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An access control system is an electronic security system that controls who is allowed to enter a facility in certain areas at certain times with the use of various key card or key fob entry systems. All door access control systems work in a similar way; credentials are presented to a reader, which then sends the data to be authenticated by a controller. If the credentials match what is programmed in the system, the controller will release and send a signal to the reader to allow entry. You have likely seen a variety of these types of cards - a plastic card, ID badge, or other electronic key cards that you swipe in front of a reader in order to unlock and access a facility. These key card access control systems have been around for decades and is a very common use for security around the globe. These types of access control systems are used in large enterprise offices, parking garages, hospitals, HOA communities with shared amenity spaces and various others.

While there are many different types of key cards and fobs available today, it is important to know the differences between popular options in order to pick the right access control system for your facility. Each type of key card or fob performs a similar function, but there are many variables to consider before making a decision such as how many doors you have to secure, the amount of people using the key card door access system and ultimately the appropriate level of security desired.

Wiegand Key Cards

These types of key cards were one the the first types to be created in the 1970s. The Wiegand cards store unique binary data that does not have the possibility to be erased or reprogramed by magnetic fields. These are most commonly used with legacy security systems. Wiegand cards do not use a microchip or any type of breakable component so they tend to be a more durable, but outdated option. The Wiegand protocol is still the standard interface to connect readers to controllers today with even newer access control systems using readers that convert data to a Wiegand number.

Swipe Key Cards

These types of access cards are just like your typical credit card — using a magnetic strip along the edge of the card that contains the credential data. Once that card is swiped across the magnetic reader, the credentials will then be communicated to trigger the desired outcome of unlocking a door. These cards can be individually tracked which enables data collection and audit reports. This type of card access control system is a simple, inexpensive security system solution for larger organizations and facilities with many people accessing the same areas.

Proximity Cards | RFID Cards | RFID Fobs

Notably one of the most common types of access control solutions is with the use of the method Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to transmit necessary data stored within the card to the designated reader. RFID enables key fobs and cards have the ability to operate on various frequency ranges. This depends on the facilities specific needs and the level of security access desired. Proximity cards and RFID key fobs typically have to be within close physical distance to communicate data. Key fobs can also be programmed to allow for specific time restrictions as well as limit permissions to areas of the facility that require higher security. Smart cards are a high frequency RFID card that uses NFC — Near-Field Communication to communicate data. These types of access cards are similar to contactless payment methods which have a higher storage capacity an include encryption for a higher level of security. Similarly, there is access control technology that is as simple as an employee downloading an app on their smartphone that contains their credentials to enter the facility.

Biometrics and Beyond

As technology continues to innovate, there are a number of access control solutions that use biometric data to control access to a facility. This can be with the use of credentials from a finger print, facial recognition or retina scanning. These are commonly used in government and high-level security facilities, but are becoming more and more popular.

Benefits of Key Card Access Control Systems

The majority of businesses use key card access control systems because of their level of security and ease of use for employees. They are better than physical keys as they cannot be duplicated and provide the organization a better strategy for if an employee is terminated or resigns. All it takes is to deactivate one card in the system rather than change the locks of an entire facility and provide new keys.

  • Easy to reconfigure individual credentials and permissions if cards are lost/stolen

  • Requires little physical maintenance

  • Improved security as each individual has their own set credentials rather than the same key

  • Trackable data to see who and when personnel is entering and exiting the facility

Our team of security system specialists would love to help you and your facility design and install an access control system that fits your needs. We have a variety of access control solutions that we are eager to show how they can benefit your facility.


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