The finer points of integrating security entrances and access control systems


Access control and security entrance integration is a specialised discipline. It is true that security entrances require only a dry contact and can integrate with virtually any access control system, but there are some things to be considered when researching the right access control system for your organisation’s security goals.

Mistake 1: Device placement
The placement of your access control device will not only affect the throughput of your entrance, but also its level of security or effectiveness at tailgating mitigation. If you are spending a significant amount of money on physical security entrances, you are going to want to know if your access control device is negatively impacting the entrance’s ability to provide the intended level of security.

Some of the placement mistakes which have been observed where throughput and security were impacted: Access control system placement in the hallway. Believe it or not, placement of a device on a wall to the left side of the entrance vs. the right. Most of the world drives on the right side of the road. That’s intuitive for most users, and that is why authorised users enter our security revolving doors to the right. However, I have seen companies place the access control device on the LEFT side of a hallway, opposite the entry point of the door.

Unauthorised entry to buildings
Here’s an example to illustrate this mistake: It is lunchtime, many people are coming and going through a security revolving door. There is a large group of people exiting the door while I am trying to enter. I have to cross through that oncoming traffic to get to the card reader on the left side of the hallway, scan my badge, and then manoeuvre through traffic to get back to the entrance of the door on the right side. This is far from an ideal setup for efficient throughput. There is also the chance that while I’m trying to make my way through traffic after authorisation, someone else could jump into the door and make it through. What if that “someone else” was a person intent on doing harm?

Another placement mistake is distance of the device from the entrance. Let’s stick with the picture we have of the security revolving door in the hallway. The access control device is mounted on the right side of the hallway, BUT the device is 10 feet from the entrance of the door. That’s a lapse of several seconds between the access control device and the security entrance. During a busy time of day, like lunch, someone could march straight past the person who just authorised and enter through the door. Again, if this isn’t someone with credentials, you could have a serious problem on your hands.

Mistake 2: Speed of activation is too high
The faster the access control device, the higher probability of a false acceptance, or the device saying that someone is authorised when they really aren’t. When you think about it simply, any time that we as humans try to do something faster and faster, quality tends to suffer. The same is true of an access control device. There is a biometric device technology on the market that only requires a person to wave their hand through for authentication—no more actually placing your hand on the device for its geometry to be verified. While this significantly increases the throughput of the entrance, there is a greater probability of the device saying someone is authorised when they are not. Are you willing to take that risk?

Verification on the fly
In order to speed throughput, lately we have heard of “verification on the fly” systems that recognise facial features as a person is walking up to the device. Manufacturers of these devices tout that their technology can recognise a specific face among a crowd from 15 feet away or more. While this is great technology, it isn’t really taking off because there is much room for error. To achieve the activation speed advertised, you’d be risking a higher level of false acceptance. Also, if three people approach and one is authorised, the entrance will unlock, but who is actually entering?

The best way to ensure the right person passes through the entrance is to use two-factor authentication. You could have the facial recognition device to start with, but you’d need to add a secondary reader right at the door to confirm that the same authorised user is the one getting in.

Mistake 3: Not intuitive for users
So, when is intuitive use not very intuitive? There are two areas: Sophisticated devices and hidden placement. Is the access control device something that your employees will know how to use intuitively, like a card swipe reader? Or is it something that will require training, like an iris scanner or BLE reader? This does require achieving a balance. We know that card readers are low-tech and someone wanting to inflict harm can easily steal a badge and gain access. But, is the device so complex that your staff just won’t get it? Is the technology too new? So new that it hasn’t been tried and tested?

Secondly, where is the device placed? Is it underneath a piece of black glass, hidden from view? Is it on the left side of the hallway when someone is expecting to see it on the right? Placement must be as close to intuitive as possible. Access control systems and security entrances go hand-in-hand in preventing tailgating and unauthorised entry. It is crucial to think hard about which access control device you need, how best to install it, and whether it will function appropriately to meet your organisation’s unique security goals.

Kurt Measom
Vice President, Technology and Product Support,
Boon Edam