Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in September 2020 and has been revised to reflect industry updates.
Keycard entry systems are instrumental in securing and providing access to a commercial facility’s employees, inventory, and property. This includes corporate offices, healthcare facilities, retailers, fitness centers, warehouses, and more.
Designed to control, restrict, and manage unauthorized entry, this technology can also monitor employee activities and sign-in/out times, eliminate lost or stolen keys, and provide energy-saving smart technologies.
Similar to what you’d typically utilize to enter a hotel room, or other areas requiring personalized entry points, these electronic devices provide a host of benefits related to costs, security, and operations.
Learn more about this system’s security features, advantages, uses, and more.
How Do Keycards Work?
Built on a special keycard or key fob, these swipe, magnetic, or ID cards are read by an electronic device on any restricted door or entryway. When the employee or authorized guest swipes, taps or inserts their keycard, its magstripe or chip reads the card, granting access through a uniquely designed code. After the card reader accepts the authorized access credential, it quickly signals the specified door or entryway to unlock. Managed by internal software, keycards can also control, restrict, and monitor hallways, elevators, stairwells, and other specialized areas.
When implementing an access control through a provider such as General Security, you’ll receive a thorough facility survey and assessment, along with a customized strategy and solution. This includes ensuring all fire codes, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, and compliance measures are met. These professional installers also guarantee everything works prior to activation and provide testing and training.
Advantages of a Keycard Entry System
Keycard technology can provide personalized access levels, safety audits, employee activity log management, and smart technologies and energy efficiency controls. Not only are these devices instrumental in facilitating internal and external security measures—they’re also cost effective and easy to use. This includes cumbersome and time-consuming challenges, such as lost or stolen keys. In addition, when a keycard isn’t returned upon an employee's resignation or termination, their card can be easily wiped and de-programmed to avoid unauthorized access.
It’s also important to consider access point placement. For indoor usage, this should facilitate employees or guests being able to easily scan or swipe keycards. When placing readers outdoors, make sure they are built and mounted to withstand extreme weather and other harsh conditions.
Learn more about five of the most significant advantages of a keycard entry system:
1. Keycards for Employee, Visitor & Property Protection
Keycard technology can provide personalized access levels, safety audits, employee activity log management, and smart technologies and energy efficiency controls.
Keycard entry systems are instrumental in securing your commercial facility’s employees, inventory, and property, while also granting peace of mind regarding employee safety and property security. These devices also ensure intruders or unescorted guests are kept at bay within specified areas, including inside fitness centers, hotels, or other private, members-only facilities.
Designed to provide constant protection against potential theft, vandalism, and intruders in areas such as warehouses, parking lots and garages, and other 24/7 facilities, a keycard access system can also implement a lockdown during emergencies.
2. Types of Keycard Access Controls
Keycards maintain and control specific employee access levels within healthcare and research facilities, government agencies, academic institutions, and other heavily regulated agencies. These can apply to corporate settings, such as law and accounting firms, technology companies, and other organizations holding sensitive files and confidential information. In addition, these types of settings might also utilize biometric readers, retinal scanners, and facial recognition for areas requiring the highest levels of security clearance and authorizations.
Access levels can be set for temporary or contracted workers, clients, and other non-employees. This could include service and delivery personnel, or a short-term project crew.
Here’s a breakdown of different types of keycard readers:
Radio Frequency Identification Cards (RFID)
The most commonly used type within commercial spaces, RFID keycards or keyfobs “communicate” via user identity to transmit signals for authentication and authorization. These are not to be confused with NFC (near-field communication) cards powered by RFID technology to activate and communicate quickly over close ranges.
Rather than utilizing RFID technology, smart cards run by microcontrollers command a higher level of ID software. Typically boasting more advanced encryption and mutual authentication, smart cards can read data from longer distances within high clearance areas, such as banks, government and military agencies.
Proximity cards are suitable for areas requiring lower authorization levels. Also known as “prox cards,” these use RFID technology for access control. While these can be a lower-priced alternative, they could lack in security and encryption as compared with other alternatives.
Named for American inventor John Wiegand, these were developed via a specialized communication system in conjunction with a Wiegand sensor. Organizations also use these for access control due to strong encryption and security. While still in operation, Wiegand cards have been largely replaced by more modern RFID technologies.
Magnetic Stripe Cards
These transmit data via magnetic reader similar to a debit or credit card. Featuring a black “stripe” on the reverse side, this includes transferring data sets revealing cardholder credentials. While considered higher security than the aforementioned Wiegand cards, these can still be easily or inadvertently altered.
3. Maintaining Activity Monitoring & Management
Real-time employee activity logs are another keycard technology feature. This can be helpful if an internal personnel issue or investigation requires additional information. When combined with other security technologies, such as closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and video analytics, keycards can aid law enforcement by identifying potential insider threats.
Consider a trackable keycard system safety audit. Depending on your reader’s type and systems integration, this can facilitate specific timestamp and location viewing to ensure employees are complying with working hours, and specified lunch and break times.
Keycard entry systems can also be integrated with Alarm.com Business Activity Analytics to measure and monitor important data and insights, such as occupancy and people counting, and crowd control.
4. Smart Technology Benefits & Integrations
Keycards can be integrated within your building’s existing security management and smart features. Working with an Alarm.com service provider facilitates easy system programming through a mobile app even when you can’t be on-site.
Smart settings and real-time alerts can automate your commercial property’s lights, thermostat, locks, security and doorbell cameras, and more. This is especially helpful for industries receiving and accepting deliveries, and also to control and monitor interior temperatures and appliance safety.
5. Keycard Configuration & Activation
Unlike traditional keys, each keycard is unique to its user. It can be wiped or deactivated if lost, stolen, or an employee leaves an organization. You’ll also never have to worry about changing locks and keys, or the dissemination of unauthorized copies. This is also beneficial should an employee refuse or forget to release their keycard upon departure.
Weighing Your Access Control Solution
Working with a well-versed commercial security systems provider will help you attain the perfect keycard entry solution for your employees and property.