Access Control Cards, Key Fobs and Mobile Credentials

23 December 2022

Access Control Card and Key Fobs Security

For users of access-controlled doors there are two very visible elements. A card reader or card reader/keypad, typically wall mounted, and the product they are provided with to present for access. This is generally an access control card or key fob which carries a unique credential or token, assigned to the holder. A suitable mobile phone application can also ‘carry’ a credential for presentation to a compatible reader.

For someone to enter through an access-controlled doorway, they will need to present their card or key fob for credential verification against the holder’s entry in an access control system. If the credential is verified, and the user has permission to enter through the doorway, either an electronic strike is released or the door unlocks. If access is denied, the door remains locked. For either event, a record is made in the access control system database. The same process applies to mobile phone or biometric credentials.

RFID Cards and Key Fobs

Access control cards and key fobs use RFID technology. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and refers to a wireless system using tags and readers. When an RFID enabled access control card or key fob, is placed near to an RFID enabled reader, the card or fob is energised and the tag and can be read, by the reader.

Access Control Cards

An access control card looks similar to an ID card and may be pre-printed with information including a photo of the verified card holder, the person’s name and job title, company name and card number. Access control cards are generally a little thicker than a simple ID card. If you were able to take one apart, you would find a microchip/electronic circuit and a wire aerial inside.

Access Control Key Fobs

Key fobs used for access provide a similar function to access control cards and package the same types of microchips, electronics and aerial. Access control key fobs are general smaller, about the size of a £1 coin. The fobs may also be referred to as discs or tags.

Access Control Cards v Key Fobs

Access control cards tend to be more popular than key fobs and for several reasons. An access control card can be used to identify individuals more readily as it can have their photo ID and details printed onto the outer surface. This provides an easy to identify people in secure areas, especially when they can be multiple new people on any given day. Company training courses or subcontractors on site being good examples.

Access cards can be carried in a pocket or placed in a lanyard holder; preferably with a quick release mechanism for health & safety, or a clear view plastic pocket that can be attached to an outer garment with a clip. The preference for most SMEs and larger organisations is to use access control cards.

Another key point to consider for an access card system is that you will need an ID card printer and printer supplies. The printer itself should be considered as part of the initial investment in the system, with printer ink supplies considered consumables.

More care has to be taken when selecting a key fob for use with an access control system. This is because they tend to be subject to more wear and tear, being attached to a key ring. Also key fobs, when lost, cannot be as easily identified, without being present to fob reader/management device. Key fobs tend to be favoured by smaller companies

Who, Where and When Reports and Security Audits?

Access control systems provide a way to centrally managed, monitor and control security and people movement within a building. System administrators tend to assign individuals to user groups and blanket share access control permissions. They can also customise individual access control rights including for specific areas, dates and times.

The information collected is collected via the correct usage of the cards and key fobs distributed to the relevant personnel. From a Human Resource Management point of view companies and organisations do build into access control usage into their security policies i.e. that you cannot allow another person to use your card or fob. Tailgating also has to be avoided if the information from Who, Where and When reports is to be truly useful.

This information collection can also apply to visitors to site. Visitor access can be controlled through a pre-prepared card for example, that they collect on arrival and hand back/return as part of their checking out procedure. The credentials for such a use are often date and time, as well as area restricted i.e. to training areas, meeting rooms and welfare facilities.

A potential downside is the need to prepare these ahead of time but the same can said for mobile credentials. The only point being that the code for a mobile credential can be sent via email ahead of time and can be set to automatically expire.

Access Control Systems

The EntroWatch access control system from Remsdaq provides an ideal solution for the secure protection of a variety of buildings. From public sector to corporate offices, warehouses and distribution centres, IT facilities, schools, colleges and university campuses, retail outlets, laboratories and factory buildings. The system is expandable from a straight forward 2-door system to one covering over 800 doors across multiple buildings.

EntroWatch uses 2-door, 4-door and 8-door access door controllers. A system can be supplied with EntroPad card readers or card reader/keypads (suitable for access control cards or key fobs), mobile phone credential and biometric finger print reads. The Entro series also includes a contactless request to exit (RTE) pad.

When deciding between access control cards and key fobs, sites do differ in their approach. More security conscious sites tend to prefer access control cards because of the additional features provided in the form of the information printed onto a card; the photo ID and user’s name. This allows for spot checks, helps to recover lost or stolen cards and identify if a user has allowed their card to be used by an unauthorised person.