Every year, the technology around us seems to get more and more powerful. Think about it: The technology we use today was unimaginable even just five years ago. And the same is true about access control technology.
As you design the access control infrastructure in your building, consider the technologies that will power your system. And to ensure your system remains effective for years to come, consider the trends that are shaping the future of access control in 2022 and beyond.
This post covers:
- History of access control technology
- Overview of common access control technologies
- Top 5 access control technology trends in 2022
History of access control technology
Over time, access control technologies have developed from rudimentary physical techniques to advanced digital and computer-powered systems.
To understand modern access control systems and the trends that are shaping the future of controlled access, let’s first consider how we got to where we are today.
Here’s how access control technologies developed over time:
1. Physical access control
The first technologies used to control access were physical access control solutions. Physical access control consists of physical barriers — like fences, trenches, and walls — that regulate access into a building or property.
Today, we have more advanced technologies, but we still use the phrase “physical access control system” (PACS) to describe any system that restricts or allows access into a physical space, like a building or a room.
2. Mechanical access control
Eventually, people started developing and designing mechanical systems to complement the physical barriers used to control access. Mechanical access control technologies consist of mechanical locks and manual controls that require human intervention to operate them.
Locks and keys have been used for centuries to control access into buildings and rooms — and we still use them today. Only relatively recently have we started enhancing and replacing these forms of mechanical access control with more advanced technologies.
3. Digital access control
The invention of the computer revolutionized the access control industry. Today, you’ll find digital or logical access control technologies that regulate access.
What’s more, we now need to control access to more than just physical spaces — we also want to control who can access digital assets. For example, we use passwords and other digital technologies to control access to computer files and other non-physical resources.
Digital access control systems consist of intelligent hardware powered by software. Many of these systems have completely eliminated the need for human intervention.
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Overview of common access control technologies
We covered the history of access control solutions, but what are the actual technologies that power access control systems?
Below, we outline some of the most popular access control technologies. We’ve broken down access control technologies into two categories: communication and infrastructure technologies.
RFID (radio frequency identification) technology enables communication between devices via electromagnetic waves. An RFID access control system consists of readers and tags, which store data and serve as a credential. When the tag is presented to a reader, its RFID chip activates and shares the access information it contains.
Near-field communication (NFC) technology is similar to RFID technology, but only works at very close ranges. NFC systems operate with a reader and a credential, which contains identifying information. When the credential is held near the reader, both devices can communicate over an electromagnetic field.
Many modern NFC access control systems use smartphones instead of key cards or fobs. When a user holds their smartphone near the NFC reader, it creates a communication channel that enables data transactions. Then, the reader can assess the credential and grant or deny access accordingly.
Bluetooth is a short-range, wireless technology that enables communication between devices. It operates in the ISM radio band, which is a portion of the radio spectrum used for industrial, medical, and scientific purposes. As a result, it’s free to use and doesn’t require a license or fees to implement.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is the most recent version of Bluetooth communication technology. BLE devices can operate and communicate up to 800 feet apart. Bluetooth access control systems consist of a reader and a Bluetooth-enabled credential, often a smartphone.
IP access control
IP access control is an electronic method of access control that relies on the internet and the Internet Protocol to verify credentials. An IP access system sends data from a user’s credential to a server, which “reads” the data and determines if the user is authorized to enter.
So what separates an IP access control system from a traditional access controller? Unlike traditional systems, IP controllers have a direct LAN/WAN connection, which means they can track all data needed to control access. Additionally, IP systems have their own onboard network interface that allows them to function without a terminal server.
IP systems have become more commonplace given the ubiquity of the internet and the expansion of the Internet of Things.
PoE (Power over Ethernet) is a solution that simultaneously powers devices and provides an internet connection. With one cable, a device can receive both data and electric power.
Access control systems with PoE devices are simpler and more affordable to install and maintain. PoE-networked access control infrastructures also offer streamlined communication between devices and simplified system management.
A CAT6 cable is an internet cable that’s more robust than a CAT5 Ethernet cable. While CAT5e cables may suffice for certain devices and smaller infrastructures, CAT6 and CAT6A cables deliver enhanced reliability, speed, and performance.
CAT6 cables are ideal for access control devices because they offer greater bandwidth and faster speeds. So, access control systems that operate with CAT6 cables are more prepared for heavy, ongoing usage and high network demands.
Top 5 access control technology trends in 2022
To understand what the future of access control holds, you have to assess emerging trends in the field and anticipate the technology that will continue to shape these systems. The latest access control technology is sleek, powerful, and — as you’ll soon notice — primarily powered by mobile devices.
Here are the top 5 most popular access control technology trends in 2022:
- Multi-factor authentication
- Mobile access control
- Cloud-based systems
- Video access control
More and more access control providers are opening their APIs so that their products can integrate with others easily. Devices that integrate with each other essentially “talk” to one another, therefore allowing systems to share data and interface with third-party platforms.
By choosing access control products that integrate with other property technologies, you’ll create efficiencies that streamline your daily operations. For example, integrating your access control system with your building’s smart locks will allow you (and your tenants) to manage both devices from one app or platform. This can save time while creating much-desired conveniences for residents.
2. Multi-factor authentication
Security concerns are at an all-time high as hackers, phishing attempts, and scamming efforts barrage the public. As a result, people are seeking ultra-secure technologies that protect them from these threats.
Multi-factor authentication (also called two-factor authentication or 2FA) is a type of authentication technology that requires users to present two or more forms of identity verification. In other words, someone who wants to gain access must have more than one credential or multiple sources that prove their identity.
Access control systems with multi-factor authentication enhance security by making it harder for unauthorized people to gain access. And multi-factor authentication can be used to protect both physical and digital assets.
3. Mobile access control
An estimated 6.4 billion people in the world own a smartphone. That statistic alone helps illustrate why mobile access control is quickly becoming the norm.
And it’s not just that more and more people are using smartphones — smartphones are simultaneously getting smarter every year. Today, people use their smartphones for everything from ordering food to finding a date. So, access control providers are growing wise to this trend and turning smartphones into keys.
Using a smartphone to unlock doors and manage access to buildings is the future of access control. So if you’re seeking a system for a new development or a retrofit, your best bet is to choose a mobile access control system.
4. Cloud-based systems
Access control technology has made it easier than ever to control who can enter your property and when. And cloud-based technology has simplified the process of actually managing your access control system.
With a cloud-based access control system, you can ditch the cumbersome, expensive on-site server and instead host your data in the cloud. As a result, you’ll enjoy automatic data backups and software updates. You can also manage the system from anywhere, on any device.
Cloud-based systems are so popular because they’re easier to manage, and they save you both time and money. More and more access control products entering the market are powered with cloud-based software.
5. Video access control
Thanks to its security-enhancing nature, video access control is gaining speed in 2022. With a video access control system, tenants can actually see who’s requesting access before letting them in. That visual confirmation can be the difference between granting access to a trusted friend or colleague and a complete stranger.
Most video access control systems come in the form of a video intercom. These systems allow visitors to request access from residents via a video call. That way, residents can see and talk to guests before letting them in. The best video access control systems are also mobile systems, meaning residents answer video calls and manage access from their smartphones.
- There are three main types of access control: physical, mechanical, and digital.
- Access control technology can be divided into communication technologies (RFID, near-field communication, and Bluetooth) and infrastructure technologies (IP, PoE, and CAT6)
- In 2022, the best and most powerful access control systems offer integrations, multi-factor authentication, mobile access, cloud-based management, and video capabilities.