At first glance, elevators don't seem to be all that different from one another. Upon closer inspection, though, there are important distinctions that can impact the safety of your facility. This is why a dedicated elevator access control system can be the key to keeping a multi-floor facility safe.

If you need an overview of the best elevator companies on the market, you can find it here.

Elevator access control by Kisi
Kisi's cloud-based access control system can be easily installed on elevators

Types of Elevator Access Control

Single Elevator Access Control

These elevators are much more common in smaller buildings that are either shorter or low-volume. As the name implies, there will only be one elevator in this situation, so it can be much easier to set up than a more complicated multi-lift situation. Usually, as a tenant in a building, you can't change the elevator. However, it’s important to take 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 have this type of elevator if you are located in a smaller building. It's the one elevator you are waiting on that takes a long time coming down from the 5th floor, occasionally causing a long wait time for employees and visitors.

Elevator Banks

These elevators are common in larger or busier buildings. This setup can 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: Are they called individually or is there 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. 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.

Smart Elevators

Smart elevators operate by passengers first selecting the floor they wish to travel to, instead of pressing up or down. They are then directed to an elevator that will transport them to their destination with the fewest number of stops on the way. If you don't have one for your company or warehouse, we recommend you look at the things to consider before installing an elevator.

Currently, there is a rise in technological developments that will shape the future of the smart elevator market. Artificial intelligence, connected systems, smart city initiatives, and other advances are sure to not only transform the upward trajectory of smart elevators but will catalyze a new wave of technological innovation in the smart elevator project trends.

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Manage elevator access from the cloud.

Secure Your Floors With Kisi

Types of Elevator Access Control Configurations

Public Elevator with Private Access to Selected Floors

This configuration includes an elevator that 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 define how long the buttons can be pressed after the card has been presented, e.g., 10 seconds.

public elevator diagram
Public elevator with private access (diagram)

Private Elevator for General Access to Any Floor

This is the opposite of the case above. In this configuration, only a passenger with verified credentials will be able to call for the elevator. Once in the elevator, the person 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, but he will also need to do a card read once in the elevator, which will only provide access to particular floors which his credentials allow 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 or call feature when a person passes through it.

Diagram of Destination Control Systems

Access control systems can take pre-determined actions depending on trigger status from external systems, and they can send triggers to external systems like security, fire alarm, video, and emergency systems.

Discover how Kisi can be installed on your elevator

Touchless elevator access with Kisi
Restrict access to certain floors and provide users with a touchless experience, even when it comes to elevators.

Elevator Access Control Panel

Elevator access control panels connect to three different main devices:

  1. The elevator control buttons
  2. The card reader
  3. The access control system
ZKT Eco Elevator Control Panel

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.

For the elevator control buttons, there are typically four wires connecting the button with the elevator system:

  1. LED + wire
  2. LED - wire
  3. GND wire
  4. 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 Lifts

Let's assume you have an existing lift 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.

wiring diagram for elevator access control
Integrating mobile access with elevators (diagram)

Wiring schematic of connecting Kisi's mobile access control to a Honeywell system allows for cloud-based elevator access control.

You can find more information in this article about the wiring of your entire access control systems, including both doors and elevators.

Security Vulnerabilities of Elevators

There are numerous security vulnerabilities that exist when using elevator access control. Below, we discuss some of the ways that an intruder can compromise elevator security.


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 looks 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 his desired floor by waiting until someone calls the elevator for the desired floor.

Sharing a Card Swipe

Most access and elevator control systems are one-way only. This means that feedback is not provided when a floor selection button is pressed. Hence, when someone 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 overridden 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 means 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.

Contactless elevator with no physical buttons

In Kisi-connected elevators, users can avoid pressing a button to call the elevator, and simply rely on their phone (or smartwatch) to do so. This works also if only selected floors are secured with Kisi, and on would allow users to only access a certain elevator if their permissions in Kisi allow them to do so. Depending on the model of the elevator, there may still be buttons to press inside the cabin, but a combination of touchless elevator technology with Kisi to restrict access can reduce or eliminate the need for physical buttons and surfaces to touch.

3 Types of Kisi x Elevators Use Cases

Elevators: Who Needs Them?

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 for 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 for access control systems to work with.

The Long Answer: You would wire the Kisi Pro Controller to the elevator’s controller. The long answer here isn’t that much longer than the short answer, which is great, right?

Use Case 2:

You want to restrict the elevator from going from the ground floor to multiple different floors. The access permission gives you permission to access all floors—including either 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, or if allowed, you can access all locked floors. Can it work?

The Short Answer: Maybe. This isn’t as straightforward as Use Case 1, but the situation is definitely salvageable. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and what you want.

The Long Answer: Below are some of the options for this scenario.

1) You can use the Kisi Pro Reader, which 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 may sound silly—you’ll need to install one Kisi Pro Reader for each floor that you want to control access to. This is because currently, you can have multiple readers for one door, but you can’t have multiple doors for one reader, which you’d need in this case. Your setup will look kind of silly, but it works!

2) You can use the Kisi App and Kisi Pro Controller, which 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 now 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 we 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 in this scenario, 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!

Additional 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.
  • One addition to access controlled elevators could 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 capitalizing 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 so suspicious activity can be monitored and recorded.