What is access control and how does it work?

What is access control and how does it work?

Access control is a set of physical and software measures that allow you to manage the access of people to a building, network of buildings (even when they are dispersed over a large area), rooms or zones for a specified period of time. Access control can also be used to manage vehicle entry to company premises.

To better illustrate this, we will use an example. Suppose the access control system is to be installed in an office building where 20 independently operating companies rent premises. The building consists of 5 floors, one of them has a parking lot, and the other is a dining room and two large conference rooms.

Building Manager by installing specific system requirements:

  • each passage is secured and can be opened after applying an individual identifier in the form of a plastic card to the reader (when entering the building, elevators, specific offices, dining rooms, conference rooms);
  • employees using the elevator have access only to the floors where their company is located, to the parking lot and to the dining room;
  • employees of companies located in the office building can enter the building only on weekdays from 6:00 to 20:00;
  • only those companies that have purchased a subscription have access to and use the conference rooms;
  • employees hired to operate the building receive individual access authorizations tailored to their roles.

Thanks to this, the management of access to the facility is automated and circulation through it is determined by strict rules. The system also reduces the risk of vandalism, theft of property or data, and allows you to ensure the safety of people on the premises of the protected building.

How does door access control work?

Access control systems consist of hardware and software. Near the entrances, access control readers are installed that require contact with an identifier, which can be, among others: proximity card (microprocessor), key ring, phone with NFC or Bluetooth technology. Biometric verification is also possible, e.g. using a fingerprint or iris scan of the eye.

The readers read the identifier data and send it to the controller, which makes access or deny decisions based on the information in its memory. If the user is successfully verified, the electromagnetic door locks are released and the access control door can be opened.

What data can be saved in the system? Firstly, if the identifier provided (code, card, fingerprint) gives the right to open the door and at what times.

Why is an access security system better than keys?

The times when access to a building or room was controlled with keys are a thing of the past. Automated access control systems are a modern solution, much more comfortable and, above all, more secure. What is the advantage over traditional keys?

The system opens the door without physical contact

Access control badges, unlike keys, do not require physical contact to open a door. Therefore, its use is fast and comfortable.

It is especially useful when using parking barriers or opening passages in warehouses or production halls, e.g. when moving a forklift. Using UHF or Bluetooth technology, without getting out of the vehicle, we can easily open the barrier from a distance of up to several meters.

One card can open all the passages

Each lock needs a separate key; Only then will the tickets be duly insured. What happens, however, in the case of large installations where there are not several doors, but several dozen? Carrying a keychain is neither comfortable nor efficient.

In access control systems, one identifier (a card, a key fob or a phone with an NFC/Bluetooth module) can operate all doors, eliminating the need to carry multiple keys and saving time finding the right one.

Allows remote and flexible management of access by authorized persons

When each room is locked with a different key, errors or misunderstandings when issuing them are the order of the day, and the risk of the crack falling into the wrong hands increases.

In the case of access control systems, authorization management is automated: it is the software administrator who grants or restricts access to the building, zones or individual rooms. The scope of the rights may be different, e.g. for employees in different positions, guests or residents of the building. Credentials are personal, so borrowing or exchanging cards is not easy, especially when the system is integrated with video surveillance.

Allows you to quickly block access to lost or stolen IDs

Lost or stolen keys, especially for sensitive rooms, mean the need to replace the locks. This is not only time consuming but also expensive.

Here, access control proves to be more efficient again: the administrator, after logging into the system, can quickly deactivate a lost or stolen card so that an unauthorized person cannot use it.

It is also an important aspect in the case of dismissal of an employee who had strategic room keys. Even taking a set of keys from him, you cannot be sure that he does not have a spare set. In the case of cards or key rings, it is enough to withdraw the authorizations at the system level and the identifier is no longer active.

The system allows to monitor the movement in the installation

In access control systems, every identifier activity is logged, so the software administrator has access to information about who entered or left the building or room and when. This allows you to efficiently manage your staff, but can also come in handy in case of abuse or sudden evacuations.

If the building is secured with keys and there are no cameras nearby, the building manager does not know who entered and when.

The system is scalable

A handler can not only open many access controlled doors, but also operate parking barriers, fuel dispensers, and even control air conditioning. Access control can also be integrated with other software, e.g. a working time recording system. So, the contact of the identifier with the reader not only opens the door, but also records the start or end of work.

It is important to note that the system grows with the company: it is possible to add authorizations for new employees or subsequent transitions at any time. Access control devices can also be installed in different locations and operate based on a common database.

Systems facilitate guest service

The entrance control allows you to improve or eliminate the reception service when guests visit the building.

If the passages are secured with keys, each visitor must be shown the facilities or given their own set, which they must then return. In the case of tokens, it is possible to use special kiosks where the guest can pick up a pre-prepared token without the help of third parties. Your rights can be appropriately limited not only to selected tickets, but also to times or dates that the card is active.

Where are access control systems used?

Although access control systems are primarily associated with office buildings and manufacturing plants, they will be tested where necessary to monitor pedestrian traffic (including vehicles in parking lots) and assign access to zones or rooms to specific people.

Residential buildings

In the case of apartment buildings, each resident can receive a personal identifier, which entitles him, for example, to enter the urbanization parking lot, enter the building, basement, use the elevator (even with specific floors) and his own apartment. This gives a sense of security and certainty that only authorized persons are present on the property.

Hotels and guest houses

In the hotel facilities, the safety of guests and their property is a priority. For this reason, several permits will be maintained by the reception staff, restaurant service personnel, people responsible for the order and others, the guests who stay overnight on the premises.


As a publicly trusted institution, the bank has a special duty to guarantee security standards. They must also comply with local regulations regarding the storage of sensitive data and the restriction of physical access to places where records are stored. Therefore, employees at different levels have powers at different levels.

Office buildings

In office buildings, it is important not only to protect people, but also documentation (financial, legal, personal data of employees, trade secrets) and equipment. Therefore, access is limited not only to the building entrance, but also to the server room, warehouses, and HR offices.

Hospitals and clinics

Health facilities must also comply with provisions on the security of personal data storage, information on the health status of patients and the protection of medical devices against theft. Thanks to access control, only authorized employees based on their functions and positions have access to the documentation rooms, laboratories and operating rooms. This, in turn, protects equipment, documents, and most importantly, patients, staff, and visitors.

Schools, colleges, student houses

The protection of students who are in the school or university facilities is a priority of the authorities of these institutions. Thanks to air conditioning systems, the risk of an unauthorized person entering the building and threatening the safety of children, young people, but also their teachers or guardians, is significantly reduced.

Other objects

Where else is it worth using access control? The system will be in charge of the security of, among others, shopping malls, stores, public utility institutions, sports facilities, offices, conference centers, government institutions.

What elements are included in the access control and security systems?

Access control systems are made up of software and physical elements, such as: controllers, readers, power supplies with voltage backup, actuators (electric locks, turnstiles, barriers) and wiring. Additional elements can be, for example, printers for plastic cards, which allow the personalization of identifiers.

Management software

It is nothing more than a cloud application or software installed on a dedicated computer, which allows the administrator, among others, to manage access rights, generate reports, add additional devices, communicate with existing devices, or modify equipment settings. connected.

Thanks to advanced functionalities, the FoxSec WEB software can also be integrated with other software modules. The most popular combination is access control with work time recording: access tokens can simultaneously record the start or end of work, making it quick and easy to record. Other popular integrations include parking control and management and video surveillance.

Modern software in access control systems is also equipped with special modules, e.g. for guest service, elevators or key delivery.

Visitors module

The data of the guests who are going to visit the building (name and surname, company name) are entered into the system. The administrator then grants them individual rights, granting them access to designated rooms or zones at specific times.

It is useful when the building is frequently visited eg. couriers, business partners, persons responsible for the service of the device.

Elevator module

Thanks to this module, the cards are assigned authorizations that allow them to use the elevator under certain conditions, e.g. go only to a specific floor.

This functionality is often used in office buildings where spaces are rented by various companies and in hotels, banks and hospitals.

Key module

In the event that the company still uses physical keys for some rooms, the key module allows efficient management of the same.

Keys can only be issued to employees who have the appropriate permits. The administrator also has access to reports with the history of issuance and return of keys.


In order for the access systems to guarantee the highest level of security, each person authorized to enter the building or room must have an individual and personal access control identifier. It can be a card, key ring, UHF tags, phone or tablet with NFC/Bluetooth technology.

Access control cards

Proximity cards are most often used in entry control systems. How do the access cards work? The cards work with a reader that scans the identifier data, and this is compared with the information stored in the controller.

Card technology is always selected individually based on customer needs:

  • Magnetic stripe cards: This is the oldest card programming technology. The information is encoded on a black or brown strip, which is located on the back of the card. Importantly, data can be erased, written with new information, and read back. Door access control with magnetic card requires contact with the magnetic stripe reader.
  • Proximity/contactless cards: do not require physical contact with the reader. Data is stored on built-in electronic cables and transmitted as radio waves by internal antennas. One of the most popular contactless card standards is Mifare®, developed by NXP® Semiconductors. The most widely used technologies in access control systems are MIFARE Classic®, MIFARE Plus® and MIFARE® DESFire®.
  • Barcode Cards – A simple way to encode information onto a card that requires a barcode reader to read it. Due to the fact that the barcode can be easily copied, these cards are typically used for visitors to the building or at concerts or sporting events.

In addition, access control cards can also be interestingly designed to contain, for example, a photo of the card holder, his name and title. Some organizations indicate the authorization level with appropriate colors, allowing, for example, to quickly identify if a person did not enter an area to which they should not have access.

Proximity Keyfobs

They work similarly to proximity cards. Their advantage is their high resistance to external factors and the ease of attaching them to a key ring or lanyard, which makes them easy to use and minimizes the risk of losing or forgetting the identifier.

UHF tags

Its advantage is the long range, even up to several meters. UHF tags are often used in parking systems, logistics centers, garages or storage rooms: when a vehicle (car, forklift, etc.) approaches the checkpoint, a UHF reader reads the tag and then the results are verified. permissions.

Mobile app (NFC/Bluetooth)

Mobile credentials work like a contactless virtual card. The entrance control application can be installed on a phone or tablet with NFC or Bluetooth technology. After its activation and configuration with the system installed in the building, the user only has to bring the mobile device closer to the reader (just from a distance of several cm) or move the slider of the application.


Access control readers are required to read identifiers. This category includes a variety of products, tailored to the individual needs of the system user.

The readers are installed in front of the entrance to the building or room. Depending on the model, they support different types of cards and even work with mobile applications. Additional options can be, for example, an audible signal or an LED light, which inform about the correct reading of the identifier. Keypads are also a good solution for adding the need to enter a PIN code to the authorization process.

The quality of its workmanship is extremely important: resistance to mechanical damage and, in the case of external readers, also to changes in temperature or humidity.

Biometric readers

Instead of a card or a key fob, the reader scans, for example, a fingerprint or an iris image, i.e. individual biometric characteristics that are almost impossible to counterfeit. An example of such a device is the HID Signo 25B model, which even allows two-step verification: first with a fingerprint, and then with mobile ID.

Biometric access control allows you to guarantee the highest security standards. The Signo 25B model will perform even in extreme conditions, including when prints are wet, rubbed or dirty.

Proximity readers

An example of such models are HID Signo smart card readers, which read proximity cards in MIFARE®, MIFARE® PLUS and MIFARE® DESFire technologies. They also support mobile credentials so the door can be opened with a phone or tablet.

Long Range UHF Readers

These models of readers allow a fast and unattended reading of identifiers from a distance of several to even 20 meters. They are mainly used in parking lots and logistics centers. When the vehicle approaches the reader, the reader scans the identifier (UHF tag). In the next stage, the system decides whether to grant or deny access.

Door controllers

These microprocessor devices mediate between the readers and the access control software, transmitting the scanned identification data and comparing it with the information stored in the database.

Depending on the model, the door controllers can operate from one to several doors. They can handle, for example, random people checks or allow you to schedule a door to open, for example to block the entrance to the building during holidays.

Complementary elements

The complete access control suite also includes plugins. Turnstiles and barriers allow to limit and order the traffic of pedestrians and vehicles.

On the other hand, electric locks (ie electric lock openers or electromagnetic locks) are access control actuators that allow controllers to open or lock doors.

In access control systems, the wiring is also important, it is recommended that it have high performance.

Posted on 08/30/2021 Access Control 2985