The future of access control systems

Access control is used more than we think, from traditional methods like keypads in schools to unlocking our smartphones on a daily basis. But how far can technology take us? In this article, we reflect on how the trends have changed over the years, as well as looking at some changes that could occur in the future.

How access control has changed over time

The phenomenal keypads
The way we protected our homes and businesses was once through the use of locks and keys, but with technology being introduced – the options seem endless. The way we entered restricted areas has changed over time — and it all started with the famous keypad. Similar to what we now see on ATMs, these were used to access locked areas and would require an individual to type in a specific numerical code to enter. The passcode would usually be around four to six digits long. But was this a viable method to protect a business? At the time, it was a revolutionary idea — but as times progressed, anyone could obtain the code and enter even if they weren’t authorised to do so. This was classed as a non-intelligent reader.

The revolutionary card readers
After coming to the realisation that keypads weren’t as protective as what they could be, card readers were soon introduced to help protect property around the country and this became the most common use of access control systems. Usually, a magnetic strip would be attached to the card which a staff member could then swipe through a narrow slot in order to gain access. However, such cards are now available with a bar code reader, a proximity reader, smart card readers, and biometric readers — tailoring each to specific business requirements.

The introduction of IP door readers
Authorising access soon became easier, with IP door readers allowing individuals to swipe cards as well as using Bluetooth to send signals from a smartphone! Biometrics are now also common in IP readers — unlike card readers and keypads, IP readers can operate independently as they hold an internal memory and if the details you provide do not match what the IP reader has knowledge of, you will not gain access.

These changes took place in under 50 years, but which direction of the access control world will we be heading in?

How we access our smartphones

Smartphones are constantly changing in design, and with these changes comes different methods of access to the internal use of the phone. The use of passcodes is still common amongst most devices and are similar to keypads in terms of security. Biometric access, through the use of the fingerprint, is something that is relatively new and has revolutionised the way we get into our phones. However, in 2017, the iPhone X was released which saw tech-mogul company, Apple, introduce facial recognition as the main route to gaining access using a 3D sensor that can recognise the phone owner’s facial features. We suspect that this will be implemented across more smartphone devices in order to compete for the title of being the most accessible and the easiest. However, convenience and simplicity whether facial recognition, fingerprint scanning Bluetooth, and even a short PIN code come at a price they simplify access not only for the authorised user, but also for a potential attacker. So when it comes to implementing an Access Control System always seek the advice of an experienced security integrator.

What does the future hold for access control?

The use of ‘eyeball recognition’ is one to look out for, and will enhance security measures around the world for a range of different organisations. As no two people are the same, DNA ensures that access is being granted to the right person. Even in extreme and unlikely circumstances, if someone was to obtain your eyeball, they would still be unable to gain access.

In blockbusters like James Bond, we see cool technology unravel before our eyes — and these have influenced many security technologies that we now use today. In “Diamonds are Forever” in the James Bond franchise, 007 tries to gain access through a ‘copy’ of the fingerprint. Realistically, if this was to occur, there would be smudges on the fingerprint which would lead to alerts being made and a fail in gaining access.

Sylvester Stallone hit movie Demolition Man consisted of a bunch of criminals that escaped prison using the eye of a prison guard. In reality, this would not get past any sort of IRIS scan, as there is a detection process which determines whether the person is alive or not and a dead person’s pupil would not be responding to any light that is around.

Will access control systems continue to exceed expectations? Will movies this year predict even greater possibilities? And the bigger question is: will they be brought to life? With the evolution of access control happening frequently, and becoming more intelligent, we are sure to see new additions soon.

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