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10 Feb 2022 | 09:00

The benefits of access control technologies

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An RFID-based access control system maximises convenience and security

In a world powered by technology, our expectations of convenient, seamless and yet secure experiences – at work, when buying things, when travelling or in the gym – are growing by the day. 

For example, we may wish to access IT systems at work without the hassle of log-ins and multi factor authentication every time we use a new app, and we don’t want to waste time queuing to check in at reception when we visit the gym. We want every door – both literal and figurative –  to open quickly before us, but at the same time we don’t want any ‘undesirables’ to follow us through it. 

Often, a radio frequency identification (RFID) based access control system is the answer.

RFID is a form of wireless communication that uses readers to recognise and ‘read’ tags (sometimes called transponders). Each tag contains unique data about the person using it, and it broadcasts this to the reader, which may send that information on to another computer or a system that performs an action.

For example, when a staff member uses an ID card, containing an RFID tag, to open the door of their workplace, the reader in the door decodes the RFID tag, which tells the reader that the person ‘attached’ to that card is a staff member and can be allowed into the building. 

Notably, that tag can be tailored to the individual. Employee A might have a door card that gives them entry to 75% of the building, but employee B may have 100% access. 

Similarly with data systems: RFID smart cards are often used to access workplace computers. This saves the worker the hassle of tedious log-ins; meanwhile the RFID tag tells the system which parts of the corporate data and apps this particular person can (and cannot) have access to. 

What is more, RFID access control technologies are wonderfully versatile things: RFID tags can be tiny and are often placed in badges, key fobs, wristbands and even stickers. Tags can be so discreet that even the person using the RFID based access control system forgets they’re doing so. They make for better customer and staff experiences, seamless service and convenience all round.

RFID systems are also versatile in terms of admin and security. When RFID is used, for example as a door access control system, the user has a choice of system formats. The system can be cloud-based, on-premise or accessed via a web browser. Cloud-based systems can be accessed from anywhere and the organisation using them doesn’t have to invest in costly software or infrastructure that may date. On premise systems are more expensive, but arguably more secure (although remote access can be problematic); web access is highly convenient and flexible.

What are the benefits of RFID access control technologies?

Benefits of RFID for access control include:

  • Customisable user permissions. The RFID tag in any wristband/card/fob/sticker can be programmed with very precise information about where the user can and cannot go, the facilities they are permitted to use and at what times, and so forth. This applies to data, buildings, vehicles, and sub-sections of these. Furthermore, permissions can be revoked and granted almost instantly, giving ultimate management control.  
  • Better, easier and more demonstrable compliance. Where an organisation owes a legal duty of care and/or confidentiality, deals with sensitive matters or operates under any regulatory code, RFID access control provides not just security, but also traceability and audit trails. 
  • Versatility. There are few restrictions on the format of an RFID-enabled device. RFID access control technologies don’t have to use smart cards – RFID tags are already placed in documents (all new UK passports have one), in wristbands, even under the skin (many pet animals carry RFID-enabled ID tags). RFID readers can be fitted to mobile or desktop devices, doors, pieces of equipment … almost anything! 
  • Affordability. Once purchased, third-party involvement in RFID access can be minimal. Cards/fobs/badges etc. can all be customised, printed and issued/cancelled in-house, quickly and conveniently.
  • Can be integrated with wider security systems. Because RFID readers can ‘talk’ to other devices and systems, integration with security cameras, alarms and other security measures is very straightforward. This not only strengthens the inherent security of RFID, but also augments existing security measures and may reduce the cost of overheads such as insurance.
  • Durability. RFID systems can be robust, durable, waterproof and weatherproof.
  • Can drive up productivity and the efficient use of assets. For example, reduced log-in times, no need to supervise staff access to data or places, or to manually change access settings or log-ins for each new user.  Users know their time at the device/place can be tracked, and that they are accountable.

Which sectors benefit from a door access control system?

An RFID based access control system is helpful wherever governance, information security and/or demonstrable care is a priority, for example in legal, health, education and childcare settings, and wherever records and data are stored. However, most sectors can benefit from RFID if their aim is to provide an easy, no-barriers experience for staff and clients without compromising on security. 

RFID is hands-free (or at least, can be made to operate that way), so it can also make premises, systems and vehicles accessible to those who often find them challenging, such as people with limited mobility or restricted sight, or workers carrying heavy goods. 

Are RFID access control technologies secure?

Not only are RFID access control technologies secure, but also the RFID sector is constantly working and innovating to make them even more so! Newer RFID chips vary in their security levels, but can be made very secure indeed. Current initiatives include the use of RFID with digital codes as additional authentication, digitally-signed firmware, encrypted communication between card and read and use with biometric authentication. 

How is RFID based access control system tech developing?

There are indications that, over time, RFID technologies (probably in combination with other authentication factors, such as biometric) will replace many of our traditional items including cash, credit cards, door keys, car keys and even manual forms of ID such as passports. Little wonder, then, that security is now a prime area of interest and development in this sector.

Since RFID technology is already included within smartphones (in the form of NFC), it may be that in the future, mobile devices will replace the cards, fobs and wristbands of today. However, this is likely to be some way off, due to the current requirement for NFC readers to be very close indeed to the device. With RFID, almost anything is possible!

If you would like to learn more about RFID, please check out another of our blog posts on this subject, and browse our access control and RFID products.



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