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Access Control Components


Access control systems restrict the entry of an unauthorized person and grant access only to authorized people entering the facility.  Although this may sound easy and straightforward, the system comprises various access control components. For efficient door access installation, understanding the key access control components is crucial. The hardware, parts, and software must coordinate to make the right decision following the access control protocols. These software use advanced technologies to offer easy authorized entry in no time.

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Access Control Hardware & Parts

Every system has hardware that performs various functions. Likewise, access control systems are hardware devices such as card readers, electronic door locks, access cards and more. Let us take a look at each of these devices and their functionalities in the system:

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Access Cards & Credentials

Access key cards look similar to credit cards, which means they are portable and easily fit in a wallet. These cards are vital elements in door access control systems and are provided to each individual who will gain access to the facility. There is an encrypted chip encoded with the credential for that person. The card is held near the reader or swiped to let the reader pass on the credential for verification steps.

Credentials are a piece of information that is used to gain access to the facility. For example: PIN code or secret key, access badge or key fob, biometric touch, or any other authentication factor. These authentication factors depend on the card reader to recognize the credential, whether it is a biometric device or some other device. When systems use one authentication factor, it is called single-factor authentication and when systems use a combination of credentials, it is called multi-factor authentication.

There are different types of door access control systems and card technologies like magnetic stripe, bar code, Wiegand, RFID proximity cards, swipe cards, barcode cards, contact smart cards, and touchless smart cards. Apart from these, there are key fobs and Micro tags.

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Readers & Keypads

Card Readers are devices that are mounted on a door or next to the door for which you want to gain access. They are the first step in the authentication process, the reader can accept credentials by card insertion, swiping the card or by holding the card in close proximity to the reader.

Below are the four categories of readers with description:

Standalone proximity readers

These readers are inexpensive, flexible and cost-effective options for controlled access.

They use power and have no data connection. Although they do not have a control panel, standalone proximity readers are programmed remote control units that combine single integration, quick programming, and high reliability. They are ideal for small businesses with limited users. Administrator and user data can be stored but typically not transferred from one unit to another.

Wireless proximity readers

These readers are wireless and operate on battery power.

The major role of these readers is to read the credential/card number, code the credential as the reader supports low power universal coder and signals the receiver box via radio frequency (RF). The receiver box decrypts the code of the credential sent by the reader and signals to the host of access control. The receiver box and the host are installed together, thereby reducing wires.

Proximity readers

Proximity readers also known as prox readers, are directly connected to the access control panel.

They accept proximity cards, also known as prox cards, which are contactless smart cards. These cards are held in proximity to the reader to gain access to the door or facility. 

Proximity readers transmit a low-level fixed radio frequency (RF) that activates in response to a credential card. When a person holds the card in proximity to the reader, the RF signal from the reader is absorbed by a small coil present in the card that powers the chip inside the card, which consists of the secret key or unique identification code or credential that triggers the unlock process. These readers are extremely compatible with environmental changes and allow secure user access to the facility in microseconds.

IP and PoE readers

These are the most advanced readers, they are designed to support IP connectivity.

This connectivity is an advantage because there is no direct connection between a reader and the access control panel. The data traffic is easily managed in a secured IT environment. They are manageable, scalable, and can be integrated with other devices.

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Keypads are different from card readers. Instead of card swipe or proximity card read, keypads are readers that consist of a touch pad with numbers, letters, or alphanumeric symbols. To gain access to the facility, one must type the correct passcode. Secured commercial facilities can use both card readers and keypads for extra security.

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Electronic Door Lock

An electronic door lock is the hardware mounted on the door that locks or unlocks the door based on whether the access is granted or denied by the system. When a person swipes their card or provides the necessary credential method to gain access, the system authenticates and if a match is detected, signals to unlock the door. After the person enters the facility, the door locks automatically. This hardware also makes the process easy for exit because there might be uncertain events of fire or any other emergency situation, when the employees need hassle-free access out of the building.


Wiring & Power Supplies for Standalone

Power supply and wiring is a critical component of the access control system. The power requirement of an access control system is divided into two parts –

  • Power for the controllers and readers: Readers require a precise voltage to operate. Standalone battery powered controllers can run with battery but will need to charge the battery for continuous operation. Hardwired access controllers may need an external power supply.
  • Power for the electronic locks: Electronic locks require power to perform the operation of its two configuration: 
  1. Fail safe: Requires the power be taken away from lock and the lock “unlocks” the door
  2. Fail secure: Requires the power be transmitted to the lock and the lock “unlocks” the door

Depending on your preference, you will need to decide on whether your facility’s door should remain locked or unlocked during emergency situations, like power outages.


Sensors & Switches

Switches and push buttons allow for remotely unlocking the facility’s door when a user presses the switch. Additional features such as time-delay, momentary release, maintained release, and emergency release provide more operational flexibility for the user.

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Access Control Software

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Control Panel

Control panel is the main component where all the access control components like readers, power supply board, door locks sensor are linked together in one place. Access Control panels are also known as access controllers or access control boards. The panel is installed in an IT room, electric room, or closets, that hosts your database and connects your access control hardware’s to the cloud or on-premise system. Access controllers, as the name suggests, controls the access authentication based on the rules or roles set by the company. The main function of the panel is to identify the user’s credential by finding a match in the database. If a match is detected, the user is granted access to the facility.


Server & Computer

Access control systems need a server to manage access stored in the access database. It makes the decision of whether to lock or unlock the door based on the unmatched or matched credential respectively. The server also keeps track of all the activities and allows administrators to review entry logs and records on a particular date and time. This is crucial in case of certification or when it is needed by management. The server not only runs the access software but also sends and receives data from access control workstations and communicates with them for real-time monitoring, access point controls, and schedule control.



Access control hardware is managed with access control software. This application defines users, manages credentials, schedules access, adds or removes entries, and more. The information contained in the access control software coordinates with the access control unit, to enable the unit to grant or deny access. The administrator should monitor the software updates to maintain the proper function of the system. 

In cloud-based access control systems, the hardware is installed on premise and the software is configured in the cloud. Users entries, schedules, site information and credentials are set up in the software and then automatically synced with the access control units. Real-time events are captured by the cloud software. The advantage is that in case of power outage, the system still functions but communications between the access control software and the access control unit will only take place once power and Internet are restored.

Access Features & Equipment

Access control systems are the most fundamental part of a commercial security system. They have various features and additional integrations, including:

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Physical Barriers

Physical barriers help to prevent access to unauthorized people and keep them from entering the facility and keeps the workplace safe. The different physical barriers are turnstiles, fences, electronic gates, or other barriers. These barriers are used in office buildings to grant access only to individuals with the permission to be in that area.


Alarm Systems

Depending upon the emergency, urgent and non-urgent events, different mass notification alerts or sounds can be configured in the access control system. Common notifications are “Door Held Open” and “Door Forced Open”. Fire alarms can also be integrated with access control to detect fire and smoke using temperature sensors, smoke detectors, and more.



Biometrics is the method of identifying a person based on chemical, behavioral or physical attributes of a person. The main purpose of biometrics is to verify the person’s identity in order to restrict access to unauthorized people entering the facility. The biometric reader captures the pattern when the user stands in front of the access door. These patterns are fingerprints, irises, hand geometries, voice patterns, DNA information or other biometrics.


Facial Recognition

Facial Recognition is one of the latest technology advancements that provides a fast, easy authentication process to grant access to the facility. When an individual stands in front of the door, his or her face is captured live and compared against the stored digital images to grant access.


Security Cameras

Security cameras or video surveillance systems can be integrated with access control to capture a video feed of every person entering or exiting the facility. This helps in retrieving the video to verify criminal offences or uncertain events in the facility.


Elevator Controls

Elevator controls can also be integrated with access control systems to manage user access to restricted floors of a facility.


Perimeter Controls

Integration of access control systems with perimeter controls helps to protect the exterior of a facility. When it detects a perimeter breach, it can trigger an alert or intrusion alarm system in order to identify a person or an object on the property.

Planning and designing a commercial security system with a variety of components and parts requires an expert’s advice to guide you in the right direction. Umbrella Security Systems specializes in commercial access control systems, and we are here to help! Please contact us at 1-630-270-3313 or send us a quick message!

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