locations can be done from just one location or server.  Businesses can monitor security control over several buildings located over a large area.

5.  Terminating Access is Simple.  In the past when traditional lock and key system was used, in the event that an employee is terminated or a key is lost, the entire facility needed to be rekeyed to prevent any unauthorized access.

With proximity cards, the process is simplified. An authorized person just needs to access the credentials record and it is just a matter of deactivating a card. It works the same way, too, when a new hire comes onboard. The credentials record just need to be accessed to add a card.

Video Surveillance

Often, as an added security measure, companies choose to pair access control systems with video surveillance to ensure that the person entering the building is really the authorized person not just someone using someone else’s credential. Once access is initiated, video surveillance is activated in the particular door being accessed and it becomes easy to verify if the person is authorized to enter or not.

Many businesses choose key card access control systems to secure their facilities because of the convenience they afford. More importantly, they offer peace of mind because of many added security features.

Action 1st Loss Prevention offers a whole range of Key Card access control systems. Call us today for an appointment at 800-675-3015 and our experts will be happy to discuss your security needs and provide a free onsite survey and estimate.

Tags: Key Card Access System, Card Key System, Access Control System, electronic access control, commercial building security, hotel security, hospital security, commercial locksmith,