In the past, it was taken for granted that in order to enter most public buildings, staff members were expected to show their ID cards to a watchful security guard. The guard had to check the photo-ID against the face of the card carrier and verify a match. However, with hundreds of people vying to enter a building on a busy Monday morning, the flaws in this system became only too obvious. Some drop in concentration was almost inevitable, and some people would just get ‘nodded through’, for better or for worse.

These days, access control systems are more sophisticated and effective, usually forming part of integrated security solutions. A card access system will usually be smart-card based. An electronic chip inside the card means that the card can simply be electronically read and verified. Sometimes the cards can be read in ‘contactless’ ways, so the users don’t even have to brush them against a reader.

Furthermore, these cards can also contain currency top-ups, enabling employees to pay for meals in the staff canteen without having to dash out to inconveniently-sited cash points.

For high-priority premises, such as data centres, laboratories or financial institutions, access control systems are taken a step further with biometric readers. These remarkable devices can read fingerprints, or even scan a user’s eyes if required.

This progress in access control technology has proved a real boost to the security industry. After all, an access control system forms the bedrock of any integrated security solution, and the more reliable and user friendly it is, the better.

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