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What is access control | Jargon buster

An integral part of the proptech landscape, access control brings security into the 21st century. Felicity Warner of Openpath explores how you can ensure your system has everything it needs to be modern and secure.

What is access control?

Access control is a security measure that utilises credentials such as key cards to permit authorised user access to a given building, room or other entry points. This valuable measure helps organisations around the world protect their people, property and important data.

What are the benefits of access control?

From large enterprises to small businesses, organisations of virtually any size can benefit from access control. Access control can:

  • Provide a stronger layer of physical security
  • Simplify building security management
  • Add convenience for employees and guests
  • Eliminate traditional entry methods that are less secure
  • Save time, money, and dedicated security resources
  • Bring flexibility to organisations with unique user schedules

What do I need for a secure access system?

For a comprehensive access control system, you will need to consider both hardware and software. Here are the basic components you will need:

Access readers

Access readers limit who can gain entry by requiring people to show they are authorised before unlocking the door. Readers may include a key card reader, a keypad, a biometric reader or a combination of technologies.

Access readers allow administrators to view changes or activity through audit logs. Many organisations use card reader door locks, which leverage card reading technology, in combination with a physical lock.

Wireless locks

Wireless locks, many of which are Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled, offer convenient access to interior doors without the need for physical keys. These locks give administrators deeper insight into entries through features like recorded entry activity and entry alerts. Many wireless locks also automatically lock after authorised entries, further protecting properties.


Access control credentials refer to the verification necessary to allow for an authorised entry. This can refer to a passcode, PIN, RFID card, key fob or mobile app that grants access. Some credentials are more secure than others, and using multi-factor authentication can help further protect against unauthorised access.

Control boards

Control panels and boards are the main components of any access control system. When users present credentials at any connected reader or smart lock, the control board receives this information and carries out basic functions across all connected hardware.

Software: on-premise vs cloud-based

Software is an essential component for managing access control systems, setting permissions for hardware, and obtaining useful insights.

Many legacy access control providers use on-premise servers, which require organisations to host, manage, and maintain their server on the property. On-premise systems are often preferred for financial institutions and federal government buildings with high-level security compliance standards since it’s managed by internal teams on-site.

Cloud-based systems are hosted in the cloud, giving administrators flexibility to manage the system anytime from anywhere. The cloud also allows for scalable access control to meet new or changing business needs, such as expanding property or onboarding new users.

Organisations should review which is most appropriate for their needs.

How has access control evolved in recent years?

The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced recent access control trends, making way for touchless ‘wave to unlock’ entry systems, smart buildings that accommodate remote and flex work teams and mobile credentials that replace traditional key cards and fobs.

Another emerging trend is access control management via the cloud, a solution that allows administrators to manage software from anywhere on any device. Remote security management allows companies to complete day-to-day tasks with more flexibility and improve agility in the face of cyber and physical security threats.

How do I choose the best access control system for me?

When comparing access control companies, note that some providers offer a limited range of hardware or software, inhibiting security. For a complete access control system, choose a provider that offers a full range of hardware components and management software.

Before investing in a system, ask an access control supplier these key questions to ensure you’re getting the right solution for your needs:

  • Is an on-premise or cloud-based solution best for my property?
  • Is the solution capable of integrating with existing security systems or products, such as video cameras, visitor management systems, or identity services?
  • What kind of training or knowledge is needed to manage the system?
  • Is the system compatible with my preferred credentials?
  • How are updates and maintenance carried out for the system?
  • What are the upfront installation costs and what future costs are associated with the system?

Felicity Warner is a copywriter for Openpath Security, a smart access control system from Motorola

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