At first glance, elevators don't seem to be all that different from each other. All they do is move you up and down in tall buildings, right? However, upon closer inspection, there are important distinctions that can impact the safety of your facility. A dedicated elevator access control system can be the key to a safer facility that’s spread out between multiple floors.
Types of Elevators
Single Elevator Access Control
These elevators are much more common in smaller buildings that are either shorter or low-volume. Like the name implies, there will only be one elevator in this situation, so it can be easier to set up than a more complicated multi-lift situation. Most often as a tenant in a building you can't change the elevator. Keep a close look at how that elevator is operated — does it lock after hours? Who gets keys, and how many are there? What are the operations like during busy hours?
You might know these elevators from smaller buildings. It's the one elevator you are waiting on and takes a long time coming down from the 5th floor.
Kisi's opinion: Mostly as a tenant in a building you can't change the elevator. Keep a close look at how that elevator is operated - does it lock after hours? Who gets keys and how many? What are operations processes during busy hours?
If you are located in a larger or busier building, you’ll likely have an elevator bank. While it can make implementing a lift access control system a bit tougher, it allows you to avoid you having to wait too long for an elevator, because there are many instead of one. This setup can also help with tailgating, which becomes harder to get away with due to the increased scrutiny that comes with elevator banks. Pay close attention to how these elevators are called — whether they are called individually or if there is a destination dispatch system. While they are expensive, a destination dispatch system allows you to type in the floor you are going to and the system calls the logistically fastest elevator for you. The lack of one of these systems could create a lot of chaos at peak hours.
If you are located in a larger building, you likely have an elevator bank. That avoids you having to wait a too long time for the elevator since there are multiple.
Kisi's opinion: Pay close attention to how these elevators are called: Can they be called individually - that will create a lot of chaos. If you have a destination dispatch system, you'd type in the floor you are going to and the system calls the logistically fastest elevator for you. Those systems are typically very expensive though.
Types of elevator configurations
Public Elevator with Private Access to Selected Floors
The elevator is public in the sense that anyone can get an elevator by pressing the call button. However once inside the car, passengers will need to do a card read, which will allow them access to particular floors. This setup will typically have a call button in the lobby as shown below. The elevator access control groups program which specific floors to unlock based on the presented credential, and also defines how long the buttons can be pressed after the card has been presented, e.g. 10 seconds.
Private Elevator for General Access to Any Floor
This is the opposite of the case above. Only a passenger with verified credentials will be able to call for the elevator. Once in the elevator, one will be able to select any floor to access. This setup has a reader in the lobby (as opposed to a call button) which allows cardholders to call a private elevator.
Private Elevator with Private Access to Selected Floors
This is a combination of the two configurations and has added security. Not only will a passenger require a card read to call the elevator, he will also need to do a card read once in the elevator, and only has access to particular floors which his credentials has allowed for. In addition to having a reader in the lobby, the setup requires a reader in the car.
Destination Control Systems (DCS)
When a traditional DCS is used, the calls are given only from the Destination Operating Panel (DOP). For this reason, the card reader is integrated only with the DOP. Turnstile integration can be done to activate direct home oor call feature when a person passes through it.
Access control systems can take pre-determined actions, depending on trigger status from external systems, and send triggers to external systems like security, fire alarm, video, and emergency systems.
Discover how Kisi can be installed on your elevator and what makes our security platform unique
Elevator Access Control Panel
Elevator Access Control panels connect to 3 different main devices:
- The elevator control buttons
- The card reader
- The access control system
Typically these boards can only restrict access to a certain number of floors, e.g. 10 floors in this case but can be expanded with extension boards that can control another 16 floors each in this example:
For the elevator control buttons there are typically four wires connecting the button with the elevator system:
- LED + wire
- LED - wire
- GND wire
- Elevator button controlled line
The card reader is typically connected via Wiegand input and the server is connected via TCP/IP or RS485.
Integration of Mobile Credentials or Mobile Access With Elevators
Let's assume you have an existing elevator with a regular Honeywell access control panel. Adding Kisi would mean that we can easily connect the Kisi controller relays to the output of the Honeywell system since the elevator buttons are NC/COM. For illustrative purposes we provided a signal diagram below:
When it comes to the wiring diagram of your entire access control systems, including both doors and elevators, you can find more information in this article.
Security Vulnerabilities of Elevators
There are numerous security vulnerabilities that exist when using elevator access control. Some of the ways that an intruder can compromise elevator security include:
Even for private elevators with private access, intruders are able to enter the elevator car with authorized passengers and ride to secured floors. This is because entering and exiting elevators with other people is completely natural, and rarely look suspicious. This problem intensifies with the busyness of the elevator.
Waiting for the Right Time
People rarely find it suspicious that a person stays on an elevator as they are simply thought to be continuing to another floor. This often allows the intruder to access to his desired floor by waiting until someone calls the elevator the desired floor.
Sharing a Card Swipe
Most access and elevator control systems are one-way only. This means to say that feedback is not provided when a floor selection button is pressed. Hence, when one who has multi-floor access rights uses his card, the buttons for all authorized floors will be activated and remain so for several seconds after his card is used. This allows a second person to "piggyback" by selecting a secured floor immediately after the authorized person has used his card.
Use Fire Service Override
For obvious reasons, elevator security controls are over-ridden when the elevator is placed in "Fire Service Mode".
Unfortunately, these are often the same between elevators of the same brand, or within a specific geographical area. This entails that anyone having a fire service key to any elevator will have access to all floors. To make matters worse, most fire service keys are also easily available for purchase.
3 Types of Cloud Access Control for Elevators Using Kisi
Elevators: Who Needs ‘Em?
Elevators are tricky beasts, especially when it comes to access control. Can restricted access control for elevators be added easily? Technically yes, but there’s a big but. It really depends on your use case so let’s jump right in and explore some options. What we’ve seen, in most cases, is that the elevator is open for one “welcome” type of floor but locked for other floors.
Use Case 1:
You want to enable restricted access of the elevator to go from the ground floor to only one floor. The other floors should be openly accessible. Can it work?
The Short Answer:
Great news, the answer is yes! This is the easiest and best kind of scenario; let me explain.
The Long Answer:
You would wire the Kisi Pro Controller to the elevator’s controller. Well, I guess the long answer wasn’t that much longer than the short answer, which is great, right?
Use Case 2:
You want to restrict the elevator to go from the ground floor to multiple floors. The access permission gives you permissions to access all floors—including the locked ones or only the unlocked floors. This means there is no differentiated access control for the locked floors—it’s locked for all and if allowed you can access all locked floors. Can it work?
The Short Answer:
Maybe—it isn’t as straightforward as use case one but the situation is definitely salvageable. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and what you want. Let’s see what the options are:
The Long Answer:
- You want to use the Kisi Pro Reader (supports mobile phone and key card users):
If you want to use the Kisi Pro Reader, it is possible to use Kisi to go from the ground floor to different restricted floors. However (and this is going to sound silly), you’ll need to install one Kisi Pro Reader for each floor that you want to control access to. Currently you can have multiple readers for one door but you can’t have multiple door for one reader - which you’d need in this case. Your setup will look kind of silly, but it works!
- You don’t want to use the Kisi Pro Reader (supports only mobile phone users):
If you want to just use the Kisi App to access different floors, then it’s definitely doable! You would buy one Kisi Pro Controller for every four floors, wire them to the elevator’s controller, and voilà you have Kisi installed! This method, however, would preclude your non-smartphone users from accessing the space so proceed with caution!
Use Case 3:
You want to use the elevator to go to select locked floors (i.e. floors 1, 3, and 5) but not others (i.e. floors 2, 4, 6). Can it work?
The Short Answer:
Unfortunately, not at this time. Remember when I said earlier that elevators are tricky beasts? This is where they like to play hard to get. The basic idea is that we can’t map more than one Kisi Pro Reader to a relay slot on the Kisi Pro Controller. Until we can do that, there’s not much else we can do unfortunately.
The Long Answer:
This is an advanced requirement for elevators—typically, it involves an elevator bank with multiple elevators that need to be programmed and coordinated. Since this might be coupled with destination dispatch or other advanced programming algorithms, it is currently not possible to overlay the existing system with Kisi.
We really want everyone to enjoy Kisi to the fullest; while equipping elevators with access control isn’t ideal, don’t rule us out just because you have an elevator project. If you’re unsure, why not give one of our experts a ring and let us see how we can help? After all, you never know what solution we might come up with!
Tips for Improved Elevator Security
- Don't count on access controlled elevators to provide a high level of security as it can be compromised in many ways. This means elevators should never be used as the only way of controlling access for high-security areas.
- An addition to access controlled elevators will be barrier walls between elevator lobbies and interior areas on every secured floor. Although costly, this technique should be considered for high-security floors.
- Outputs from the elevator floor select buttons can be connected as inputs to the access control system. This means an immediate reset with one press, preventing a second user from capitalising on the first user’s card swipe. This also permits the access control system to know which floor select button was pressed when a card was used, allowing more accurate activity reporting.
- In training sessions, educate employees to not give unknown people access to controlled floors and to immediately report any suspicious person.
- Request for a dry-contact output from the elevator control system that closes anytime that the elevator is placed into Fire Service Mode. This output should be connected as an input to your access control or security management system so that relevant authorities are immediately notified when any elevator is switched to Fire Service Mode.
- Have video surveillance cameras at all elevator lobbies and in each elevator car. In this way, suspicious activity can be monitored and recorded.