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 a hotel room, or other areas requiring personalized entry points, these electronic devices provide benefits related to costs, security, and operations.
Learn more about this system’s security features, advantages, uses, and more.
What Is a Keycard Entry System?
Keycard entry systems control unauthorized access within commercial buildings and other areas requiring additional security. This money-saving technology can also help curb thefts and vandalism, as well as facility operating costs.
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.
How Do Keycards Work?
As the keycard 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. Instrumental for internal and external security measures, these devices are 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.
Indoor access point placement should facilitate employees or guests to easily scan or swipe keycards. Outdoor areas should consider 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 necessary for securing commercial facility employees, inventory, and property, while also granting peace of mind regarding employee safety. These devices also ensure intruders or unescorted guests are kept at bay within specified areas, including inside fitness centers, hotels, or other private venues.
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 an emergency lockdown.
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. These settings might also utilize biometric readers, retinal scanners, and facial recognition within areas requiring the highest 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)
RFID keycards or keyfobs “communicate” via user identity to transmit signals for authentication and authorization. These are not to be confused with RFID-powered NFC (near-field communication) cards activated for quick communication over close ranges.
Running on a higher level of ID software—and boasting more advanced encryption and mutual authentication—smart cards can read data from longer distances within high clearance areas, such as banks, and government and military agencies.
Also known as “prox cards,” these use RFID technology for areas requiring lower authorization levels. As a lesser-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. Strong encryption and security have traditionally been its best features. However, they have been largely replaced by more modern RFID technologies.
Magnetic Stripe Cards
Featuring a black “stripe” reader 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 should an internal personnel issue or investigation require 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 threats.
Consider a trackable keycard system safety audit. Depending on your reader’s type and systems integration, this can facilitate 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 a smart security 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 when an employee leaves an organization. This also removes concerns about changing locks—or the dissemination of unauthorized copies—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, assets, and property.