Access Control takes many shapes and fulfills many functions: from adding a barrier for entry to tracking hot zones in facilities. These systems have become an integrated aspect of many businesses as they look to safeguard their premises, staff, and assets. So what access control options do you have in 2023, and how might you put them to use? Read our guide to find out.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Biometric Scanners
  • Keycards & Scanners
  • Keypads
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Tags
  • Other Access Control Methods and Hardware

Biometric Scanners

biometric security

Biometric scanners are one of the most popular types of access control systems for corporate settings. They use a variety of technologies to identify a person by their physical characteristics, such as their fingerprints, facial recognition, or iris patterns. This type of access control is popular in high-security settings, such as government buildings, military installations, and financial institutions, however it has also been widely implemented as a clock in-out system for shift workers in a variety of industries.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses started using facial recognition scanners in order to provide an access control solution that didn’t require physical interaction (for hygiene reasons), and could also monitor the temperature of all those who entered and left the building.

Biometric scanners are expected to become even more sophisticated and reliable in the coming years, with improved accuracy and speed in recognition. The technology is also likely to become more secure, with higher levels of encryption to protect user and employer data. Additionally, the introduction of artificial intelligence to the technology is likely to lead to better user experiences, with improved user authentication and faster access times.

Keycards & NFC Passes

smart card

Keycards and NFC passes are another popular type of access control system, though in reality they only make up part of the overall acces system. Often found in more public, commercial settings where overall security is less of a risk factor, these tokens provide an easy, and cost effective, way of granting access to a large and changeable body of individuals. They use a card or tag that contains a unique identifier that is read by a card reader. Keycards and NFC passes are commonly used in office buildings, schools, and other buildings that require secure access.

As with biometric scanners, cards and NFC passes are expected to become more secure over the coming years. Customisation options are also likely to become more accessible, with the ability for users to program their own access codes and other settings. The real advantage of digital access passes is their ability to integrate into other softwares like Customer Management Softwares and geotagging, allowing businesses and corporations to build very specific, tailored user journeys.

Keypads

keypad

Keypads are a classic access control system that requires users to enter a code to gain entry to a building or other secured area. These are widely used in businesses and homes to control who has access to certain areas. Unfortunately, a major downside of these systems is the security risk posed by code sharing and other human error issues.

However, keypads can be a great addition to other security measures, such as keycards and biometric scanners. If you need to grant access to a zone within a larger building and a code is the best way to share access with a larger group of people, keypads could be the answer.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Tags

RFID

This one is technically cheating, because RFID is (more often than not) the technology that makes keycards work as well. However, we felt it deserved its own callout as it’s really quite versatile technology.

RFID tags are small devices that contain a unique identifier that can be read by an RFID reader. This type of access control system is used in many different settings, such as secure offices, warehouses, and other areas where physical access needs to be monitored. The beauty of RFID tags is that they can be used in really creative applications. For example, RFID tags could be used to create a virtual perimeter, where the tags would be used to detect when someone is entering or leaving an area. This could be used to monitor employee movement or track the flow of goods in a warehouse.

Other Access Control Methods and Hardware

magnetic swipe card reader

In addition to the access control methods discussed above, there are a number of other systems that can be used to control access to a building or secure an area. Many of them function by relying on the same technologies as those listed above, or are in some way best used in tandem with these. Consider for example:

Card and barcode readers

Without card and barcode readers, you can issue as many keycards, NFC passes or other tokens as you want, but you’ll have nothing to process their access info. While these are often taken for granted, there’s actuallly quite a large scope of readers with different specialties and advantages out there. Whether you need it to scan two types of cards, integrate into a loyalty system, or any other business specific function; it’s best to speak to an access control expert to get a better idea of what reader would suit your purposes.

Voice Recognition & Gesture Control

Voice recognition systems use audio analysis to identify a person by their speaking voice. The technology for this is still not reliable enough to be implemented as primary security access solution, but it can play an active role in user experience enhancements, like controlling lights, elevators, remotely opening doors, etc. Similarly, there’s been a lot of headway made in the field of gesture control, allowing people to interact with the system at a distance using an intuitive and pre-programmed set of gestures.

Proximity Cards

Proximity cards contain a chip that is activated by a reader when a person is in close proximity. This too makes for a great user-journey enhancer but does little for real security purposes. A practical application of this might be a waitress who’s clearing tables and needs to enter the kitchen. Her proximity card (which also identifies her when placing the table’s orders in the first place) automatically registers her approaching the kitchen and opens the doors for her, so she doesn’t have to worry about dropping plates.

Magnetic Stripe Cards

Magnetic stripe cards are credit card-like cards that contain a magnetic strip. Their application often mirrors those of keycards, though they’re often slightly less practical as the motion of the swipe while attached to a lanyard around the neck can really break a stride. It therefore makes sense that these cards are likely going to be phased out over the coming years and replaced by their newer, more versatile and less intrusive younger cousins.

Bluetooth and location-based Access Control

Bluetooth-based and location-based access control systems use signals emitted by a portable device to grant or deny access. These digital systems are often extremely customisable at short notice, through a central user interface. This is an incredibly useful feature, as it allows for an extra layer of security without having to worry about physical keys or access codes that could be intercepted or stolen. The downside of any of these is that they will require a full battery to function, meaning that there’s a chance of the device not working when it runs out of charge. Keycards and other physical tokens don’t struggle with this, for obvious reasons.

Physical Barriers

Products like parking barriers, maglocks on doors, one-way turnstile gates, and many others make up a vital part of your overall access control system. Physical barriers are an effective way of controlling the flow of people and vehicles into and out of a particular area.

The most common physical barriers are turnstiles and parking barriers, which are usually found in public spaces such as train stations, stadiums, and airports. Other physical access control methods include parking barriers, which are used to restrict access to parking areas, and gate systems, which can be used to secure driveways, areas of land, or other restricted access areas.

Depending on the level of security required, different types of barriers might be suitable. For military installations and government buildings, these barriers will typically be designed to be more robust and might create a floor-to-ceiling obstacle that can’t be ‘hopped’ over, whereas a lower-security space might make do with a standard, hip-height turnstile or gate.

Visitor management systems

Depending on your business-type, you might know these as customer relationship management systems, visitor management systems or guest management systems. Regardless of what you’re calling it, this is usually a software integrated with your access control that allows you to track the comings and goings of customers against their personal profiles. A modern system like this allows you to learn from customer behaviours and over time build tailored, improved customer/member/guest experiences.


If you’re not entirely sure what access control system will work best for your business, why not download our access control guide and checklist, which will enable you to identify your priorities and have an informed chat with your supplier of choice to make sure your needs are fully met.

Each of these access control systems have their own unique set of features, and can be used in a variety of settings. As technology continues to advance, so too will access control systems, with more options available for businesses to choose from. To get expert support on your access control and how it can enhance your visitor experiences, speak to one of our team, who are always happy to help advise.

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