What Are The Benefits of An Access Control System?

26 October 2018

Entrowatch Alarm Handling

Access control is a fundamental part of everyday life and one that affects us all. In its most basic form, we use access control to protect our homes and vehicles using a specially cut key or coded key fob. Only those with the right credentials can gain access. Building access control systems are more sophisticated and provide similar benefits in the form of restricting access and providing protection to those inside, including its physical assets.

Today, it is not uncommon to find access control systems operating within a wide range of buildings including: corporate offices, industrial factories, schools, colleges and universities. Each access control system must be designed to suit the characteristics and usage of the building into which it will be installed. A well installed system will minimise the types of security risks associated with unauthorised access. Networkable components and the Internet of Things (IoT) can lead to additional benefits.

Secure Zones

An access control system is different to a building security alarm system. The latter is a form of monitoring system that will alarm (when set) for a break-in by an intruder. Most buildings have an alarm system that is set when the last person leaves and requires an access code to do so. The first person into the building typically disarms the alarm system with their personal access code.

Access control systems provide additional security in how they control building access and access to zones within a building. A zone approach is a way to classify areas within a building from the main access doors to areas considered high security and critical. Employees may be granted access through a main door entrance but with their access restricted to certain areas by credentials. These may be in the form of an access control card, key fob or mobile phone application. Secure areas may include off-limits manufacturing areas, research & development departments, high value stores areas, hazardous substance stores, finance departments, network and server rooms or datacentre facilities.

Management Information

An access control system not only provides control of movement within a building. Credential holder movements can also be monitored. This can help to identify movement and population patterns within a building, that can lead to improvements in resource usage and energy efficiency.

Building resources can include meeting rooms as well as work areas. Meeting room and work or desk area optimisation is a way to ensure that the resources are used in the most efficient ways and are powered up only when needed. Heating or cooling large meeting rooms for a small number of people is less energy efficient than the use of smaller room. On large sites, small savings from room and work area optimisation can lead to significant savings over a budget year.

Linking access control systems to building energy management systems (BEMS) via the BACnet protocol, can lead to more efficient usage and energy savings. Access population can be linked to building zone HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) usage. With wellness in mind, providing the right ambient in terms of HVAC and lighting can improve employee and visitor welfare and this in turn can lead to increased productivity.

Physical Security

Most organisations will install access control to provide a greater level of security than can be achieved with physical keys. Keys can be lost, stolen or copied relatively easily. With an access control system, credentials are more secure and are issued in the form of contactless cards, key fobs or wristbands – using RFID (radio frequency identification). If any of these physical devices are lost or stolen, access can be quickly revoked using the management software used to configure. The devices can also be encoded in a such a way that they cannot be copied easily or replicated. When a traditional key is lost, the associated costs can higher in terms of replacement door locks.

Multiple Usage

Due to the use of sectors on an access control card, the card itself can be programmed for a wider variety of uses. These can include usage in vending machines or kiosks for money storage and the buying of goods. Other examples include securing employee lockers and access through secure fence gates, parking barriers and car parks. There are also potential IT related benefits. Cards can be used to gain access to individual server racks using wireless locks or to IT systems via USB card readers and computer software.

Professional Image

Whilst the primary benefit of an access control system is physical security, having a system does present a more professional image for an organisation. All employees and visitors must be registered to gain access and they will typically be given a branded card and lanyard printed with the company logo. These can also help to identify visitors from employees and potentially anyone on site who should not be there if they have ‘tail gated’ behind an authorised employee or visitor.

Access control system installation is an important way to protect a building and its users. Whilst a system can operate in isolation, additional benefits can accrue through connectivity and integration with other systems. A fully integrated security system could combine access control with other systems including CCTV footage, wireless applications, building management systems, car parks barriers, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and a perimeter intrusion detection system.

The future for access control systems is bright and the Internet of Things (IoT) opens application areas for data acquisition and management information that will not only provide additional security but also improved employee and visitor wellness in addition to improved energy usage and a lower building carbon footprint.