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Physical Access Control Systems: The Definitive Guide

Biometric Post
Nov 20, 2022
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Biometric Post
Physical Access Control Systems: The Definitive Guide

Do you need to control access to a certain area? Are you looking for a more secure way to manage who comes and goes? If you're like most business owners, you're always looking for ways to make your company more secure. One way to do that is by installing a physical access control system. But what are they, and what do they do? In this blog post, we'll also discuss the benefits of these systems and how they can help keep your business safe. So if you're interested in learning more, keep reading!

What are physical access control systems?

Physical access control systems (PACS) are electronic systems that control who is able to gain entry into a physical space. These systems typically utilize authentication and authorization features, allowing authorized users to bypass barriers while preventing unauthorized people from entering. The main purpose of physical access control systems is to protect people and assets from vandalism, theft, or any other type of intrusion to improve physical security.


Physical access control systems components:

1) Access points:

These are physical barriers that control access to a space. They can include physical gates, doors and turnstiles. The physical barriers are usually controlled electronically, using a physical access control system.

2) Access control software:

This is the software that powers physical access systems and controls access to physical spaces. The access control software platform allows admins to control who has access to what areas of a building physically, what privileges they have, and monitor security events.

3) Credentials:

Credentials are physical or digital items used to verify the identity of an individual looking to gain access. Popular examples include passwords, PIN codes, RFID cards and QR codes, encrypted badges/tokens, mobile credentials (e.g., mobile phones or wearable devices), and biometric credentials (e.g.,face, iris scans and fingerprints).

4) Readers/keypads:

Readers/keypads are hardware used to scan or enter credentials into physical access control systems. They function similarly to authority barriers and can be as simple as a numeric keypad or as sophisticated as biometric access devices such as facial recognition terminals, iris scanners, or fingerprint scanners.

5) Control panels/Door controllers:

Control panels are physical devices that process incoming credential data, verify if it is valid, and then transmit authorization data to the access point. They also provide real-time monitoring and reporting, as well as other functions.

6) Locking mechanisms:

Locking mechanisms are physical devices used to engage and disengage physical access points. These can include physical locks, electromechanical locks, or electronic strikes that are integrated with physical access control systems.

7) Request-to-exit (RTE) devices:

RTE devices are physical or digital sensors that can be triggered by an individual looking to exit an area. These devices are commonly used alongside physical access systems to automate the opening of doors, allowing authorized individuals to gain egress without having to manually disengage a physical lock.

8) Access control server:

An access control server is a physical or virtual device that can store information related to physical access, including credentials and user profiles, access privileges, and audit logs. The access control server may be on premises or managed in the cloud, depending on your organization's needs and preferences.

The common types of physical access control systems

As you can see, physical access control systems are composed of a variety of different components that work together to control and monitor access to physical spaces. Depending on the needs of your business or organizations, you may need to think about these common types of physical access control systems that are based on different types of credentials, including:

1) Electronic door locks and keypads:

These physical systems are commonly used for smaller applications, such as controlling access to a single room or small building. They often rely on a physical key or password for authentication, which makes them relatively easy and cost-effective to install. However, they are less secure than other physical access control systems, as credentials can easily be stolen or shared.

2) Key fob and key card systems:

These physical access control systems are commonly used for larger applications where physical keys or passwords may be impractical. They often rely on digital credentials, such as fobs or key cards, which can be easily distributed and tracked by the system.

3) Biometric access control systems:

These physical access control systems use a biometric reader and advanced biometric technologies, such as facial recognition, fingerprint scanning, or iris scanning, to scan an individual's physical or digital credentials and authenticate their identity. They can be used to control physical access points such as doors, gates, or turnstiles, and are generally more secure and reliable than electronic locks. When a biometric access control system using multi-factor authentication method, such as a combination of fingerprint, facial recognition and RFID card scanning, it can provide even greater security.

Read more: Biometric Access Control System—A Complete Guide

4) Touchless/contactless access control systems:

After COVID-19, physical access control systems that rely on physical contact and physical credentials may be less desirable for some businesses. Touchless access control systems, such as facial recognition, or mobile access control systems, are becoming more popular as they can be used to automate physical access without requiring physical contact from the user. These types of physical access control systems are more hygienic and convenient, while still providing the same security level and control as other physical access systems.

5) Mobile access control systems:

Mobile access control systems use mobile phones or other handheld devices as physical credentials to grant or deny physical access to secure areas. These systems are highly convenient, as they eliminate the need for physical key cards or fobs. They also offer increased security, as they can be controlled remotely via an app, and often provide real-time monitoring of physical entry and exit. Some mobile access control systems also use biometric technologies like facial recognition or fingerprint scanning to provide an extra layer of security.

Physical access control systems are a big part of making your business safer and more secure. Whether you use touchless access control systems like facial recognition and mobile access control or physical keys and keycards, there are many different options to fit your needs and budget. So, if you own a business or are in charge of one, make sure that physical access control is part of your overall plan for building security.

How physical access control systems work

All physical access control systems consist of the same basic components: an access point (such as a security gate or door lock), personal credentials (such as fobs, key cards, passwords, PINs, etc.), and access control servers that store user data and audit logs.

When someone attempts to enter a physical space secured by an access control system, they are requiring identity authorization, and they need to scan their credentials in the reader at the access point. The credentials are then sent to the control panel for authentication. If the credential is valid, the control panel will send permissions to open the physical barriers, such as a locked door or turnstile. If not, the user will be unable to enter. The whole process of how physical access control systems work can be broken down into 6 steps:

  • Enrollment: Administrators can enroll users or employees into the access control system with their personal information such as name, biometric data (e.g., to enroll fingerprints, facial scans), physical credentials (e.g., key fobs, key cards, etc.), or passwords/PIN code.

  • Authorization: Once users are enrolled, they can be authorized to a physical area or access point by assigning them privileges based on their role, department, level of clearance, and more. These permissions can be adjusted as needed, either on an individual or group basis. For example, managers may be given physical access to all areas of the building, while entry-level employees may receive only limited physical access.

  • Authentication: When someone approaches the physical space secured by the access control system, they must present their identifying credentials, such as a key card, mobile phone, or biometric data. Their credentials are then authenticated by the system and checked against their access permissions to request access authorization to enter.

  • Access: If the user is authorized, the physical barrier such as a door or security gate will unlock and allow them to enter. If not, the physical barrier will remain locked and prevent unauthorized access.

  • Managing/monitoring: The system administrator can continually monitor and manage access to the premises, adding or removing users as needed. They can also monitor audit logs to ensure that only authorized people are gaining access, and take action if they spot any suspicious or unauthorized activity.

  • Auditing/reporting: In the event of a security incident or threat, physical access control systems provide detailed logs that can be examined by administrators and other security personnel to determine what happened and where any vulnerabilities may lie. These logs can be shared with authorities as needed, to help maintain the safety and security of your physical space.

The benefits of using physical access control systems

Using physical access control systems in your business or on your property can help you in a lot of ways. You can find 9 major benefits listed below:

  • Improved security: Access control systems are a very effective way to keep physical areas safe and secure. With a wide range of features like biometric authentication, monitoring, and alarms, these systems can help you keep outsiders or even disgruntled employees from getting in or breaking in.

  • Enhanced data and privacy protection: By restricting physical access to permitted users, physical access control systems can help prevent unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information or data. They can also help limit access and maintain security in areas such as server rooms and healthcare facilities, where privacy and data protection are paramount.

  • Reduced costs: Another major benefit of physical access control systems is the cost savings they provide in terms of security resources and labor. With physical access control systems that have automated features, such as keyless entry or biometric authentication, fewer security guards or personnel are needed to manually control physical access. This can help save your business time and money in costly labor and staffing. And by preventing unauthorized physical access to your building, you can reduce the risk of costly incidents and security breaches.

  • Improved compliance: Privacy, protecting user data, and keeping a safe physical environment are all important compliance requirements for businesses or organizations of all sizes.Physical access control systems not only enhance physical security, but they can also ensure compliance with industry regulations and data privacy standards. Whether you are a healthcare facility, a financial institution, or another organization, physical access control systems can help you meet your compliance obligations while also protecting the safety and security of your physical space.

  • Greater user experiences: By providing a seamless, streamlined physical access experience for your employees and customers, physical access control systems can help improve satisfaction and increase engagement. Especially with the biometric access control systems or mobile access control systems, you can provide a more convenient, intuitive physical access experience for everyone in your building or campus.

  • Ease of use: Many physical access control systems such as key cards, fobs, and biometric readers are simple and intuitive to use, making it easy for even non-technical users to enroll, authenticate, and manage physical access permissions. This makes physical access control a convenient and efficient option for businesses of all sizes.

  • Flexibility and adaptability: Another key benefit of physical access control systems is that they are highly customizable and can be adapted to meet your unique needs. Whether you require physical access control for a single building, multiple buildings, or an entire campus, there is likely a physical access control solution that can provide the right level of physical access protection for your organization. And with features such as mobile access control and virtual credentials, physical access control systems can be tailored to your specific physical access needs and preferences.

  • Integration with other physical security systems: Another benefit of physical access control systems is that they can easily be integrated with other physical security systems, such as video surveillance or alarm monitoring systems. This can help provide a more holistic physical security solution, improving security overall and reducing the risk of potential incidents.

  • Centralized management: Managing physical access in a large facility or campus can be a complicated and time-consuming task. But physical access control systems offer centralized management features that make it easy to manage physical access permissions, monitor activity, and quickly respond to threats or incidents.

With all of these benefits, it's clear that physical access control systems can provide a powerful solution to enhance security and protect your business from unauthorized access or intrusion.

Physical access control systems use cases

Physical access control systems are used in a wide range of places, including hospitals, hotels, government buildings, gyms, retail spaces, corporate offices, and more. These systems help businesses protect their property, assets, and employees by providing physical access control and monitoring.

Below are some of the use cases where physical access control systems are commonly found:

  • Hospitals: Within hospitals, physical access control systems are typically used to regulate who has physical access to patient care areas, medication storage rooms, and other high security areas. These systems can help prevent unauthorized access by employees or visitors, as well as track physical access activity to monitor and prevent potential security incidents.

  • Schools & Campuses: Physical access control systems are often used in schools and college campuses to improve building security and protect students, teachers, staff, and physical assets from physical violence and safety concerns.

  • Hotels: Hotels usually have a lot of guests and workers, which makes security an important issue. With physical access control and visitor management systems, hotels can improve security, create a more streamlined check-in process, and better manage visitor access to areas such as guest rooms.

hotel, room, new product

  • Government premises: Government organizations are responsible for protecting sensitive information, physical assets, and personnel. Physical access control can help improve security in government buildings by ensuring that only authorized individuals can gain entry to sensitive areas.

  • Office buildings: Office buildings must also make sure that only the right people can get in, since offices often have expensive equipment and sensitive information. With physical access control and attendance tacking systems, businesses can improve security, manage physical access permissions more effectively, and monitor employee activity.

inside, business, center

  • Gyms and fitness centers: Unlike other physical access control applications, gyms and fitness centers often use physical access control systems to manage physical access permissions for members. This helps ensure that physical access rights are only granted to authorized gym members, and that physical access activity is accurately tracked.

Overall, physical access control systems play an essential role in protecting a wide range of secure spaces and businesses from unauthorized access or physical threats, making them a critical component of a security plan. Whether you're looking to improve physical access control in your office, hospital, hotel, or other facility, physical access control systems provide an effective solution for enhancing security and protecting your business.

Tips on choosing the right physical access control system for your needs

There are a variety of physical access control systems available on the market, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks. When choosing a physical access control system, it is important to consider your specific needs and requirements. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1) What type of building do you need to secure?

Each physical access control system is best suited for a different type of building. For example, if you need to secure a government premises, a biometric physical access control system may be the best option, as it offers increased security and physical monitoring capabilities.

2) What physical access needs do you need to meet?

When choosing a physical access control system, it is important to consider your physical access needs and requirements. For example, if you need to track physical access activity and monitor employee attendance in the same time, a system with integrated physical access control and attendance tracking capabilities may be a better fit.

3) Who will use the system?

Another important factor to consider is who will be using the physical access control system. There're different users such as employees, contractors, and visitors, each of whom may require different physical access permissions. You need to assess how these different users will interact with the system. For example, if most of the users employees, you may want to invest in a physical access control system that incorporates mobile or biometric features to simplify the enrollment and authentication process.

4) How many people will need access?

The number of people who need access to a particular area will also influence your decision when choosing a physical access control system. If you only need to grant access to a few people, you may be able to get away with a basic key card or fob system. But if you need physical access control for hundreds or thousands of people, a biometric system or mobile access control may be a better option.

5) What physical security infrastructure do you already have in place?

If you already have physical security systems in place, such as video surveillance, alarm monitoring, or other systems, choosing a physical access control system that is compatible with your current infrastructure could be beneficial. There will be savings in terms of money and time spent on managing your physical security plan.

6) What is your budget?

Physical access control systems can vary in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. It is important to find the system that fits your budget while still meeting your security needs.

It is important to think about all of these factors when choosing a physical access control system. By considering about what your business needs, you can find the right solution to protect people in a safe and secure way.

Final thoughts on physical access control systems

When it comes to the safety and security, physical access control systems are crucial. Whether you are looking to enhance physical security, prevent unauthorized intruders, or streamline physical access management, physical access control systems can help. With their centralized management features, advanced biometric and mobile capabilities, and a range of other benefits, physical access control systems are an excellent choice for businesses of all sizes and types. So why wait? Invest in physical access control today and start protecting your building from unauthorized intruders and threats.

If you need help choosing the right physical access control system for your business, our experts at Aratek Biometrics are here to help. Contact us today for more information and let us help you get started on the path to physical security and peace of mind.

Physical access control systems FAQs

What is physical access control and why is it important?

Physical access control is a security measure that allows you to track physical access activity and manage physical access permissions for employees, visitors, contractors, and other users. A physical access control system usually has readers, like key cards or biometric scanners, and access control software or a platform that lets you manage physical access permissions from one place.

Physical access control is important to protect your building and its occupants from unauthorized intruders and threats. With a physical access control system in place, you can feel more confident about the physical security of your building and its occupants. You can also reduce the costs of managing physical access and make it easier for employees, visitors, and other users to get physical access permissions.

What's the difference between physical access control and logical access control?

Physical access control pertains to the mechanisms by which individuals are granted or denied entry into a physical space. Logical access control, on the other hand, refers to the process of regulating access to computer systems and data. The former is typically achieved through the use of physical barriers, such as doors and locks, while the latter relies on software-based controls, such as user IDs and passwords.

To put it simply, physical access control is like a doorman at a building. He controls who can get in and who can't. Logical access control is like a password for your computer. It controls who can see what is on your computer.


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