Access control is often the first line of defense for organizations. Deployed to control the movement of people based on specified permissions, it is the difference between risk mitigation and susceptibility.
Access control systems form the backbone of any successful physical security posture. But choosing a system is not always straightforward.
Electromechanical or electromagnetic locks? Fail-safe or fail-secure locks? Standalone systems, integrated systems, role-based access control, mandatory access control…
Albeit terms that signify the continued advancement of access control technologies, they are jargon to most. Learning the landscape and researching solutions can be a time consuming and frustrating process. Here, we will try to simplify things and answer some vitally important questions: what are access control credentials, how do they work, and which one is right for you?
What Are Access Control Credentials?
But with so many possible credentials on the market, which one fits your environment?
A proximity card looks a lot like your typical debit or credit card. Earlier iterations of access control cards had to be swiped in order to be read, yet proximity cards can trigger access remotely thanks to contactless verification technologies.
From a convenience perspective, this is incredibly useful. They can be scanned through wallets, or, depending on the system’s configurations and capabilities, may be detected from greater distances, allowing access even if a proximity card is left in a pocket, for example.
Smart cards are different from proximity cards. As low frequency (LF) contactless cards, proximity cards are read-only devices that do not contain multiple types of data.
Smart cards are an evolution of proximity cards. They are designed to provide greater flexibility in card application and can be programmed with multiple credentials. While a proximity card will solely be used to define access privileges, a smart card may also store cash values, a key reason why they are often utilized as pre-paid membership cards.
MIFARE is a common technology used in smart cards. Originally deployed to handle payment transactions for public transportation systems throughout Europe, it is now a common feature in security access control credentials, able to provide identification, authentication, and the storage of other information thanks to embedded microchipping.
Much like smart and proximity cards, key fobs are physical access control system (PACS) credentials designed to be both small and convenient. They are programmable security devices with built-in authentication, usually attached to a key chain, and are available as proximity or smart, high-security credentials.
They are a core part of keyless entry systems. Leveraging radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, they open and unlock doors electronically, and are one of the most common ways in which businesses manage entry to their facilities.
Mobile Access Credentials
Mobile access credentials are digital credentials integrated within an Android or Apple iOS device. Essentially, they turn a smartphone into a digital key.
People today will almost always have a smartphone on them, making mobile access credentials a logical and convenient way of facilitating access control. The technology operates like Apple Pay or Google Pay, where a phone is held up to a digital reader and the credentials are authenticated.
They can be effective at reducing costs, removing the need to have additional physical objects manufactured in order to uphold access control systems.
Biometric readers do not require an additional physical device, yet they do not use mobile devices either. Instead, the identity of a person is authenticated by the individual themself.
Biometric technologies have been applied in numerous ways: fingerprint and palm scanners are more typical variations, but facial recognition, eye scanners, and voice recognition are all cutting-edge technologies available on the market.
Biometrics are extremely sophisticated and often more expensive than alternative access control credentials. Without the need for a device, and being impossible to imitate, they are some of the most convenient and secure access control methods.