Almost everyone has had the experience of walking up to a commercial entryway or doorway, “ringing the doorbell,” and then having the door “unlock” for you to come in. This is what’s called a keyless door system, or “electronic access” system (as they are known in the business).
From the inside, what’s happened is this: a receptionist or someone else inside the building sees who you are, using a camera, and then presses a button to unlock the door. You, as a visitor, hear a buzzing sound which means the door is now unlocked. This type of entry system can be valuable to business owners who need to be sure they are aware of every person entering their establishment. And now there are great choices when it comes to getting the right system for your business.
Keypads are the simplest and least expensive form of access control readers because they provide an easy method for getting in: you enter your code and the door unlocks.
However, there are two drawbacks to this system:
- Codes can be easily shared
- Codes can also be stolen
Because of these drawbacks, they’re not the best solution when a business needs a high level of security. However, if the keypad technology is paired with another system, creating “two-factor authentication,” it can be a very secure and effective system. We’ll go into the second type of system, biometric authentication, further below.
Please note there’s also a more sophisticated keypad, known as a ScramblePad which greatly reduces the threat of stolen codes (from someone watching you, for example). The ScramblePad arranges the numbers on the keypad in a random pattern each time it is used; this makes it much harder for someone to learn your code by watching your hand, since you will use a different physical motion each time you enter a code. Also, since the numbers do not stay in a fixed location, an intruder can’t guess your code by looking at the pattern of wear on the keypad keys. And the ScramblePad is designed so the numbers can’t be seen at an angle, so no one can look over your shoulder, or from the side, and see the code you use.
Access control credentials can come in a variety of formats, often using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. These RFID credentials may be carried in the form of cards or fobs and they can be powerful enough to be used without having to remove them from your pocket.
Biometric readers scan a part of your body and create a digital template. Each person’s template is then stored in the access control system’s database. When your information is in the database, each time you come to a locked door (external or internal), the system scans your biometric area (fingerprint, for example) and compares the new scan to the one in the database. If the two match, you’re in.
Fingerprint readers are now standard equipment on many laptop computers. Hand geometry readers create a template from the size and shape of your hand. Finger vein readers are similar to fingerprint readers, except that they look below the surface of your finger to scan your vein pattern.
How to decide what’s best for you
The best way to decide which system is best for your security needs is to answer three basic questions:
- Does a lost or stolen key represent an immediate security threat to my facility?
- Should different employees have different access capabilities based on time and day?
- Do I need an audit trail, (such as a time and date stamped record) of every opening or attempted opening of a door at my facility?
If the answer is “yes” to any of these three questions, you should consider investing in an electronic access system.
Reference: William Deutsch, Introduction to Electronic Access Control, April 08, 2019