Access Control System Overview of Components

Learn and read about hardware and components that make up a full access control system.

It is recommended to read our "Introduction to Access Control Systems" to get a contextual understanding. In case you are looking for Alarm components, we recommend this overview.

To read the card or fob (also called credential) you need a reader at the door. Different types of readers are: Standalone, wireless or integrated Proximity Readers or IP readers.

To unlock the door you need an electronic lock. Normally used are electric strikes, magnetic locks or wired mortise locks. In case of fire emergency doors an electrified push bar will be recommended.

Understanding the door status in access control monitoring situations is critical: Is the door open or closed, has there been motion at the door or not? That's when you use door contact sensors as well as motion sensors.

Most of us might now the internet connected wireless camera from our own smart home setup. However at some smaller businesses you see wired DVR systems. In a more modern business IP cameras connected to a NVR are typically used.

Depending if you need to call multiple parties or just one - you might have a single- or multi-unit intercom. Those intercoms differ also by Dial-In-, Audio-, Video- or Touch Screen configuration.

Pin pads are used for convenient access however often come with the insecurity of the codes being passed on to others. Sometimes the pin pad is on the lock itself, or installed as standalone pin pad or key pad on a reader so it does both functions: Read the card and reading pins.

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When an employee holds the keycard at the reader or swipes the card or keyfob, the reader reads a unique identifier that is recognized by the system as having access to the requested door or not.

A standard access control panel is the control center that connects all doors with the internet and triggers the doors to unlock in the coorect situations.

The push to exit button ensures employees can always leave the office or facility in case of an emergency. The push to exit button is typically installed on the inside of the door - when pressed, the door unlocks unknowingly who pressed the button - that's why the button has to be on the inside. In some cases motion sensors are installed on the inside of the door that do the same job and trip the access control wire to unlock the door when someone walks up to the door from the inside, so no button has to be pushed.

Everyone knows turnstiles from a large building lobby - you swipe your card on the turnstile and the turnstile allows one single turn, so exactly one person can go through. This prevents so called piggy backing, where someone unauthorized might just walk behind someone who correctly authenticated and gains unauthorized access.

Fire alarm systems are quite different from burglary alarm systems in regards to what they do: The fire alarm system unlocks or keeps certain doors locked in case of an emergency while the burglary alarm system notifies someone, often a third party like the police or 24/7 call center that unauthorized access has happened.

In the access control world there is exactly one prominent power supply company and that is Altronix. Power supplies carry enormous importance in electronic access control systems - should they accidentally fail could unexpectedly unlock a door.

Similar important to the power supply is the backup battery: In case of power loss the backup battery can keep certain doors open or closed so business is not interrupted.

Everyone knows what a door is, however there are often three types of doors: Metal, wood or glass doors. From an access control perspective typically glass doors are most difficult to install access control on - since as they name says the glass does not allow a lot of wiring or mounting of the door lock.

Cables are the most underrated parts of access control - however they really guarantee the signal arrives at the door to unlock. Depending on distance and type of data signal, there might be different gauges or thickness of wire used.

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