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Key Card Access Systems


Commercial key fob door entry systems or key card access systems are a form of security system that allows users to access doors with a card instead of a traditional key. Key card systems control access permissions at different levels of the organization and keep track of customers, employees, contractors, and other personnel accessing certain areas of your facility.

What is a key card?


A key card is a flat rectangular plastic card, similar to a credit card, that acts as a credential and stores digital patterns recognized by the door reader when a user holds it near a reader. There are various types of keycards, including the mechanical holecard, barcode, magnetic stripe, Wiegand cards, a smart card that has a microchip attached to it, and RFID proximity cards.

Purple Party Cute Quirky Illustrations General Birthday Greeting Card 38 Key Card Access Systems

How does a card access system work?


A company’s needs may vary. Depending upon their requirements, the card can either have a metallic craving or work with RFID technology. In commercial key fob door entry systems, the card transmits a signal of a specific frequency to the card reader when the card is in close proximity to the reader. The signal from the reader then communicates with the rest of the system for an authentication process to grant access if a match is detected with the previously stored data – otherwise access to the facility is denied and the door remains locked. It’s also important to understand the commercial key fob door entry system cost to make informed decisions for your business.


Communication with card readers and door locks for entry

Depending on the system, the card may contain a coded magnetic stripe that needs to be swiped into the card reader or metallic engraving that triggers inside the reader, or even RFID technology. RFID cards function in a similar pattern except, in this case, the card is brought into proximity to a sensor. At this time, the reader creates an electromagnetic field that can transmit its number or code to the reader through an electronic circuit to the access control panel, which verifies if the number or code matches an approved number in the database. If the card is valid, access is granted, the door is unlocked for a short time, and the entry or exit is recorded. If access is denied, the door remains locked, and if someone attempts to access, it gets recorded. Commercial access control systems also monitor the door and set off an alarm if a door is forced open or held open for a long time after being unlocked. Each card is coded to respond to a particular card reader, a lock, or a set of locks, and a computer program an individual card with a unique electronic signature.


Permission Management for Key Card Access Systems

Keycards can be programmed to allow users in a specific location with time restrictions. They require manual setup on a local server. The admin enters unique user information in the system and sets permissions based on various factors like role, area of access, and various rules. Once the permission is set for the user, it is ready to be issued. If the permission is stored in the cloud, access can be updated by an Admin from anywhere and at any time. You can set site-based permissions for each authorized individual in the same system. This saves the cost involved in purchasing a new key card for each facility; mobile credentials work for all your locations in your facility and can be assessed from anywhere.

Types of door entry key cards


There are different types of cardholder credentials– Holecards, Barcode, swipe card, Weigand card, prox card, key fob. They sound different but all of these options function in a similar pattern. They are simple in use, with some providing more security than others.

Purple Party Cute Quirky Illustrations General Birthday Greeting Card 39 Key Card Access Systems
Purple Party Cute Quirky Illustrations General Birthday Greeting Card 40 Key Card Access Systems

RFID Proximity Cards

It uses the newest technology. RFID cards have a microchip embedded inside the card that uses sensors. By bringing the card near the respective programmed reader, the door unlocks. It uses microchips and radio technology, providing the highest security level and is the most difficult to forge. The benefit of RFID cards is that they do not need to be removed from the wallet or held near the keycard reader, but can usually read them from a few inches away. They are most widely used in commercial office spaces.


Swipe Cards

Swipe cards are the ones the individual uses to swipe the card in the reader for gaining access to the facility. The most common types of swipe cards are – Magnetic strip cards, barcode cards, and Wiegand cards.


Magnetic Strip Cards

It’s a thin metallic strip on the back of the card, just like a credit card.


This card is swiped through a scanner, which functions by running the magnetic stripe over a sensor that reads the stripe’s contents. The stripe’s data is compared to the information that is either stored locally in the lock or in a central system. If the code is valid, by authenticating with an electronic signature on the card, then access is granted. Magnetic strip keycard systems are widely used in workplace security and hotels.

Purple Party Cute Quirky Illustrations General Birthday Greeting Card 41 Key Card Access Systems

Barcode Cards

Barcode cards use innovative infrared technology. A unique individual bar code is created to match with a particular lock. The code is printed on a card, works similar to the bar code found on many products. When the bar code is placed under an electronic scanner, it is scanned by the reader. If the barcode matches an authorized pattern it unlocks the respective door. The drawback to this system was bar codes could be forged, and the electronic reader can be easily fooled. These cards are less popular options compared to magnetic strip keycards and RFID keycards.

Purple Party Cute Quirky Illustrations General Birthday Greeting Card 42 Key Card Access Systems

Wiegand Cards

These systems set the keycode permanently in the card using magnetic wires. The code cannot be reprogrammed as magnetic strip cards or erased by the magnetic field. Many electronic access control locks use a Wiegand interface to connect the card swipe mechanism to the rest of the access control system.

Keyless Alternatives to Card Access Systems

There are many options available apart from the physical card that also functions with the same access control technology, such as key fobs, micro tags, and mobile credentials.

Purple Party Cute Quirky Illustrations General Birthday Greeting Card 43 Key Card Access Systems
Purple Party Cute Quirky Illustrations General Birthday Greeting Card 44 Key Card Access Systems
Purple Party Cute Quirky Illustrations General Birthday Greeting Card 45 Key Card Access Systems

Key Fobs

This type of badge is a security token or a durable small device that authenticates users. They are frequently used to authenticate access in places where there is constant human traffic. They are generally placed in a key ring for convenience. It incorporates 25 kHz or 13.65 MHz RFID reader technology for door and gate access. Key fobs are widely used in offices, buildings, condominiums, gym, fitness centers with 24/7 access to members and different businesses.


Micro Tags

Micro tags are a small sticker that uses HID proximity technology. You can simply convert a photo ID or security badge to a proximity card by adding a micro tag sticker to the badge. It easily attaches and then can be presented to the reader to gain access to a door or area.


Mobile Credentials

Users can also unlock doors using mobile credentials instead of a key card. It’s the newest solution for door access control systems and works similar to a key fob or micro tag. The unique user access ID is stored on the phone (typically as a mobile app) instead of on a physical card. It can then be used as an electronic key to open a door with a reader and an electronic lock. The smartphone can connect to the reader using a Bluetooth signal or through a mobile app with programmed unlock features for devices connected to the same wifi. This touchless access control technology reduces the spread of viruses and has become an important access control solution during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic situation.

Upgrading to Card or Touchless Access Control

Upgrading your existing access control system is made easier with open-source access control systems that let you use equipment from a variety of manufacturers. The newest touchless access control systems help to reduce the spread of germs. Touchless access control allows unlock doors using hands-free solutions like waving a hand near the card reader, the mobile app unlocks, mobile Bluetooth unlocks, and much more. 

Do you want you to upgrade your system to contactless? Contact us today!

Planning a door entry access system

Planning a door entry access system that meets your commercial business goals and requirements is not an easy task. There are many different access control components that go into designing a successful security system. You will need to consider various factors starting from no of users in your facility, what credentials they use, how many doors are in the facility, and much more. The first line of security defense is always the entrance and exit points in the facility. Complete Commercial security systems must be implemented to have a 360-degree of coverage on protecting buildings, property, and assets against trespassers.

Read our blog on Securing your Entryways with Office Access Control Systems for more information on planning secure entryways for your commercial facility.

Benefits of key card access systems

Below are the advantages of the card access system that keeps the facility secure:


Record Keeping

Businesses keep track of the employee’s entry/exit time.

During a theft, something goes missing or an alarm is tripped, a keycard access system allows you to retrace everyone’s paths through the doors set up in the system. The system generate reports summarizing which doors was accessed and what time the specific user accessed them. These built-in functionalities are embedded within the keycard access system, making it more convenient to track without continuous monitoring.

What information is been stored in the system?

  • Date and time of credential read
  • Unique ID number or badge number
  • Name of credential holder
  • Name of door or reader being accessed
  • Access granted/denied condition

Many businesses desire this kind of audit trail, especially banks and IT industries.


Multiple locations

Several properties can be monitored from one location or server.

Businesses can monitor security control over several buildings located in a large geographical area. Rather than remembering the multiple codes, a system can be coded to accept keycard access at multiple locations. Different rules can be implemented for different locations. For example, at one location, the employee has complete access, at another they have only business hours access, and at a third they have to be approved every time.

A keycard access allows a company to monitor all office locations located around the world from a centralized main office. Regardless of the technology – swipe, RFID, or Bluetooth – one governing system will control the entire facility. Cities can keep track of several buildings throughout a large area.


Restrict access

This is a huge benefit to the businesses with a simplified process of granting and revoking access to employees.

In the past, with a lock and key system, when an employee left the company or was terminated, or a key was lost, the entire facility would need to be rekeyed for security purpose. With keycard, the process becomes lot easier. An authorized person needs to access the credentials record and deactivate the employee’s keycard access.

Grant Access

Granting access works in the similar way like restricting access.

When an employee onboards in the company, an authorized person simply accesses the credential manager or other management tool and adds or activates a card for that employee.

Improve productivity

Keycard makes the process productive because the employees are responsible for their locations in the facility.

Helps to keep track of team members and increase overall productivity.

No Unauthorized Written Records

The system set the keycode in the card which cannot be physically stolen unless the employee writes the code somewhere.

It should always be remembered that keycard code shouldn’t be written anywhere for personal and business security.

Implement a lockdown procedure

Its beneficial during emergency situation.

Access can be granted or revoked without the need to update the entire lock system.

Logging Access Activity

Audit trail obtained by recorded log activity for every individual since every card is unique.

The log activity includes who accessed the facility, how much time that person was in the facility and how many times the facility was accessed by that individual. This is helpful during theft or missing information.

Easier to Change

A keycard is a physical object and it can be stolen.

Since each card is unique, replacing it and locking out the old card is easy. Once the old card is deactivated, it can never be used. Alerts are sent if anyone tries to use the card before deactivation. The new card has a unique signature from the old card, which means the employee can be granted access without concern over who has the old card. This is a much easier process for an employee than memorizing a new key code.

Difficult to duplicate

In the past, with lock and key system, the physical keys could be copied very easily.

But with keycard, its nearly impossible to duplicate an electronic key because it has a higher degree of sophistication with advanced technology making it more secure.

Reduce Windshield and Repair Time

If a tech needs different access to handle an emergency in the field, his or her rights can be updated.

This way, the tech can travel directly to the emergency without returning to the office, reducing costly windshield time and accelerating repairs.

Flexible – can be used for External or Internal Access Control

External control is used by businesses or organizations who want to control access to their facilities.

Examples are storage facilities, manufacturing sites, college dormitories or other businesses. Other uses are for parking garages. These system can require an entrance and exit before the same card can be used again in order to control parking lots.

Key cards are used for internal doors to control access to highly sensitive areas such as hospital supply rooms, guard shacks, or IT areas where private information is stored. Schools use them for classrooms to prevent theft and restrict access to certain areas of the school such as the computer labs. Hotels or apartment buildings also use internal card entry systems in elevators to restrict access to adjust the floor guests or tenants and are very common for jails and courthouses to restrict access to certain levels. Keycard access is also used in the public areas of the building such as the lobby or the restaurant floors.


Individually programmed

Entry key cards are programmed for each individual, allowing businesses to customize access for each person.

A business can choose to grant full access or limit access during scheduled times. This has many practical applications. Just to cite examples : managers may be given full access while limiting access for regular employees to just the office hours of 7:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Or stock custodians may be granted access to storerooms, but other employees may be restricted.

Pair with Video Surveillance system

Pairing with video system allow visual supervision of individuals entering and exiting the facility.

For additional security, companies choose to pair access control systems with video surveillance to ensure authentication on entry/exit of the facility. Once access is granted, video surveillance is activated in the particular door being accessed making it easy to verify the person’s access to that facility.

Tips to Improve Business Security

There is no doubt saying, “Installing a card access system is one of the best ways to keep your business secure.” But there are other options also that you might want to consider. Here at Umbrella Security Systems, we have the ability to take your security in hand and ensure the safety and efficiency of your facilities. Here are some steps you can implement today:

Umbrella Security Systems is an Independent Physical Security Consultant who specializes in commercial electronic access control systems.  Get a free consultation from us to set you on the right track and get the most cost-effective and best key card access system for your business.

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