Access control

In our industry and in its simplest form, it means to control the ingress of people into a compartment. This could be a building – a floor of a building – a room on a floor – a container (cupboard) in a room. It could also be used to control the egress from the same areas. It may allow access to all or part of these ‘units’ at specified times and of course record and transmit all and any data. This control could be by:-

  • A lock
  • A security guard
  • A security guard and CCTV
  • A digital lock – electronic
  • A digital lock – mechanical
  • A Card swipe system with or without a PIN
  • A biometric system with or without a PIN
  • A proximity system
  • A stand alone one door system
  • A building networked system
  • A networked system across secure digital telephone lines incorporating many buildings
  • Any combination of the above.

So the field is wide open and there are a lot of manufacturers. So how can access control work with the above examples?

A Lock

Restricted key ways are the most usual way of controlling a lock. But the have weaknesses. Machines exist that can copy any type of key although expensive the risk may be worth it. People leave or lose keys and the management fail to change the lock or in many cases keep a record of the keys issued.

Some locking systems have integrated electronics that can run an audit or restrict access but they are very expensive and need careful consideration before recommending.

Other systems we have discussed but included here as a refresher:

Digital Locks

What are they?

Any lock not using a conventional key used to be described as a digital lock, mainly because they use a keypad to actuate the mechanism but this is fast becoming out of date

Access control is a more modern phrase but that too is really not a good description because ALL locks are access control, hence the key only given to people who you want to open the door. This is usually more secure than a code which can be transmitted, by text, e-mail, word or mouth or written on the wall next to the door.

None keyed locks may be a better phrase or better still ‘Keyless Entry’

These devices come in several differing modes:

Mechanical digital

These are stand-alone mechanical locks that need no batteries. They come basically two ways: Extremely heavy-duty (battle-ship) and medium-duty. Usually, they can be installed in place of regular locks with only minor door modification. They are great for people who don’t like to use keys! They only work with one code as opposed to electronic locks that have the ability to use more than one code – sometimes many codes.

Please keep this in mind: Because these are mechanical, with no power assist from an electrical source, they are not generally suitable for some disabled people or those with weak hands.

Advantages: No keys to lose, have stolen, or copied. No wires to run. No batteries to change. No computer programming. Infinite number of possible codes and combinations can be changed frequently.

Disadvantages: Single code in most cases, easy to pass on, may not be weather resist and, most have to be removed from the door to change the code.

Electronic digital, Stand alone

These are stand-alone, battery operated locks, although Kaba Mas locks are unique and use a self-generating system and do not need batteries. If the batteries fail, there is a key bypass just in case, or a terminal connection for an outside battery. Batteries generally last about 2 years depending on use.

They can be code number, code and swipe, code and prox, although extra features cost extra money.

Your combination can be set easily by you at any time, right on the lock. Using a stand-alone lock means less installation time because there is no wiring, no drilling (except a small amount of door modification), no mortising out for an electric strike on the frame and no need to purchase anything else.

Some models like the Trilogy can even be hard wired in, which allows you to use the keypad of the unit on the outside and at the same time buzz someone in from a remote location from the inside! These locks require a 60mm (2 1/8 inch) main hole and in addition also require 3 or 4 smaller holes. The door should be 45mm in thickness. The Trilogy series (not the mortise) can me used on thinner doors with special adaptor plates.

Most of these locks normally come with the following function:
Always locked on the outside and always unlocked from the inside.
When the door closes it also locks.
The less expensive locks, lock on both sides or open on both sides. This is the main reason they are not the correct locks for fire exit doors.

Advantages: Easy to install, the code can be changed readily, better models can have lots of additional functions, like time zone or override codes

Disadvantages: Code can be given to anyone

Prox systems

RFID Access Control

This works like something you might see in Star Trek! Hold a small fob or card near the reader, from 4″ to 24″ depending on the model, and an electric strike or magnetic lock opens! The reader can be mounted inside or behind the wall in areas where vandalism is a problem. Some of the newer readers even have a keypad built in to use for programming or PIN!

Just a few years ago, this type of system cost thousands of pounds. Keep in mind that as the read distance gets longer the cost is much greater, but distances of 4″- 6″ are more than enough for most types of installations.

Programming is easy to do. On some systems a separate programmer is needed. On others, a PC or notebook computer is used. On the systems we sell, programming is actually done right at the reader itself using either the little proximity keys that come with the reader or by using the number buttons (keypad) built into the unit. A laptop or PC can also be used to program the system and do audit trails (who entered and when). If you need to have the type of installation where you need to monitor who goes in and who goes out please see our multi door proximity systems area. Most of the multi door systems can be configured this way so one reader from either side of the door can be read. These systems are very cost effective since unlike conventional keys, proximity cards and fobs can be re-used and re-issued


Biometrics is the science and technology of authentication (i.e. establishing the identity of an individual) by measuring the person’s physiological or behavioural features. The term is derived from the Greek words “bios” for life and “metron” for measure.

Biometrics uses a characteristic for an individual that is completely unique for that person alone. A biometric cannot be guessed, stolen, lost, lent or forgotten and is very difficult to fake or copy.

The fingerprint is optically scanned directly from the finger and the resulting image is focused onto a small chip. The chip converts the focused image into a digital file that can be processed, stored, and compared with other fingerprint images. The sensor is very accurate with test results showing less than 1 in a million false entry

Larger systems needs some specialist skills and will be discussed at a future date.

But primarily its is the customer who decides and a quote must be set on the customers needs and price constraints – not an easy task.

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