USI Security Tips

What are the Components of an Access Control System?

April 16, 2018

Access control systems are an important part of promoting security in many different types of buildings. These systems are the best way to monitor and restrict access to a whole building or to different parts of a building. Although these systems seem fairly straightforward, there are a few different parts that make up the system. Read below to learn about the basic components of an access control system.


Access Cards

In an access control system, access cards will take the place of keys. People will scan their access cards to gain access to the building or certain areas of the building. Each access card will have its own unique code, allowing you to control access for each individual, easily turning access on and off at different times or at different areas of the building. Access cards are typically the size of a credit card, making them portable and able to easily fit inside a wallet.

Card Readers

The card reader is the device that will read access cards in order to grant access. There are different types of card readers, some requiring card insertion, some requiring swipes, and some only needing cards to pass in proximity to the reader. Card readers are typically mounted on the door or next to the door that they control, so the number of card readers an access control system contains will depend on the number of doorways to which you require restricted access.


Access control keypads are another method of entry. Instead of scanning an access card, you will punch in a code on a numeric keypad. In order to gain entry, you must enter in the correct passcode. Keypads are sometimes used instead of card readers, and sometimes in conjunction with card readers. For an extra layer of security, a door might have a card reader and a keypad, requiring an access card and a correct passcode in order to gain entry.

Electric Lock Hardware

The hardware that actually locks and unlocks the doors is a part of your access control system as well. Electric lock hardware will electronically unlock your door after a keycard swipe or keypad code entry, and electronically lock the door again when it closes. There are many different types of electric lock hardware such as electric locks, electric strikes, electromagnetic locks, and more. The type of hardware used will depend on the construction of the door. In addition to electronically locking and unlocking your doors, electric lock hardware ensures that doors can be freely opened whenever someone wishes to exit in order to comply with building and fire codes.

Alarm Systems

Fire alarms, burglary alarms, and intrusion detection alarms are often integrated with access control. If an unauthorized person attempts to enter the doors controlled by electric lock hardware, your access control system can signal the alarm to go off. In the event of an emergency like a fire, in addition to sounding an alarm, your access control system can temporarily turn off locks that might impede quick exit from a building.

Field Panels

Field panels are the control panels that connect all other parts of your access control system such as your card readers, keypads, hardware, and more. Field panels are used to process access control activity for the whole building. The number of panels will be determined by the size of the building, the size of the system, and the extent to which the system is used. Field panels are typically installed in telephone, electrical, or communication closets.

Access Control Software

Your access control software is the brain of your entire system. It is the central database and file manager for the system. It records system activity and distributes information to and from the field panels in the building. This software runs on a traditional computer. Typically, you will have one computer with this software loaded on and it will be dedicated for full-time use of the software.

United Security Incorporated | Access Control Systems 

At USI Integrated Solutions, we bring together a highly experienced team, keen strategic planning and in-depth understanding of the leading technologies in the field. For over 25 years we have brought peace of mind to our clients through the careful application of investigative talent and technology implementation. 

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