Right-Sizing Access Control: Match security technology to customers’ unique needs

By Deborah L. O’Mara | Apr 15, 2022




Access control is the backbone of physical security and perimeter protection and detection. It’s often the first line of defense at entrances and admits or denies entry based on authority or credentials.

A mind-numbing array of access control and electronic locking solutions are available in various technologies and configurations. While current discussions center on “sexier” options, including mobile credentials, biometrics and friction-reduced cloud-hosted platforms, there’s plenty to consider when deciding the best match for a customer and their security challenges.

Hands-free hygiene

The pandemic heightened the need for credentials that can be administered and controlled remotely and applied with less “friction” in the entry process, making them more hygienic. Mobile smartphone access—a digital credential—also scores high marks for secure and trusted identity management. Mobile credentials authenticate the user with three different criteria: what you have (your phone), what you know (your password) and who you are (biometrics such as facial or fingerprint recognition).

Biometrics have proven popular for verifying compliance with health and safety protocols as users return to work. In 2022, biometrics paired with cloud-based identity management solutions stand poised to fuel much faster growth, according to HID Global. Security’s role in delivering biometric technology that enables secure authentication and protects data privacy is emerging across sectors of the economy, according to HID’s forecast study.

By 2023, some 15% of all new credentials will be mobile, according to analysts at Informa Tech. That’s great for customers who can afford a higher-end management platform, but costs may be out of reach for some users or simply not a fit for their specific facility or business.

Keypads at the door

For access control, you can’t beat a durable keypad with a numerical code entry identification or PIN, especially for medical offices, residential, healthcare labs, hospitality, retail, fitness centers and other properties. These cost-effective, secure units have new improvements, such as IP/networking capabilities, Wi-Fi and power over ethernet connectivity and hard-wired and wireless options.

Keypads support PIN users only, or dual-authentication credentialing with cards, fobs and even biometrics for higher levels of security. Wireless configurations allow you to add new points of protection without wiring constraints. When you’re ready to scale up, these devices often support Bluetooth, near-field communication or other connectivity to update to mobile credential access.

Electronic keys

Keys remain a fundamental physical security and access control solution. However, lost, stolen, damaged and misplaced keys cause a new security problem and can be expensive to replace or rekey, especially if a master key goes missing. As part of the latest electronic key control systems, users can track, audit and manage keys, extending the value and usefulness of access technology.

Programmable electronic keys work well on campuses, hospitality, correctional and other facilities to keep track of keys and a broader set of assets, beyond the door. Assets such as data server enclosures, PCs, equipment lockers and cash cages at casinos are automatically monitored. Vital documents, employee badging, data drives and even small electronic gears can be controlled and secured using electronic key control and asset management lockers.

Electronic key control also extends to employee management and timekeeping. Users know the identity of authorized key holders, which keys they have in their possession or have access to, and when keys were used and returned. Key tracking adheres to guidelines and regulations in cases such as casinos and critical infrastructure where precise recordkeeping of access to secured areas is mandated for compliance.

Some electronic key control systems integrate with traditional access control software and security management platforms, so everything, including key usage, is monitored and controlled from a single user interface.

Tips for systems integrators

When vetting potential systems for customers, look for platforms following standards and protocols that encourage interoperability—such as open supervised device protocol, ONVIF and others—as well as open API programming. Devices that can interface or integrate with a centralized access control management platform allow the user to provide administration from a single source, while maintaining a seamless experience and the infrastructure for broader and more secure access control workflows.

About The Author

O’MARA writes about security, life safety and systems integration and is managing director of DLO Communications. She can be reached at [email protected] or 773.414.3573.

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