Physical Access Control: An Overview

United Nation’s report on World Urbanization Prospects estimates that by 2050, approximately 2.5 billion people will migrate to cities – to live and work in. This impending change in the urban demographics globally, in turn, would put the onus on developing secure and advanced building assets that are connected to the Internet. Subsequently, organizations will have to empower the workforce to access information seamlessly and securely across devices anytime and anywhere. It is in these information-driven workplaces that the importance of physical access control becomes paramount.

What is Access Control?

Access control is a fundamental technique in security that helps organizations and facility owners to regulate who or what can use or view resources in a secured environment. Access control can be implemented at both a physical and logical level. Physical access control allows restricted access to campus, rooms, buildings and physical IT assets. On the other hand, logical access control provides controlled connections to data, system files and computer networks.

Physical access control forms the basis of securing a facility against unauthorized access. Herein, organizations use electronic physical access control systems, which in turn, rely on access card readers, user’s biometrics and credentials, and reporting to monitor personnel access to restricted business locations.

Physical access control systems are responsible for performing identification, authentication and authorization of individuals through their login credentials. These login credentials primarily comprise personal identification numbers (PINs), passwords, biometric scans, and security tokens, among other authentication factors. Organizations may use different access control models, based on their compliance requirements and the desired security of IT assets they are trying to protect.

How Does Physical Access Control Work?

Modern-day physical access control systems are an integrated role-based, intrusion detection solution that can help unify any facility’s security infrastructure and management systems into a centralized platform.

Physical access control systems usually involve multifactor authentication, which typically requires two or more authentication factors before an individual or an entity secures access to a restricted section of the organization.

Therefore, an individual who desires access must present their credentials first and then there is a second factor such as an access code, biometric reading or a PIN (Personal Identification Number.

Furthermore, physical access control systems connect different systems throughout the facility, including power monitoring, lighting controls, UPS, critical power monitoring and building analytics, with a variety of security systems, such as CCTV, photo ID badging, alarm management, intrusion detection and mass notification.

Use of Physical Access Control

The goal of physical access control is to minimize any unauthorized access to the physical systems of an organization. Physical access control thus helps implement security technology and access control policies in a facility.

Most organizations have procedures and infrastructure to limit access to business-critical assets such as intellectual property and personally identifiable information. Physical access control enables organizations to use open protocols, open APIs, web services, to merge traditional security offerings with the facility’s automation platforms together.

Benefits of Physical Access Control

The benefits of access control systems include:

  • Reduced time spent and complexity in managing multiple systems
  • Conversion of large quantities of information into customizable, secure, analytics
  • Ensure backwards compatibility to enable support of prior version features and integrations
  • Scalable, resilient security architecture
  • Availability for small, mid and large organizational environments
  • Support multisite installations
  • Extensive data handling capabilities in offline memory
  • Faster access to third-party system information
  • Unification of the complete security infrastructure of a facility using standard industry protocols
  • Extensive integration capabilities with third-party and network systems

Physical access control systems help maximize the productivity of the workforce by providing secure, end-to-end IP architecture. The access control system helps implement quick connectivity solutions of IoT devices while providing for edge control and collaboration between different security systems of the facility.

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